Enescu: Oedipe

Composition began as early as 1914 but it was only in 1936 that it
was eventually premiered. During that time other works that can compare with
Oedipe appeared, namely Honegger’s Le Roi David, Berg’s
Wozzeck and most obviously Stravinsky’s own treatment of the
story Oedipus Rex.

This Naxos recording comes from a performance at the Vienna State Opera in
1997 and can be recommended alongside the only other generally available
recording, a studio production with JosÈ van Dam as Oedipus. The sound, apart
from including a fair amount stage noise, is wonderfully clear and, because
it captures an actual performance is more powerful in the key scenes
involving the Sphinx, Jocasta’s death and Oedipus’s blinding.

The recording is a testimonial too to the late Monte Pederson who sings
Oedipus. With a rich baritone voice and obviously keen sense of drama,
Pederson died at only 43 and judging by this performance his loss is a great

Marjana Lipovšek is another great artist and too infrequently
recorded. She dominated the EMI recording in the brief but stunning scene as
the Sphinx. Here she contributes a somewhat Freudian double-act, again
singing the Sphinx, the harbinger of destruction, as well as singing Jocasta,
the partial cause of the tragedy. Lipovšek’s Sphinx is even better
this time around. The brief scene [9 minutes into Disc 1 track 7] is so
spectacularly written, with its short jagged and jabbing vocal line and final
death cry accompanied by, of all things, a musical saw. Lipovšek’s
Jocasta is equally powerful.

The conductor Michael Gielen is also a composer with a great reputation
for Mahler. He obviously acknowledges and even relishes Enescu’s creativity
throughout the performance. Enescu sets the entire story, unlike Stravinsky,
Orff or latterly Mark Anthony Turnage (in his setting of Steven Berkoff’s
irreverent Greek) but the whole opera lasts just over two hours.
Musically, it is a late Romantic inspiration standing somewhere between
Richard Strauss and Karol Szymanovski. But at this price, to have
Lipovšek at her peak and a memento of a fine baritone, it is well
worth investigating.

Michael Magnusson

image_description=George Enescu, Oedipe, Op. 23
product_title=George Enescu, Oedipe, Op. 23
product_by=Monte Pederson (bass baritone), Marjana Lipovšek (mezzo soprano), Chorus and orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Michael Gielen, conductor.
product_id=Naxos 8.660163-64 [2CDs]