- Wozzeck, opera, Op. 7
Alban Berg's expressionistic "Wozzeck" (1917-1922), based on the unfinished play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner, is regarded as one of the greatest 20th century operas, and its deep plunge into themes of sadism, madness, and murder made it one of the first psychopathological studies in opera. This concert performance by the Houston Symphony Orchestra under Hans Graf features baritone Roman Trekel as Wozzeck, soprano Anne Schwanewilms as Marie, tenor Marc Molomot as the Captain, bass-baritone Nathan Berg as the Doctor, and tenor Gordon Gietz as the Drum Major. The demanding music, which veers between atonality and tonality, and challenging vocal lines outline the disturbing tale of the soldier Wozzeck, who is systematically abused and driven to kill his wife, only to succumb to insanity and drown himself while trying to hide his knife. The angular music and the abrupt action contribute to the persistent feeling of instability and cruelty, and while Berg's score is far from the harshest music ever given to an opera, for its time it was shattering in its intensity, and it still has the power to disturb. This Naxos recording of the March 2013 performance at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston offers transparent sound, surprising orchestral warmth of tone that helps to ameliorate the sharper edges and dissonance of the writing, and chilling clarity in the devastating close of Act III.