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Recordings

Richard Strauss: Salome
29 Sep 2006

STRAUSS: Salome

Having spent the better part of its life at full-price, the Solti/Nilsson Salome now appears as a mid-priced re-issue.

Richard Strauss: Salome

Birgit Nilsson (Salome), Gerhard Stolze (Herod), Grace Hoffman (Herodias), Eberhard Wächter (Jokanaan), Waldemar Kmentt (Narraboth), Wiener Philharmoniker, Sir Georg Solti (cond.)

Decca 475 7528 3 [2CDs]

$22.98  Click to buy

Who knows, there may be those economy-minded individuals still cherishing their original vinyl copy who will finally be persuaded to move to CD! Perhaps some who own the older CD version will go for the latest Decca set; if not for the remastering (sharp and detailed, to these ears), then for the restoration of the gloriously lurid original cover art. This is a Salome ready to bite John the Babtist's head off, never mind the swordsman.

Salome has done well on disc. Going by its soprano exponents, excellent sets featuring Caballe, Rysanek, Studer, and Behrens remain easily available. The great Strauss highlights disc with the CSO under Reiner with Inge Borkh has recently been remastered, and some sleuthing should find the complete DG set with that soprano under Bohm.

But the Solti/Nilsson will always hold its own. Before letting the primal force of her vocal power roar in the final scene, Nilsson adopts a lighter, "girlish" tone. For a singer not always praised for her acting, she manages a very creditable vocal portrayal. Combined with that afore-mentioned cover photo, this is a Salome no one is wise to cross.

The rest of the cast, truthfully, does not come to the star's level, but the singers handle their jobs well. Eberhard Wachter's Jokanaan could use more vocal allure to explain Salome’s instant attraction. As the Palestine George and Martha, Gerhard Stolze and Grace Hoffman are convincingly repellent. Amidst all the cacophony, a sweeter voiced tenor than Waldemar Kmentt, the Narraboth, would be very much appreciated.

Solti is Solti. Aggressive, unsubtle, prone to sudden rhytmic lurches and stalls, the conductor seems to embody the opera's perverse, chaotic world. Understandably, it is all too much for some listeners, but his super-heated leadership has an undeniable charge. The score contains more subtlety than heard here, but all the excitement is captured, no doubt about that.

Now fans of Salome have a new toy to amuse themselves with, until the Met can find a company to crawl down into the cistern and bring up the DVD of the Gergiev/Mattila/Terfel Salome and let that sensational show dance into the world.

Chris Mullins

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