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Penguin Guide, January 2009

It is rare that a performance of Berg’s 12-note masterpiece is as well sung as on this studio recording, made with Hamburg State Opera forces in 1970. You hear every note of this difficult, atonal score on pitch with minimal use of sing-speech, which adds to the musical delights of Bruno Maderna’s powerful reading. Toni Blankenheim is outstanding in the title-rôle, poignantly conveying the suffering of the central character, while Gerhard Unger is brilliant as the domineering Captain, well contrasted with Richard Cassilly in the other leading tenor rôle of the Drum major. Gundula Janowitz, with her sweetly pure soprano, sings beautifully as Marie, but also gives the necessary edge to the character and Hans Sotin is strong and sinister as the Doctor…the musical precision is a great benefit, and the settings, with many scenes shot out of doors, are aptly atmospheric. The recorded sound is on the dry side, but that too adds to the precision. An excellent version of a difficult opera.

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