Colin Davis
Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Chor und Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
14-28 May 1994
Herkulessaal München
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Heinrich der VoglerJan-Hendrik Rootering
LohengrinBen Heppner
Elsa von BrabantSharon Sweet
Friedrich von TelramundSergei Petrowitsch Leiferkus
OrtrudÉva Marton
Der Heerrufer des KönigsBryn Terfel
Vier brabantische EdleAnton Rosner
Heinrich Weber
Dankwart Siegele
Jürgen Weiß

‘What time’s the next swan?’, the tenor Leo Slezak famously asked in a stage whisper when the swan in Lohengrin moved off before he had climbed aboard. Well, he’s already here, and it was only last November I was welcoming Abbado’s new recording for DG as the best since Kempe’s classic account of 1963. Colin Davis’s reading is judicious and thoughtful, but lacks both the superb control and the incisiveness of Abbado’s. The fact that the big moments are less exciting is also due to RCA’s more constricted, less immediate recording. And good as the Bavarians are, the VPO have the edge for Abbado. Sharon Sweet is a relatively mature-sounding Elsa but quite acceptable, while Eva Marton is an aptly vituperative Ortrud. Even more vitriolic is the snarling, consonant-spitting Telramund of Sergei Leiferkus. Ben Heppner delivers the title role with a fresher voice and more ringing tone than DG’s Jerusalem, who sounds a little husky in places. But excellent as Heppner is, he doesn’t yet have Jerusalem’s ability to sound admonitory when warning of the forbidden question, or mysteriously absorbed in his Narration: his account has too little tonal variety, too little drama. A more unconditional plus is Bryn Terfel’s rock-steady, trenchantly enunciated Herald, but RCA also has a calamitous disc change (between Ortrud’s blasphemous exclamation ‘Gott?’ and Telramund’s appalled reaction to it). Kempe and Abbado remain the top recommendations.

Barry Millington

The New York Times

A new “Lohengrin” with Colin Davis conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony (RCA 09026-62646-2; three CD’s) is interesting chiefly as a step forward in the promising Wagnerian career of the Canadian tenor Ben Heppner, who sang Walther von Stolzing in the Metropolitan Opera’s recent “Meistersinger” and recorded the same role successfully under Wolfgang Sawallisch for EMI last year. Mr. Heppner’s firm, strong tone is technically superior to that of any heldentenor now operating. With Mr. Davis’s intelligent backing, Mr. Heppner creates a restrained, noble Lohengrin, dramatically cautious at times but impeccably musical.

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