Lohengrin

Rudolf Kempe
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Wiener Philharmoniker
Date/Location
23 November – 5 Dezember 1962
1- 3 April 1963
Theater an der Wien
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
Heinrich der VoglerGottlob Frick
LohengrinJess Thomas
Elsa von BrabantElisabeth Grümmer
Friedrich von TelramudDietrich Fischer-Dieskau
OrtrudChrista Ludwig
Der Heerrufer des KönigsOtto Wiener
Vier brabantische Edle?
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Gallery
Gramophone

EMI’s sound may have less presence and a narrower perspective than other versions but neither the ‘studio’ ambience – the recording was made in the Theater an der Wien – nor the occasionally excessive prominence of the voices prevents Kempe’s reading from projecting a strongly theatrical quality. However, it’s the all-round excellence of the cast, plus the bonus of an uncut Act 3, which makes this the leading mid-price recommendation.

Jess Thomas combines ardour and anguish as well as any, and with Fischer-Dieskau a formidable (but never over-emphatic) antagonist and Gottlob Frick a majestic King Henry, the drama of the opera’s central conflict remains supremely immediate and powerful. As Elsa and Ortrud, Elisabeth Grümmer and Christa Ludwig are ideal opposites, the former radiant yet quite without the simpering overtones that afflict some Elsas, the latter as potent in seductive insinuation as in demonic ferocity. Not even Ludwig can surpass the visceral intensity of Astrid Varnay in the 1953 Bayreuth set under Keilberth, and Keilberth’s Telramund and Elsa (Hermann Uhde and Eleanor Steber) are also outstanding: yet Wolfgang Windgassen’s Lohengrin isn’t as distinguished, nor as distinctive, as Jess Thomas’s here. Even more importantly, Keilberth’s reading lacks the visionary quality that Kempe finds in the score. Ultimately, it’s the power of that vision which raises this performance above its rivals.

Rating
(9/10)
User Rating
(5/5)
Media Type/Label
EMI, HMV, Angel, Eterna, Electrola
EMI, Angel
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Technical Specifications
625 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 888 MByte (flac)
Remarks