Beethoven: Leonore - Lindholm, Alexander, Robinson, Shirley-Quirk, Harwood; Dorati. London, 1969

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Hearing Leonore, Beethoven's early version of what would become Fidelio, really gives the listener a sense of how Beethoven struggled with his only opera. Unlike earlier versions of La Traviata and Madama Butterfly in which there are differences but also long stretches with music identical to their final versions, Leonore shows that Beethoven agonized over even some of the smallest details (e.g. high notes approached stepwise in the early version, and then by a leap of a fifth in the final version.) In some instances Beethoven may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater as he cuts some music that is truly memorable (whether or not it works dramatically is another question that can only be answered with a live viewing.) In the end, in my opinion, Leornore is a very good work and not the lesser of two siblings and this performance does much to assert that. Berit Lindholm lends her gleaming soprano to the title role. Although at times her voice may seem pushed to its max, this is in part due to the fact that Beethoven asks even greater technical feats in his earlier version. John Alexander sings with tireless beauty and delivers a Florestan that could rival almost anyone. Elizabeth Harwood is an interesting choice as Marzelline as her soprano has enough body to it that at times it is hard to distinguish her voice from Lindholm's. John Shirley-Quirk is an avuncular Rocco and Forbes Robinson lends his black bass to the role of Pizzaro, an interesting novelty in a role that is dominated by baritones. Antol Dorati leads the London Symphony Orchestra with stirring fervor. The sound is good.

OD 11030-2

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