The first release of the first stereo recording of the work, the historical importance of this set of Wagner's Siegfried is undeniable. Recorded by Decca at the 1955 Bayreuth Festival, this performance directed by Joseph Keilberth was to have been issued as part of the first complete Ring cycle. But persuaded that only a studio recording could do the work justice, Decca decided to shelve Keilberth's performance, a decision that led to Georg Solti recording Siegfried with the Vienna Philharmonic and ultimately to the release of a Ring cycle that many still regard as the finest ever recorded. But aside from its inherent historical value, what's its aesthetic value? While much better than average, Keilberth's Siegfried doesn't challenge the established order.
Richard Wagner's reputation rests on his tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the other music dramas he created, including Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which revolutionized all aspects of late Romantic music and left their mark on modern music as well. Yet there is a small body of non-operatic works that shows a more relaxed Wagner working on a much smaller scale: his Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra, a group of songs, and a collection of pieces for piano. This double CD by Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner's complete piano music with three sonatas, a large-scale fantasia, and eleven short pieces that show the composer's attempts at finding a more personal and intimate voice.
Born in Kyoto, Music Director of the Tonkunstler Orchestra since the start of the 2015-16 season, Yutaka Sado is considered one of the most important Japanese conductors of our time. After many years assisting Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, Yutaka Sado started winning important conducting prizes such as the Grand Priz of the 39th «Concours international des jeunes chefs d’orchestre» in 1989 in Besancon, France, and the Grand Prix of the Leonard Bernstein Jerusalem International Music Competition in 1995. His close ties with his mentor led to his appointment as Conductor in Residence at the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, which was founded by Bernstein. In December 1990, at the «Leonard Bernstein Memorial Concert» in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, Yutaka Sado conducted alongside other Bernstein proteges.
This 67-minute, orchestra-only version of Wagner’s famous opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen is arranged by Henk de Vlieger, arranger, composer & percussionist in the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. The work was commissioned by the orchestra & the result is a 14-section fiery musical spectacle entitled The Ring, an orchestral adventure.
Of Anton Bruckner’s 11 symphonies, the perennially popular 7th in E major is his most consistently melodious, evenly paced, & lyrically flowing, with comparatively few false starts, awkward pauses, or tedious fanfares. For this exceptional hybrid SACD from PentaTone, Yakov Kreizberg & the Vienna Symphony deliver 1 of the smoothest & roundest performances of the symphony heard in years. Yet it might actually be too polished for the liking of some old-guard Bruckner fans, who may argue that the orchestra is too mellow, luscious, & soft, & that Kreizberg’s inflections & phrases are too nuanced & sensual for the composer’s pure, almost sacred, intentions. But more important than the undeniably rich tonal quality found here is the interpretation, which draws on the style of Wagner’s most ardent music; some of the more ecstatic passages of Lohengrin & Tristan und Isolde may come to mind when one hears this disc.
The popular Prelude & the so-called Liebestod (“Mild und Leise”) from Richard Wagner’s music drama Tristan und Isolde are the most familiar parts orchestras play, most often in the 1859 concert arrangement by Wagner. (He preferred that the term Liebestod be applied to the Prelude only, & originally titled his concert version Liebestod und Verklärung, or “Love-death & Transfiguration.”) The featured work of this Chandos SACD is the 1994 suite arranged by Henk de Vlieger, fashioned from key parts of the entire opera, not just the beginning & end. Tristan und Isolde: An Orchestral Passion is a lengthy tone poem that includes key passages, in much the same manner as de Vlieger’s other symphonic syntheses on Der Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal, & Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Most of the familiar orchestral versions of Richard Wagner’s operatic music were arranged either by him or his followers in the 19th century, so the Overture & Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser & the Prelude to Act III from Lohengrin have long been performed in these special concert formats. But the main work of this SACD is the 1993 suite arranged by Henk de Vlieger, Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest, which is a fresh adaptation of the key moments from Wagner’s final music drama. The work was commissioned by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, after de Vlieger, the ensemble’s percussionist, had successfully arranged music from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen into a similar orchestral vehicle for them. Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest was premiered on RCA in 1997 by Edo de Waart, & Neeme Järvi leads the 2nd recorded performance on this 2010 release on Chandos.