A Really Splendid Orpheus from Solti and Covent Garden Forces
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 July 2018
This was recorded in 1969 in Kingsway Hall, London, a superb acoustic, as well as a Methodist Central Hall.
This was before the authentic performance movement really existed. In any case, Solti was never an advocate of H.I.P. Neither, for that matter, was Boulez, both tremendous musicians.
The main role is thus performed by a mezzo, Marilyn Horne, in excellent voice throughout. If you must have a male counter-tenor, this will not be for you. The other two sopranos are traditional operatic singers, but both with quite pure voices, and both superb in their roles.
The sound is excellent, as always from Decca in the Sixties from Kingsway Hall.
The orchestra and chorus from Covent Garden are of the first waters. Tuning, ensemble, unanimity of attack and phrasing, everything is A1, as one expects with Solti on the podium.
What surprises, in a lovely way, is Solti’s approach to the score. Gluck is not a composer one thinks of when considering Solti’s repertoire. He did record Handel and much Mozart, so Gluck fits nicely between those two. His rhythms are sprung beautifully, but never aggressively. The quiet music, and there is much in this fine work, is breathtaking in its sensitivity and refinement. The Dance of the Blessed Spirits and the music for the Elysian Fields is heartmeltingly gorgeous, tender and understated. You can hardly believe this is the Solti from Wagner’s
Ring, but it is!
If you want a recording using modern instruments and traditional voices, you can’t go wrong with this. Rather this, performed fabulously as here, than a frenetic and overly-tense reading which some modern interpreters provide, though many fine modern recordings exist, of course.
Every age produces performance styles of its own. This, from 1969, gives testimony to the highest standards of that decade. We need to remember what a very considerable musician Georg Solti was, unfashionable though he is today. Musical fashion comes and goes, and is irrelevant in the great scheme of things. What ultimately matters, surely, is the quality of musicianship in its ability to bring great music to us. This fine set brings Gluck’s fabulous opera to us, and I, for one, am very glad it has done to me.
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