Christa Mayer (Alto), Camilla Nylund (Soprano), Stephen Gould (Tenor), Markus Marquardt (Bass), Franz Grundheber (Bass-Baritone)
MDR Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Sachsischer Staatsopernchor Dresden
Staatskapelle Dresden, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Between 1900 and 1911, Schönberg worked on his late romantic “Gurre-Lieder,” which he later called “the key to my entire development. The roots of the story of King Waldemar and his beloved Tove, who is murdered by the jealous queen, can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Schönberg drew on Jens Peter Jacobsen’s version of the Danish saga and from it formed a musical monumental work, which brilliantly pulls out unexpected registers of vocal and instrumental treatment.
Even if at that time hardly anyone could have guessed the dimensions: With the performance of Arnold Schönberg’s “Gurre-Lieder” on 10 March 2020 in the Semperoper, Chief Conductor Christian Thielemann and the Sächsische Staatskapelle concluded their scheduled 2019 / 2020 concert season early. Following one of the largest ensembles of musical literature – a total of 305 performers, including 6 top-class soloists, 150 singers from the MDR Rundfunkchor and the Saxon State Opera Chorus and 148 musicians – cultural life in Dresden and large parts of Europe came to a standstill.
Now, just a few months after the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, these three Dresden performances seem almost symbolic in retrospect. The previously planned repeat concerts as part of the Salzburg Easter Festival, whose resident orchestra is the Staatskapelle and whose artistic director is Christian Thielemann, had to be cancelled. For this reason alone, the Dresden performances – incidentally only the second in the long history of the Kapell, after Giuseppe Sinopoli brought the “Gurre-Lieder” to the stage of the Semperoper in August 1995 – are rare.
At the special request of the musicians, the “Gurre-Lieder” were professionally recorded in Dresden, but initially for documentary purposes – a stroke of luck that made this new publication possible at all.
Another stroke of luck was the renewed collaboration with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, with whom the Staatskapelle has maintained an intensive partnership since 2012. 39 young musicians of the young European orchestra founded by Claudio Abbado not only completed the line-up in almost all instrumental groups, but were also prepared in advance for the challenging instrumental work in joint register rehearsals with musicians from the orchestra.
The special atmosphere of these last concerts can be heard in this recording.