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Wagner's Heroes

Walkure (excerpts); Siegfried (excerpts); Gotterdammerung (excerpts).
John Treleaven (tenor); Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bratsilava/Ivan Anguelov.
Arte Nova Voices 74321 72114-2 [DDD] [69'19]

John Treleaven possesses a powerful tenor voice that lends itself immediately to the heavier excerpts on this disc. In 2000 he made his debut at the Vienna State Opera, scoring a success in Lohengrin. He has also appeared at English National Opera in a variety of roles. Treleaven shows an affinity for Wagner (which appears from the evidence on this disc still a little way from maturity), so it is a shame that the frequently lacklustre accompaniments counteract this. His cries of ‘Walse' in the first Walkure excerpt, Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater, carry an appropriate weight, but here, as often elsewhere, the orchestra lets the enterprise down. The final excerpt from Act One of Walkure, Siegmund heiss ich, demonstrates well the depleted voltage of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra: Heiligste Minne, hochste Not and Treleven's ensuing cries of ‘Nothung’ are completely robbed of their dramatic weight. The light recording effectively ensures that the climactic trumpet statements unfortunately sound as if they come from an instrument bought in Hamley’s. The retention of prominent horn splits near the end corroborate the impression that session time was running low. There are extended excerpts from Siegfried. Both the Schmeltzlied (Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert!) and the Schmiedelied (Ho-Ho! Schmiede den Hammer) require a lustier protagonist than Treleaven, who in this music-drama seems more literal and uncomfortable. Many of the same problems characterise the extended Gotterdammerung excerpt, Mime heiss ein murrischer Zwerg. This disc will not win Wagner many friends, despite Treleaven’s obvious good intentions. A pity Anguelov could not extract more enthusiasm for the project from his Slovak orchestra. The recording quality only exacerbates matters.

Colin Clarke



Tony Duggan adds:

John Treleaven was born in Cornwall, studied in London, and has appeared with many of the world's greatest companies including Vienna and Covent Garden. His repertoire embraces all the major Wagner roles so he must be in some demand since heroic tenors are always at a premium. On the evidence of this record confidence would be justified. The caveat always has to be added that you can never tell from a record like this how a singer would sound at the end of a long Wagner night in front of an audience, but I would certainly pay money to see as well as hear him. Time was when recordings like this were made prior to the artist featured being cast in a big opera recording by one of the major companies, a "showcase" to whet the public's appetite for more. Now with fewer complete opera recordings being made this is often all an aspiring artist can hope to get out of the recording companies.

This is a well-chosen programme well presented. We lead off with the Siegmund highlights from Act I of "Die Walkure" including a lyrical and beautifully restrained "Wintersturme" and ending with the triumphant wresting of the sword from the tree. Treleaven delivers this final resolution with much power and also humanity you sometimes miss with singers of a more steely nature. From then on it's over to Siegfried with a suitably bumptious young man from the opera named after him where he is especially powerful in the Forging Scenes and splendidly lyrical in the Forest Murmurs. Finally in the two extracts from "Gotterdammerung" Treleaven manages to inject a touch of worldliness into his portrayal which is no mean feat when you are only given eighteen minutes to do so.

The Slovak orchestra gives solid support though the strings lack the rapture of more distinguished colleagues and the brass are a touch anaemic. But Ivan Anguelov relishes the opportunity to show what he is made of having clearly prepared his players well for this production. They are all backed by a well-balanced sound stage.

An enjoyable bargain set of Wagner extracts from an interesting young singer 

Tony Duggan



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