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*** 1/2 BERG: "Wozzeck." Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim, conductor. (Teldec, two CDs)

March 16, 1997|Timothy Mangan

Everyone involved in this Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin production throws themselves into it with great gusto and intelligence. You may feel like you've been run over by an Expressionistic freight train. Indeed, for some, this live recording will be a little too gritty, with singers audibly stomping and turning their heads (while singing) this way and that. For others, the activity will only add to the electrified atmosphere. The audio production captures it beautifully.

To the title role, Franz Grund-heber brings a resonant baritone and huge array of expression: mad outbursts, docility, weariness, tremulous sadness. Waltraud Meier is his agile and ringing Marie, nailing high notes yet intimately gauging her quieter moments. Graham Clark trumpets magnificently as the Captain, a growling, squeaking, wonderfully over-the-top portrayal. Gunter von Kannen provides suitably cavernous voice and imperiousness to the Doctor. The rest of the cast is strong. Perhaps best of all though are Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin, an orchestra with a few rough edges, but here drilled, driven and vitalized by its conductor. Barenboim brings out the score's sweetness, finds its recesses, delineates its colors, and then everything explodes.

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