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KORNGOLD, E.W.: Wunder der Heliane (Das) [Opera] (A. Kremer, Argiris, I. Storey, Theater Freiburg Choirs, Freiburg Philharmonic, Bollon)


Naxos 8.660410-12

   MusicWeb International, April 2019
   American Record Guide, March 2019
   Opera News, March 2019
   Fanfare, March 2019
   Opera, February 2019
   Limelight, January 2019
   MusicWeb International, January 2019
   Classical Ear, January 2019
   Gramophone, January 2019
   The Light Music Society, January 2019
   ConcertoNet.com, December 2018
   Pizzicato, December 2018
   Superconductor, November 2018
   Records International, November 2018
   Rafael’s Music Notes, October 2018
   David's Review Corner, October 2018

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William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, April 2019

Bernhard Moncado has done an excellent job of preparation here—choral lines are well-defined and the various choral groupings well-differentiated. The Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg plays with great energy and skillfully negotiates Korngold’s harmonic requirements as well as putting forward the lyrical elements of the score. They are able advocates for this opera. Fabrice Bollon conducts forcefully and with a clean sound from all concerned. His pacing is sometimes suspect but he understands Korngold’s music in both its tender and powerful aspects. Bollon’s long association with the Freiburg orchestra comes to the fore as they follow him through all of Korngold’s tonal twists. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Ralph Locke
American Record Guide, March 2019

Fabrice Bollon, conducting the very fine Freiburg orchestra, nicely differentiates the dramatic moods of the various scenes, helping to keep a long opera interesting.

The singers all seem to understand what they are singing about, though they are from many different countries.

I urge any opera lover to get to know Heliane. There are many marvelous moments in it, including the duets for Heliane and The Stranger in Act 1 (in prison) and 3 (the conclusion). Heliane’s aria ‘Ich ging zu ihm’ (in Act 2) is the best-known excerpt, having been recorded by singers as distinguished as Lotte Lehmann and Renee Fleming. © 2019 American Record Guide  Read complete review on American Record Guide




Steven Jude Tietjen
Opera News, March 2019

The cast assembled for this recording does an admirable job … Ian Storey navigates the Stranger’s high-lying tessitura with muscle, authority and angst … Soprano Annemarie Kremer is an impassioned Heliane with a voice of burnt silver: at times her instrument gleams, pure and polished … Aris Argiris sings the complicated Ruler with a heroic, fearless baritone.

Michail Jurowski conducts the Freiburg Philharmonic in a charged interpretation of this mammoth work. © 2019 Opera News Read complete review



James H North
Fanfare, March 2019

The music has many Wagnerian aspects, with a huge orchestra and impossibly demanding solo roles (the second cast in 1927 couldn’t learn its parts). Korngold is even tougher than Wagner on the singers, who must maintain stentorian vocal production. Such demands would seem at odds with the opera’s theme, but Korngold is so brilliant with both vocal lines and orchestra that he makes it work.

The Freiburg orchestra is the equal of Decca’s RSO Berlin, and Fabrice Bollon’s slightly faster tempos keep the drama white-hot… © 2019 Fanfare Read complete review



Opera, February 2019

Bollon and his orchestral and choral forces indeed do a magnificent job with this sprawling, complex late-Romantic score. © 2019 Opera




Clive Paget
Limelight, January 2019

…This new set, taken from a Freiburg concert performance under conductor Fabrice Bollon, is in nearly every respect even more effective. Bollon is adept at gauging the dramatic temperature and pacing matters to best effect. What seemed a curiosity, now feels like a viable music drama, while Korngold’s luscious orchestrations are revealed in even finer shades of Technicolor.

…This warmer and dramatically more visceral take deserves a warm welcome. © 2019 Limelight Read complete review



Robert Cummings
MusicWeb International, January 2019

…The strongest part of the performance is the conducting of Fabrice Bollon. His phrasing and tempo choices throughout the opera impart a vitality and warmth perfectly appropriate to Korngold’s score. The Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra play with spirit and accuracy and the various choruses sing beautifully. Naxos provides vivid and well-balanced sound reproduction. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review




Michael Quinn
Classical Ear, January 2019

There are echoes aplenty of Wagner and Richard Strauss, Mahler and Schoenberg, and hints, not least, of Hollywood-era Korngold to come, but all and everything is blended into a marvellously, at times mesmerically, coherent whole. © 2019 Classical Ear Read complete review



Richard Bratby
Gramophone, January 2019

First impressions are good, with Fabrice Bollon conducting the heavenly-chorus prelude in a warm, sculpted sweep of music, the Freiburg forces clearly unfazed by the multi-layered intricacy of Korngold’s orchestral writing. © 2019 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone



The Light Music Society, January 2019

Performances here are superb. The Philharmonic Orchestra of Freiburg sound every bit as sumptuous as they should under the baton of Fabrice Bollon, who handles the score somewhat more sensitively than John Mauceri in his earlier recording. © 2019 The Light Music Society




Christie Grimstad
ConcertoNet.com, December 2018

From an orchestral perspective, Korngold’s score is pure joy: immensely rich and riddled with bullet-like precision as detailed by the Philharmonisches Orchester Freiburg. Much of the success can be handed to Fabrice Bollon’s conducting.

The foundation of this Naxos recording, captured in two Freiburg concerts, is incisive and magnetically scoping. This may not be the definitive recording, but Naxos makes a captivating attempt. © 2018 ConcertoNet.com Read complete review




Uwe Krusch
Pizzicato, December 2018

Heliane’s Miracle, a nearly forgotten opera by Erich Wolfgang Korngold was revived in 2017 in a concertante version in Freiburg and recorded live. With excellent singers and a good orchestra, Fabrice Bollon has achieved an appealing performance. © 2018 Pizzicato



Paul J. Pelkonen
Superconductor, November 2018

This Naxos recording captures the depth and beauty of Korngold’s orchestration and writing for the voice, and the Philharmonie Orchester Freiburg play as if they are housed in a much larger city. The inventive use of percussion and keyboard instruments gives conductor Fabrice Bollon a wide working canvas. © 2018 Superconductor Read complete review



Records International, November 2018

The redemptive power of love over injustice and adversity is at the heart of this 1926 work, expressed in music that is richly impressionistic and intensely dramatic. Korngold was criticized for resisting the tide of modernist atonality in this opulent score, but its symbolism and compelling romantic atmosphere can be appreciated today more than ever. The 25-year-old Decca Entartete Musik recording is still available but, for something this luscious there’s always room for a new, live recording (made over several performances last July). © 2018 Records International



Rafael’s Music Notes, October 2018

Aris Argiris is a true-blue Heldenbariton with the endurance of a thoroughbred and a stentorian sound. Soprano, Annemaria Kremer sings a lovely Heliane, frequently spinning out ethereal sounds when needed. Tenor, Ian Storey delivers a convincing performance as The Stranger, holding up just fine in a part that sounds at times as if it were written for a Heldentenor. The supporting cast of mostly male singers satisfactorily fulfills its duties.

But it is the Philharmonic Orchestra Freiburg, the massive choral forces and Fabrice Bollon, their conductor who are the heart and soul of this three-CD Naxos release. The score is huge, densely orchestrated and replete with climactic moments. Maestro Bollon leads a nicely-paced reading, beautifully balancing all the artists at his command in a most satisfying performance worthy of a place in the libraries of opera connoisseurs. © 2018 Rafael’s Music Notes Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2018

Born in 1897 to an artistic family, the music of the teenage Erich Korngold had been hailed in Austria as the modern day reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Having written two large-scale operas that had enjoyed considerable success, and now aged twenty-six, he set to work on his most ambitious project, Das Wunder der Heliane. It did have a connection with his hugely successful Die tote Stadt, with people coming back to life again to prove that love can triumph over death. His musical language had already owed much to Richard Strauss, and now in its length it moved into the world of Wagner. The story in brief has the gorgeous Heliane imprisoned by her husband, The Ruler, accused of adultery with a Stranger. To save her honour the Stranger kills himself, but is brought back to life again by Heliane who declares her love for him. For that the Prince kills her, but the Stranger brings her back to life. The people of the kingdom proclaim that a miracle has happened and Heliane and the Stranger ascend to heaven, the Stranger having banished the Ruler, foretells of happiness for the people. To audiences that had become besotted with Wagner’s fantasy stories, this was not as absurd as we now find in Das Wunder der Heliane. Though the cast is large, the work’s real challenge comes in the role of the Stranger, the singer having to be a heldontenor of prodigious vocal strength and lasting power. Heliane is almost as demanding, though Korngold is more kind in the vocal range of her part, while The Messenger needs an alto of vocal stamina. This new release comes from the staged performances that took place in the German city of Freiburg in July 2017, with some material taken from a concert performance. The tenor voice of Ian Storey takes time to warm to the part of the Stranger, his vibrato pronounced at the opening of the first act, but he lasts the whole distance very well and in still in vibrant voice in the long two final scenes. Annemarie Kremer, the Dutch soprano, is Heliane, a role she has already sung to great success in Vienna. She is heard to her best when floating high passages, the long aria in the Second Act a straightforward borrowing from Die tote Stadt, her voice then withstanding the opera’s length and is also still in fine fettle in the concluding sections after having given a exhaustingly long scene at the end of the Second Act. As the villain of the opera, The Ruler has the resolute voice of the Greek baritone, Aris Argiris, while the much in demand mezzo, Katerina Hebelkova, fulfils Korngold’s exacting requirements as The Messenger. Yet it is the large orchestra that carries the major responsibility in creating the lurid colours in sustained quantity, the Freiburg Philharmonisches with conductor, Fabrice Bollon, going way beyond its provincial status. Trying to capture this in ‘live’ conditions must have been a nightmare for the recording team who successfully fulfil their task, not least in balancing the large chorus sections. Sadly there is no libretto available from Naxos, and the synopsis in the booklet is the bare minimum. Das Wunder has in recent times suffered at the hands of critics, and it is certainly a work that was of its time, but I respect and enjoy it for what it is—pure fantasy—and at Naxos’s budget price its a pure gift. © 2018 David’s Review Corner





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