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Stravinsky Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Peter Pears

Jocasta Martha Modl

Creon & Messenger Heinz Rehfuss

Tiresias Otto von Rohr

Shepherd Helmut Krebs

Narrator Werner Hessenland


Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra & Chorus

Cond Igor Stravinsky

Archipel - ARPCD 0228 59 minutes

Recorded October 1951


This is a vintage performance conducted by Stravinsky himself which brings together five superb singers on top form. Not only are their voices in peak condition, but they all skilled actors who imbue their characters with terrifying realism.


Slowly the tale unfolds as Tiresias is taunted into revealing the secret that he has concealed for so long and the hunt is on for a murderer in their midst. Jocasta is the first to understand, and Martha Modl lets her voice rise to near hysteria as she again and again denounces all Oracles as liars. Peter Pears (Oedipus) is quick to pick up, and builds first a thread of fear first towards panic and then an awful calm as he realises the full weight of his crime.


The chorus have the last word in a fearful farewell ode. Sound quality is remarkably well preserved and it all adds up to a truly magnificent performance which outstrips all other versions currently available.


I would just add a note on Latin pronunciation, which in this recording lies somewhere between classical and ecclesiastical. All the V's are hard, as they would be in the ecclesiastical convention, but the C's and G's that should then be softened are not. (The ae diphthong is virtually absent from the text.) I presume that this compromise had Stravinsky's blessing, but any purist who would prefer a strictly classical approach should turn to Leonard Bernstein's recording with the Harvard Glee Club and Boston Symphony Orchestra (Sony Classical 88697 00819 2) which has the bonus of including the Symphony of Psalms.


Serena Fenwick