Beethoven: Leonore - Jones, King, Adam, Nienstedt, Hausmann, Hollweg, Wächter; Melles. ORF, 1970


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It is no secret that Beethoven agonized for years over Fidelio. This performance of his earlier version, Leonore, is a fascinating glimpse into Beethoven's compositional process. Unlike other early versions of operas (i.e. Macbeth, Butterfly etc) Leonore almost sounds like an entirely different piece. Not only did he remove numbers altogether, but many of the arias and ensembles that survived have differences large and small. "Abscheulicher" begins with an entirely new recit before the aria. "O namelose Freude" begins with a recit and once the duet proper begins, Leonore and Florestan sing the opening lines together as opposed to antiphonally. There is also a beautiful duet between Leonore and Marzelline that has an obbligato violin solo. The differences go on and on and in some cases you can see the wisdom in Beethovens' changes and in other instances you find yourself wishing he had had more confidence in his original composition. The cast of this performance does much to advocate for the earlier version. Gwyneth Jones sings the title role with both classical grace and romantic ardor. James King may have been glad that the earlier version of "Gott! Welch dunkel hier" was not as strenuous as its final iteration, but still sings like a god. Theo Adam is an excellent Pizzaro. The sound is pretty good although there is some brief skipping that I couldn't remove during the Act I duet between Pizzaro and Rocco.

OD 10936-2