Richard Strauss: Elektra

Richard Strauss: Elektra
Karl Böhm
Catalogue No.

Karl Böhm made the first complete stereo recording of Elektra in 1960 for Deutsche Grammophon and to this day it remains one of the sonically and artistically most exciting recordings of this work. Böhm knew Strauss personally (the booklet includes a delightful photo of the two of them relaxing together!) and conducted several premieres of the composer’s works. All the principals, led by Inge Borkh, are thrilling and incisive, and it is fitting that on the 150th anniversary of Strauss’s birth, this key recording was reissued.


Elektra, Op 58

Elektra: Inge Borkh
Klytämnestra: Jean Madeira
Chrysothemis: Marianne Schech
Aegisth: Fritz Uhl
Orest: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Chor der Staatsoper Dresden
Staatskapelle Dresden
Karl Böhm

Recording information

Recording producer: Wolfgang Lohse
Recording engineer: Heinrich Keilholz
Recording location: Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany, October 1960


‘It is a joy to hear [Inge Borkh’s] high notes, loud or soft, taken so securely and so dead centre. She makes such things as the end of the Agamemnon monologue, the trying passage at the end of her scene with Klytemnestra, and her part in the final duet, absolutely thrilling … grand, true and beautiful singing allied to a fine conception of the great role … Jean Madeira’s dark, rich toned voice is natural for the part of Klytemnestra … it goes without saying that Fischer-Dieskau makes a living person of Orestes … Fritz Uhl gives an excellent portrayal of the ill-fated Aegisthus … Karl Böhm commands the greatest admiration … the huge orchestra plays superbly … As for the recording, it is so good and spacious that one rarely adverts to it’ Gramophone (1961)

‘Borkh makes Elektra womanly from the start, Jean Madeira enunciates the second part of the Klytemnestra scene with a quasi-improvisatory clarity, the orchestra’s parallel triads slither and shriek, and there is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: solemn, fearful, with an almost dismissive inflection’ Gramophone (2013)

‘Even more so than the Vienna Philharmonic, the Dresden Staatskapelle totally understands Strauss’s idiom: it premiered many of his works and plays with that unique sound only an orchestra who has worked with a composer can. It plays faultlessly, and Böhm’s tempi, often very fast, add an excitement to the playing that makes the brass snarl and roar as on no other recording, the woodwind chatter and whisper incomparably and the strings dig in with tremendous depth. Under Böhm the opera has intense momentum, although it is never overplayed, and in many parts Böhm makes more of the great, sweeping Romantic melodies than conductors who are more measured in this opera. Inge Borkh is almost near perfect as Elektra, her singing, as only a true actress can, illuminating the hysteria, compassion, love and determination of her creation. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a meltingly deep-toned Orest (the Recognition Scene is magical) and more than copes with the strains of the extended range of Orest’s music. All in all, a remarkable recording.’ MusicWeb International