Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

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"2013 marked the centenary of the first performance of Schoenberg's - if not the early 20th century's - essay in gargantuism. The forces involved were unprecedented: in addition to the soloists (soprano, mezzo-soprano, two tenors, bass and speaker) there were three male-voice choirs and an eight-part mixed choir; and the 150-piece orchestra included 25 woodwind, 11 percussion, 4 harps and 80 strings. In 1903, he had even been compelled to ask the Waldheim-Eberle Press to prepare him some special 48-stave manuscript paper. The reception at the first performance was overwhelming: the ovation lasted fifteen minutes; the composer's denigrators were silenced and many members of the audience wept. The title means 'Songs of Gurre', referring to Gurre Castle in Denmark, scene of the medieval love-tragedy revolving around the Danish national legend of the love of the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag (spelt Waldemar by Schoenberg) for his mistress Tove, and her subsequent murder by Valdemar's jealous Queen Helvig. Its performances and recordings have attracted some of the world's finest dramatic sopranos - among them Susan Dunn and Jessye Norman, and here, Sharon Sweet. In a survey of this work, Gramophone magazine selected this Claudio Abbado's recording as the finest ever made. It was then, only available for digital download and now, after an absence of several years, returns to the CD catalogue."