Richard Strauss was filled with doubt as to whether he would be capable of expressing in music the crazed revenge of “Elektra” after writing his opera “Salome” with its shocking story. It is quite understandable that he had trouble in composing the work, although such difficulties are not in the least evident during the course of the drama or in the musical flow. Drawing on natural sources, the forceful melodies make use of polyphonic, complex motifs and extreme dissonances. Here and there, Strauss’s typical chordal harmonies gleam through, though hardly audible, taking the harsh dissonances and chromaticism to the very extremes of atonality.
Sir Georg Solti, whose outstanding Strauss interpretations constitute the focus of his life’s work, leads the enormous orchestra through the highly complex score and provides his singers with a powerful but finely chiselled sound. Birgit Nilsson personifies an icy-cold Elektra consumed with hatred, and her counterpart Regina Resnik as Clytemnestra is no less extreme in her role. Gerhard Stolze, one of the greatest singers of his time, masters the exhausting role of Aegistheus, and Tom Krause is highly convincing as the determined Orestes. The phenomenal acoustics of Vienna’s Sofiensaal provided an ideal recording venue, and the audible quality of the sung text is excellent – although the final bloodbath can scarcely be expressed in words.