Wagner Preludes, Overtures and Lieder

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For whatever reason, Richard Wagner's preludes and overtures are not so often encountered on most symphony orchestra programs these days. It’s a shame, because they are works of tremendous power, beauty and excitement. Yet the Cleveland Orchestra, under its music director Franz Welser-Möst, is just the band to make a fresh case for the composer’s thrilling orchestral creations. Its all-Wagner collection is this week’s Full Rotation.

Recorded live in Severance Hall in February, one can bet its walls reverberated like crazy when the Clevelanders unleashed their brash and muscular readings of The Ride of the Valkyries, the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin and the Rienzi Overture. Their rich brass playing is nicely counterbalanced by Welser-Möst’s generally straightforward, fleet, and lightly textured conducting (listen to how he leads the numerous tempo changes of Rienzi). The Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, a favorite at weddings, positively shimmers, Die Meistersinger Overture is all pomp and majesty, and the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde releases its pent-up passion.

Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, a cycle of five songs for soprano and orchestra based on poetry by Mathilde Wesendonck, features the Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman. These songs evoke cycles of nature as metaphors for love and loss and are often sung by a Wagnerian soprano. While Brueggergosman has a relatively light voice for this role, she sings with a lushness that melds easily into the orchestral texture, which is played with refinement by the Clevelanders.

Wagner Overtures

The Cleveland Orchestra

Franz Welser-Möst

Measha Brueggergosman, soprano

Deutsche Grammophon

Available at Arkivmusic.com