Schoenberg's melodic, tonal Wagnerian masterpiece Gurrelieder
calls for one of the largest orchestras ever assembled on one concert platform, including 25 woodwind, 25 brass, 11 percussion, three four-part male voice choirs, and a mixed eight-part choir. Simon Rattle fondly remembers it as the "biggest score in Liverpool's Music Library." In the interview with him that's included in the liner notes, he adds: "although 400 people are involved, Gurrelieder
is in fact the world's largest string quartet."
Through music of sumptuous beauty, it tells the story of a king, Waldemar, whose beautiful young mistress Tove is murdered by his wife. Waldemar joins a terrifying nighttime ride of skeletons and corpses while railing against God. Although the themes and sound-world are Wagnerian, Rattle treats the score like Strauss--using a light, even ironically Mozartean touch. The effect is overwhelmingly powerful, and the work's climaxes (the skeletons' "Wild hunt" and the massive "Hymn to the sun at the end") are all the more spine-tingling for the careful restraint and generally quick tempi that have gone before.
The singers couldn't be bettered. Tenor Thomas Moser has a rich baritone range perfect for the demanding role of Waldemar, the king whose lover is foully murdered. Karita Mattila is both creamy and intense as the lover in question. Philip Langridge and Anne Sofie von Otter are also in top form. Stunning. --Warwick Thompson