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Arthur Lintgen
Fanfare, September 2009

From the heroic and swaggering opening statement of Octavian’s theme in the prelude, it is clearly apparent that this performance will be something special, and the primary reason for that is Carlos Kleiber. The legendary and reclusive conductor is justly acclaimed for his interpretation of Der Rosenkavalier, perhaps more than any other opera. He conducted it 82 times at the Bavarian State Opera. Kleiber makes the music flow like no other conductor. The beauty of the sound he draws from the orchestra is not unlike Herbert von Karajan, but with more rhythmic and dramatic thrust. The amazing Bavarian State Orchestra responds with laser-like precision that in no way slights Strauss’s soaring melodies. Kleiber may be a firm taskmaster, but he doesn’t hesitate to vary his pacing for dramatic effect.

It helps also to have an outstanding cast. Brigitte Fassbaender is peerless in the central role of Octavian. She is the vocal centerpiece of this performance. Lucia Popp made her Munich debut in the role of Sophie, and this rapidly catapulted her to international fame. She gives the role some needed substance and maturity rather than playing her like a kewpie-doll. Karl Ridderbusch may sound a little monochromatic, but he was probably the leading Baron Ochs of his time. It is a pleasure to hear him actually sing the role rather than mugging his way through it. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

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