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ARIBERT REIMANN
Lear.

Wolfgang Koch, Magnus Baldvinsson, Dietrich Volle, Michael McCown, Hans-Jürgen Lazar, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Martin Wölfel, Frank van Aken, Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, Caroline Whisnant, Britta Stallmeister; Frankfurter Museumsorchester, Chorus of the Frankfurt Opera, Sebastian Weigle, conductor.

Oehms OC921, 2CDs, 71:31 + 79:08, book with German/English notes and German libretto.
oehmsclassics.de, naxos.com


Review by Steve Koenig

Wolfgang Koch, Magnus Baldvinsson, Dietrich Volle, Michael McCown, Hans-Jürgen Lazar, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Martin Wölfel, Frank van Aken, Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet, Caroline Whisnant, Britta Stallmeister; Frankfurter Museumsorchester, Chorus of the Frankfurt Opera, Sebastian Weigle, conductor.

Oehms OC921, 2CDs, 71:31 + 79:08, book with German/English notes and German libretto.
oehmsclassics.de, naxos.com

German composer Aribert Reimann, born in 1936 to parents who were both professional musicians, is strongly drawn to literature. Most of his works on my shelf are lieder. His first work, a 1959 ballet, was based on a Günter Grass work. Other compositions, including operas, are derived from García Lorca, Strindberg, Kafka and Euripides. The vocal works are undoubtedly 20th century, some following natural (German) speech patterns, and others embellishing the texts with extended techniques, or what I sometimes think of as avant bel canto.

Perhaps his most famous work is the opera Lear. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau encouraged him to write it, and premiered it on stage and on Deutsche Grammophon LP.

For the many Reimann afficianados, one needn't make a case for the opera Lear itself, but rather the case for acquiring this new Oehms performance as well. The DG LP edition was deluxe, with a thick, textured book inside the box, with the complete libretto, poetry, and many essays, all of it only in German. This new edition too has a fine book, chock-filled with color photos of the production (is there a DVD in the works?) but also, alas, only a German libretto. D-F-D makes a brilliant, poetic, Shakespearean Lear, no dispute, but Wolfgang Koch's voice and demeanor has an altogether different and potent aspect.

For newcomers the question of edition will be moot, as the DG Lear on CD is officially out of print, and the two-disc Oehms sells for between $20-25 online. Also, the Oehms features superior audio.

As someone who owns some dozen or so Bohèmes, I see no reason not to need two Lears (plus a private DVD-r version from what used to be called the tape underground). I encourage all lovers of new music and of 20th century opera to acquire this. The storm scene is ferocious in both editions, as is the dramatic aspect. and one should not be without this.

Wikipedia informs me "The US premiere, in English translation, was at the San Francisco Opera in June 1981, with Thomas Stewart as Lear, and Gerd Albrecht as conductor." Dare I dream that Chandos would do an English version in their marvelous Opera In English series? There's already a Wozzeck. Or that there's a tape of the Stewart performance floating about?



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