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Lohengrin is a potentially exciting new release, live from Munich, 1963, and the first recording of this opera by Hans Knappertsbusch’s to appear. Don’t get too excited. The conducting is indeed worth hearing, large-boned yet still attentive to details; listen to the manner in which he builds the finale of Act II. But the sound is not good: there are the usual problems of balance, so sometimes the chorus is in your lap, other times people have wandered upstage to a land far away (not entirely inappropriate in Lohengrin I suppose). There is some sound distortion too, to add to our woes. As for the performance, the strings are smooth, the brass having an awful night. The women are definitely worth hearing. Ingrid Bjoner is a lovely Elsa, her voice true and pure, her manner resolute. Astrid Varnay whips up a storm as Ortrud, her rather straight tone matching well the vocal harmonics of her solid Telramund, Hans Günter Nöcker. Kurt Böhme is an unexciting Heinrich. But Hans Hopf ’s Lohengrin is alas a disaster, caught far too late in his career, so tonally imprecise that he sounds as though he is sight-reading, and completely stretched by both the lyric and heroic demands of the role.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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