Korngold: Das Wunder der Heliane

Reviewed on Thu 10 Jan, 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.

Remarkably, this live concert recording is only the second on disc of Korngold’s fourth opera, the first, with a starry cast led by John Mauceri, appearing on Decca as long ago as 1993. Although overshadowed by Die tote Stadt and despite a fanciful narrative that climaxes in a double resurrection, Korngold regarded Das Wunder der Heliane as his masterpiece. Fabrice Bollon’s evocative account, abetted by the ever-alert and expressive Freiburg Philharmonic, makes a persuasive claim for the score’s luxurious symphonic intensity and operatic opulence. 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. There’s considerable pleasure, too, in the ardently sung Heliane of Annemarie Kremer, Ian Storey’s committed Stranger and the Ruler of Aris Argiris on his hubristic trajectory from domination to despair. Strong choral support and involving sound bolster the appeal of this Naxos set.
–Michael Quinn