Is this Netrebko’s first recording in German?

Is this Netrebko’s first recording in German?


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2014

The pre-release copy has just landed on the mat. The staff are ripping it open, dying to check those Russian umlauts.


netrebko strauss 4 last songs


  • Brian says:

    Shouldn’t she be wearing a scarf in that cold weather?

  • GEll says:

    It is a TERRIBLE recording of Strauss’ Four Last Songs. To be skipped.

  • Chris says:

    It’s a live recording. “Vier letzte Lieder” and “Heldenleben”. Netrebko is only one third of the program. Doesn’t look like it on the front cover…
    Sorry Maestro Barenboim, you you have a reputation to loose, please go to the studio and work with a good production team. Otherwise you will just produce the umpteenth mediocre recording of mainstream repertoire nobody needs to hear. Talk to Max Hole to grant you a real production, not this cheap live concert recordings. You don’t have to make money, you can fight for artistic integrity. If you can’t do it, who can?
    It is so sad to see what has happened to Deutsche Grammophon. They only are in the business of selling names nowadays, not selling good excellently produced music anymore… Shame, shame, shame.

    • ganymede says:

      I don’t agree that not going to the studio is a recipe for a “mediocre recording”. Musically speaking it’s far preferable to make live recordings rather than a stitched-together studio recording from many short takes. Some of the artistically best recordings around on the market are live recordings, with mostly excellent sound quality. The main form of mediocracy of recordings (often made in the studio) that I have come across lies in the lack of artistic quality.

      However I do agree that DG appear to be increasingly subscribing to the shallow marketing model, pretty covers and not much behind. This is not necessarily their fault entirely, they do have to go with the times and sell recordings as best they can to a new kind of classical music market. What is truly sad is that most of the modern recordings, pretty cover or not, are simply uninspiring since not many outstanding musical performers around today record much. If the likes of Krystian Zimerman decide to publish a recording then it will be an event, live or not, pretty cover or not.

      • Chris says:

        It’s interesting to discuss these opinions.

        “Musically speaking it’s far preferable to make live recordings rather than a stitched-together studio recording from many short takes.”

        Says who? Who says that studio recordings are only stitched together from many short takes? AFAIK studio recordings also use long takes. Short takes are only used to patch short, technically challenging places. Studio recordings allow a much better concentration on the musical tasks. It’s not true what you say. This mantra is reiterated by the recording industry spin doctors, to sell live recordings. Reason: it is much cheaper to do live recordings, the return of investment is easier to achieve, the quality of the recording suffers though… see the example we are discussing here…

        “Some of the artistically best recordings around on the market are live recordings, with mostly excellent sound quality.”

        But there are many more artistically excellent studio recordings. Which live recordings are so artistically excellent? Name a few. I know a lot of mediocre live recordings that lack the focus a good studio recording has. And are you sure they are pure live recordings, or have at least some places been recorded afterwards for doing some editing of problematic places? AFAIK that’s the standard procedure for “live” recordings these days.

        I think you are – like many – the victim of a popular misconception.

        • ganymede says:

          Gosh, where to start… well, Claudio Abbado’s Lucerne and Orchestra Mozart recordings, most of them outstanding, are all live. Bernstein’s Mahler 9 in Berlin is live. Michelangeli’s recordings of Beethoven piano concertos with Giulini are live. All Celibidache on EMI is live. Most Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic recordings are live, many outstanding. The Keilberth Ring, many of the Furtwängler recordings, etc – it’s an endless list. Some have less perfect sound but a mono Bruckner 5 with Furtwängler recorded live in 1942 is endlessly more precious than Karajan’s 1976 studio recording with the same orchestra.

          I don’t say that studio productions don’t produce outstanding recordings, I own a lot of studio recordings which I cherish very much, and neither do I deny that there are studio recordings making a point of having long takes, but far, far too many are stitched together from many small takes, often edited badly so you can still hear the transitions (and we are talking big companies like DG – my, how they stitched together Karajan recordings!). Why do you think most major performing artists nowadays prefer live recordings?

          Finally, I don’t deny that recording companies do try to save money (the reasons for that being a separate topic), but simply rejecting live recordings on the basis of that argument is completely missing the point in my opinion. I happen to think – and everyone may have a different view – that I want to be as close as possible to a live performance when listening to a recording. I don’t mind if they afterwards stitch in a few wrong notes or mix together from several live performances but the dramatic tension of a live recording is hard (though admittedly not impossible) to achieve in the studio. Of course Furtwängler’s Tristan and Walküre are absolutely outstanding despite being studio productions, to name just two examples.

          • Chris says:

            Thank you for the detailed response. Last things first: You can not record the moment of live. What makes a live performance thrilling is that you know that are there in that very moment. When its recorded and you listen to it later its not the same thing anymore. Its just a recording. And most often a mediocre one, because there are so many flaws and compromises and insecurities in a live performance. Flaws which don’t matter much in the moment of a concert, because the flow of time is immediate and the flaws are not repeatable. Recorded flaws are repeatable. So the “magic” of live recordings simply does not exist, not to the degree it’s claimed anyway. It’s a myth mostly, and one that helps the business selling cheaply produced recordings, no less.

            Having said that, what can make them special is the perceptual bias of the listener, believing to witness a live event. It’s a simple experiment, and it has been done with the expected result. You can play studio recordings to a blind audience and label them as live recordings, and the majority will tell you that these recordings are more exciting than studio recordings because they believe them to be live. It’s all in the perception, not in the quality of the recording.

            Also musicians are often wrong about this and perceptually very (!) biased as well. They are under a certain focus and in a state of “flow” when performing for a sizable audience, and they don’t have that feeling when in the studio, which feels more like a rehearsal for them. So they simply believe that the live performance is more “musical”. But that belief falls apart when they listen to that recording without perceptual bias (e.g. not knowing that it is their own live recording). You can’t record the “magic” of live, because it exists only in the mind, not in the material world. On top many musicians don’t like studio recordings much, simply because they prefer performing for, and immediately being rewarded by, an audience.

            Now to the audible edits in Karajan’s recordings: True, I have several recordings with them. If you watch the documentaries about Karajan, you can see how he did force his recording team to do things that were against their professional ethics. I could very well imagine that he also demanded edits, which in the age of analog tape were not doable, but he insisted nevertheless. So that’s what we got. He was not grand enough to let other professionals do what they do best and stick to his realm. He was a control and power freak.

            Now to your first paragraph. It’s not a good idea to compare live recordings from a different epoché (Furtwängler 40s) with later studio recordings. Because the earlier recordings might be just testament to a different style of music making we like, and you would need to compare to the studio recordings of the same performers from roughly the same time to get a meaningful result from your comparison. Celibidache on EMI is mostly meh…. nothing compared to the music you experienced in the hall being there. He, with his way of transcendending time in a live performance, is the exemplary showcase how live can not be recorded. Almost nothing of his magic is in the recordings. Also the balance in those recordings is often far from being ideal. Which is not surprising, considering they were mostly only documentary recordings for the orchestras archive with modest technical means, never meant to be published, since Celi was so vehemently against doing recordings. As far as Rattle in Berlin is concerned, I find these mostly (e.g. Brahms, Schumann) not very interesting either, but that’s not a problem of live or not live, but mostly one of the interpretation I believe.

            Again, your words:
            “the dramatic tension of a live recording is hard (though admittedly not impossible) to achieve in the studio.”
            are based on a perceptual bias, not on reality. There is no dramatic tension in a live recording, at least most of the time. That tension, it might be felt by everybody in the hall, on stage and in the audience, sure, but it never makes it into the recording. Because it is not in the material realm. That tension is the spiritual interaction between people being together with a common mission, at a certain moment in a present time. It can not be recorded, unfortunately.

  • Diana Medford says:

    Netrebko has sung several German selections in concert before, including the Strauss songs “Morgen!” and “Cäcilie.” She also frequently performs as encore pieces the operetta songs “Heia in den Bergen” from Die Csárdásfürstin and ” “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß” from Giuditta.

  • Milka says:

    Isn’t this all a rather pointless exercise
    in trying to prove something that does not exist versus live recording,
    they both are artificial and have very little relationship to the “original” sound no matter how one dresses it up .
    All recordings are like the early Kodak
    photos of …Niagara Falls….we know it’s there , that’s it . What is left
    unsaid here is that music comes to the record buyer not by a “first pressing ” but by
    a second …through the ears of another
    something called a sound engineer,who twiddles dials for balance ,volume etc . as the sound
    engineer sees fit, in essence one is hearing a performance through the
    sensibilities of another being . How
    bizarre to argue the merits of a recording when it all
    is controlled by sound engineers . It is much like a friend coming back from
    lets say a Turner show who begins to describe the paintings , a red this , a gold that and on and on ,you get a rough idea but if you want the real thing you must off to the exhibit .
    Same for music, but if you spot a
    microphone you are better staying home with a good book .

  • Milka says:

    anonymus, perhaps the artificial does
    satisfy you ,I prefer the real thing.

    The thought of technical engineers dictating what I should hear , how I should hear a work according to their standards is totally abhorrent to me .
    To follow your thought we should
    just get a tempo beater for an orchestra while the sound engineers
    focus on the instruments , volume,
    texture,blending etc .I suspect we are
    already half way there … next will be a do it yourself symphony.How we have

  • Milka says:

    “Everything is artificial” especially
    your argument ….The real thing is row 14 seat 19 ,or balcony row 10 seat19
    or wherever one happens to be sitting .
    Must be comforting to have others decide
    how and what one should hear.