Berg: Wozzeck

Reviewed on Mon 22 May, 2017

Hans Graf’s swan-song with the Houston Symphony after more than a decade sees him take his leave in style, the adrenalised orchestral playing puissantly conjuring Berg’s gruelling worldview.

Arriving hard on the heels of Fabio Luisi’s visually striking Zurich production on Blu-ray (Accentus) this second Wozzeck from Naxos faces stiff competition from its predecessor, Leif Segerstam’s Stockholm account of 2000. Not as potent as Claudio Abbado’s still excoriatingly raw 30-year-old version (DG; ArtHaus Music), Hans Graf’s swan-song with the Houston Symphony after more than a decade sees him take his leave in style, the adrenalised orchestral playing puissantly conjuring Berg’s gruelling worldview. Less unhinged than Franz Grundheber for Abbado, Roman Trekel’s darkly lyrical Wozzeck compares favourably nonetheless. Similarly, Anne Schwanewilms’s Marie can claim vocal propinquity with the anguished dignity of Hildegard Behrens in the standout performance here. There’s characterful support from the strong-in-depth supporting roles, too, which makes the flat, often problematic sound – where voices and orchestra share the same aural plane to dual detriment – all the more regrettable. Even so, at the price tag, worth exploring.
–Michael Quinn