A Sampling of Noteworthy Wagner Recordings for 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

If it’s a major composer anniversary year, that must mean a batch of new commemorative recordings. Whatever troubles currently plague the record industry, both major labels and independents have issued a respectable assortment of new releases for the Wagner bicentenary. Here are a half-dozen to get you started.

1953 Bayreuth Ring Cycle
Clemens Krauss, conductor

Available at Arkivmusic.com

Sixty years on, this Ring Cycle, recorded at the Bayreuth Festival and conducted by Clemens Krauss, remains one of the most respected versions around. The well-rounded cast includes many Golden Age voices: Hans Hotter in his prime as Wotan, Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried, Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde, Regina Resnik as Sieglinde, Ramon Vinay as Siegmund, Josef Greindl as Fafner, Hunding and Hagen. While long available on a budget label, the cycle was recently remastered from the original German Radio Master Tapes, offering better-quality sound. The set includes a full libretto and English translation for each opera.

 

The Other Wagner
Songs, overtures, choral works, piano music and orchestral music
EMI Classics

Available at Arkivmusic.com

Yes, there is Wagner beyond opera. The Other Wagner presents many of the composer’s orchestral works, overtures, marches, songs, choral works and some piano music. Many of these occupy a similar sound world; Der Tag Erscherint, for instance, is a choral piece Wagner composed as his first duty when appointed Kapellmeister in 1843 in Saxony. The five romantic songs composed for Mathilde Wesendock evoke the aesthetic of Tannhauser. There’s also an effective piano transcription of the Siegfried Idyll by Artur Rubinstein, among other novelties.

 

Music from Gotterdammerung and Meistersinger; Siegfried Idyll
Budapest Festival Orchestra; Ivan Fischer, conductor
Channel Classics

Available at Arkivmusic.com

The Budapest Symphony Orchestra under Iván Fischer has emerged as a front-rank ensemble, as recent New York appearances have largely demonstrated. Here the orchestra does its part for the bicentenary with a collection of popular passages from Götterdämmerung and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, coupled with the Siegfried Idyll. Soprano Petra Lang brings her powerhouse vocals to the proceedings and there’s surround-sound fidelity for those with the right stereo equipment.

 

Great Wagner Singers
Deutsche Grammophon

Available at Arkivmusic.com

This six-CD set presents a wide assortment of Golden-Age voices in recordings made over a half-century (the 1920s to the 1970s) at the Bayreuth Festival. Along with select passages from all of Wagner’s major operas, there’s the entire Act I of Die Walküre (with Maria Müller, Wolfgang Windgassen and Josef Greindl under Ferdinand Leitner, in 1951). Stars include Hans Hotter, Kirsten Flagstad, Sieglinde Wagner, Dame Gwyneth Jones and Gundula Janowitz.

 

Pier Paolo Vincenzi, piano
Wagner: Complete Piano Music (April 2013)

Available at Arkivmusic.com 

Italian pianist Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner the Piano Man. The composer’s piano works in fact played a key role in the development of his style and musical thought, starting with the sonata in B-flat Major, which grows out of a Beethovenian mold. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Grosse Sonate – an aborted sketch for a symphony that is as mature and complex as any Tchaikovsky. Vincenzi makes a convincing case for these and other works including the 'Schluss zum Vorspiel' from Tristan und Isolde. Fellow pianist Federica Ferrati joins him in the Polonaise for 4 hands in D.

 

Wagner at the Met - Legendary Performances from the Metropolitan Opera
Sony Classical

Available at Arkivmusic.com

All of Wagner’s major operas are included in this 25-CD Met box with the (curious) exception of Parsifal. The set spans several decades (1936-1954) and sound quality ranges from primitive to quite impressive (all are taken from Met radio broadcasts). There’s Hans Hotter in the title role of The Flying Dutchmen, as well as Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Karin Branzell, Emanuel List and many others. The conducting bench is equally deep, with such names as Artur Bodanzky, George Szell, Erich Leinsdorf and Fritz Reiner.

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Comments [7]

Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

The troubles that tear asunder the prospect of REAL "echt" WAGNERIAN PERFORMANCES are primarily based on the total lack of singers with squillo, ping, ringing "juicy', not dry secco , delivery, WAGNERIAN BARKING rather than legato full-throated singing, strained, forced and flat singing, unsupported, undersized and underpowered singing, WITHOUT impressive carrying power and with throaty or nasal ugly voice production. Today's news deals with deficits and declining support for the arts. Tandem to this predicament for the talented is the perception that the current situation will continue for a long time to come. Speaking specifically how this precludes the motivation for young operatic singers who must early on choosing their life's work, many have turned to Broadway or the business world. Nowadays Broadway musicals are out for show-stopping sensationalism with laser distractions, monster sets, acrobatic feats and space age technical projections and featuring dancing over singing. So, for the real thing opera singer, Broadway musicals, outside of Phantom of the Opera and an occasional Les Miserables there is little prospect of a sustainable career . The Wagner oeuvre has suffered the most. Husky physiques, witness the iconic John McCormack, do not offer similar size singing voices in power or stamina. Heroic voices like Melchior, Tamagno, Ruffo and the mature Caruso are nowhere on today's world class stages. Instead we suffer to hear miniscule, non-charismatic, non-distinctively memor able singing voices essaying roles far beyond their underpowered, thin not orotund, singing potentialities. Why has the always controversial political or uniqueness for uniqueness's sake been the overriding context in which the Bayreuth Festival has ALWAYS manifested its presence back to the days when Hanslick then Tschaikovsky and later Verdi found it an unfriendly atmosphere or decried its "lack of melody (sic !)?" The daughters of Wolfgang Wagner like their dad have managed to incur the wrath of others either more conservative or radical in their concepts of the evolving Wagner music drama production values/concepts. It is an eviscerating condition that feeds upon confrontation rather than productive aesthetics. Kudos to the daughters of Wolfgang who I anticipate will bring on a still more evocative and compelling aspect of the panoramic, dynamic searching persona of the composer that most appropriately can don the mantel of SHAKESPEARE by nature of his genius and wide-ranging interests and his perceptive depth..

Jul. 25 2013 01:56 PM

No Kenneth Bennett Lane recordings among the noteworthy ones?

Jul. 24 2013 06:15 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

ALL the artists listed below have recorded, unfortunately many have only recorded on the electically recorded "78" discs or "78" acoustics before the electric age for recordings. Too few have been transferred to the CD digital formulation. The incandescent beauty and intoxicating spirituality are so transformational in Wagner's oeuvre that any religious belief may be accommodated and synthesized to replicate the sense of selfless empathy for the welfare of others that the sacrificed UNICO represents to us all. That may explain why so many famous JEWISH singers GEORGE LONDON, RICHARD TAUBER, HERMANN JADLOWKER, MELANIE KURT, FRIEDRICH SCHORR, ALEXANDER KIPNIS, EMANUEL LIST, JONAS KAUFMANN, OTTILIE METZGER, LILLI LEHMANN, HERMANN WEIL, DESZO ERNSTER, HERTA GLAZ, MARGARETE MATZENAUER, SOPHIE BRASLAU, WALTER OLITZKY, GERHARD PECHNER, ESTELLE LIEBLING, MONA PAULEE, GUNTHER TREPTOW, PAULA LENCHNER, ALMA GLUCK, ADOLF ROBINSON, IRENE JESSNER, MAX BLOCH, ERNESTINE SCHUMANN-HEINK, HERMANN SCHRAMM, SIEGFRIED JERUSALEM, PAUL KALISCH, ETC], conductors LEONARD BERNSTEIN, JAMES LEVINE, BRUNO WALTER, ALFRED HERTZ, DANIEL BARENBOIM, GEORG SOLTI, WALTER AND LEOPOLD DAMROSCH, ARTUR RODZINSKY, RICHARD FRANK GOLDMAN AND HIS FATHER THE FOUNDER OF THE GOLDMAN BAND THAT PERFORMED BRASS INSTRUMENT VERSIONS OF THE WAGNER "REP," FRITZ REINER, SERGE KOUSSEVITZKY, FABIEN SEVITSKY, ERICH LEINSDORF, HERMANN LEVI, ETC. and stage directors HERBERT GRAF AND LEOPOLD SACHSE dedicated the fullest portion of their careers to performing Wagner's music dramas.

Jul. 23 2013 08:46 PM
kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

RICHARD WAGNER's innovations go beyond the use of his introductionj into the opera orchestra of brass, for instance, the Wagner tuba, and woodwind instruments invented for the their immediate use in his galactic projects. Wagner's chromatisim in TRISTAN to enhance the sensual, his use of swiftly changing meters, tempi, and extended or shortened phrase lengths to comport with the ever changing landscape and his mentally conceived synonymous sketching of leit motives, short leading melodies to indicate emotions, persons, things or concepts was extensively utilized throughout his oeuvre. Toscaninni's DIE MEISTERSINGER performance at the Slazburg Festival of 1937 on the Andante CD label, George Szell's Met Opera TANNHAUSER of December 19, 1942 with Melchior, Traubel and Kipnis on THE RADIO YEARS CD label, Artur Bodansky's Met Opera TRISTAN of January 2, 1937 with Melchior, Flagstad and Huehn on THE FORTIES CD label, Fritz Busch's Met Opera LOHENGRIN of January 25th, 1947 with Melchior and Melchior and Traubel on the Walhall CD label, Melchior's final Met Opera broadcast LOHENGRIN, conducted by Fritz Stiedry with Traubel and Varnay on January 7th, 1950 on the Danacord CD label and Etich Leinsdorf Met Opera TRISTAN of 1941 with Melchior, Flagstad and Kipnis on the Melodram CD label are some of the best commercially obtainable examples of Wagnerian singing at its best.

Jul. 23 2013 05:10 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Among the legendary recordings of Wagner's music must be numbered those of Toscanini and the NBC Symphony, namely the Immolation Scene with Helen Traubel and Act I. Scene I Die Walku"re with Melchior and Traubel. I would also include his performances of Siegfried's Funeral Music with the NBC, the Prelude and Good Friday Spell from Parsifal and Siegfried's Rhine Journey with the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York. Add to that, the complete "Die Walku"re" conducted by Furtwa"ngler with the Vienna Philharmonic with Mo"dl, Suthaus and Frantz.

Jul. 23 2013 08:45 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

I misspelled the family name of one of my Juiliard voice teachers. Corrected, MACK HARRELL.

Jul. 23 2013 03:43 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

RICHARD WAGNER's innovations go beyond the use of his introductionj into the opera orchestra of brass and woodwind instruments invented for the their immediate use in his galactic projects. Wagner's chromatisim in TRISTAN to enhance the sensual, his use of swiftly changing meters, tempi, and extended or shortened phrase lengths to comport with the ever changing landscape and his mentally conceived synonymous sketching of leit motives, short leading melodies to indicate emotions, persons, things or concepts was extensively utilized throughout his oeuvre. Gottfried Semper was the top architect in Germany during Wagner's lifetime. he was the architect of the Prinzregaten Opera House in Stuttgart, Germany with its sunken orchestra pit the same orchestral pit as he designed later on for the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth, Germany. The first Tristan Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld had a Lauritz Melchior physique, but neither the size of voice, nor the stamina of a Melchior, he dying shortly after his appearances in the Tristan premiere. The orchestra members of the original production of Tristan pretty unanimously, after 100 rehearsals declared "this will never be played as written, the composer overestimated the instrumentalists' capabilities." Just like before Roger Bannister no one broke the four minute time for running a mile, now there are many who have surpassed even his record time., so as now there are a FEW Wagnerian heldentenors capable of performing as "echt,"the real thing TRISTANS.

Jul. 23 2013 03:19 AM

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