Beethoven: Fidelio - Rysanek, King, Berry, Macurdy, Pilou; Böhm. Milano, 1974

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Leonie Rysanek quickly asserted herself as one of the greatest Leonores of her day from the onset of her career, and the role remained a staple of her repertoire throughout. She brought an intensity to the part which highlighted the desperation and determination of Leonore’s mission. Few sopranos could make the kind of vocal impact Rysanek could in this role especially while acquitting Beethoven’s rather unforgiving vocal writing. As Florestan, James King matches Rysanek’s intensity and his robust tenor never buckles under the demands of the role. John Macurdy as Rocco is less vocally distinguished, but he brings a charming everyman quality to the role. Walter Berry delivers a menacing Pizzaro. Jeanette Pilou is luxury casting as Marzelline. Despite being an octogenarian, Karl Böhm leads one of the most energetic performances I have ever heard, including a rousing reading of Leonore 3. I had expected the performance to be on the slow side after having heard Böhm’s late recordings of Mozart and was surprised when I found the entire performance to be on the brisk side. The recording is in excellent stereo. I will point out that there are about a dozen or so dropouts, all less than a second, throughout the recording.

OD 11118-2

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