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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Orchestral Excerpts - 2
A Faust Overture [10:45]
Prelude (Lohengrin, Act I) [11:09]
*Elsa's Dream (Lohengrin, Act I) [7:37]
Prelude and Wedding March (Lohengrin, Act III) [3:35]
Prelude (Parsifal, Act I) [14:52]
Prelude (Parsifal, Act III) [5:30]
Good Friday Spell (Parsifal, Act III) [11:13]
Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music (Die Walküre, Act III) [15:29]
*Alessandra Marc (soprano)
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
Recorded: Seattle Opera House, Washington USA, 21 October 1987; 19-20 February 1992 (Faust, Elsa's Dream). DDD
NAXOS 8.572768 [64:41] 

Experience Classicsonline




This is the second of three volumes released by Naxos more or less simultaneously, reanimating some oldish Delos recordings. Leaving aside any questions regarding the point or musical validity of orchestral 'bleeding chunks' cleft from Wagner's great operas, previous releases in this line by Naxos date back twenty years and now lie gathering dust in the basement - not altogether undeservingly. Apart from countless 'best of opera'-style compilations, there are two volumes entitled 'Orchestral Highlights from Operas' and instrumental excerpts from The Ring on three separate discs by different ensembles and conductors (8.550136, 8.550498, 8.550221). More recently, Naxos Historical issued Wilhelm Furtwängler's own recordings of Wagner orchestral highlights (8.111348, 8.110997), and although these are better with regard to performance, in all cases sound quality is below par.
 
Unfortunately a quick skim through these Gerard Schwarz recordings identifies similar technical shortcomings. Sound is not bad exactly. There is pretty good stereo and the different sections of the orchestra are generally well defined - Schwarz's direction playing a role too in that regard. Yet there is minor sound distortion in the louder sections of most of the works, and overall the audio often has a rather thin, muddy/lossy quality, again most noticeable in the higher-volume sections. In other words, whether audio is impressive enough to warrant a rescue of these recordings from the vaults is debatable - especially when there are still quite a few old Delos discs in circulation. On the other hand, Naxos now own the copyright for these recordings, so once the originals have all been taken, this reissue may well be worth another look.

There is no doubt Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony make a fine team. They have recorded prolifically for Naxos over the years, especially American repertoire - although their recent Rimsky-Korsakov volumes are particularly praiseworthy (8.572693, 8.572787, 8.572788). Whether they have quite the right temperament for Wagner's deeply serious music is more debatable, but the Seattle sound is urbane and relaxed, directed with the lightest of touches by the highly dependable Schwarz. Not surprisingly, they are at their best in the upbeat Act III Prelude to Lohengrin.
 
In the end, however, with so many alternatives in the huge Wagner discography, sound quality is just not good enough for either of the first two volumes, sharing recordings from the same sessions, to merit a place on the shelf. There is minor audio distortion in all the louder sections, and overall the sound often has a rather thin, muddy/lossy quality, again most noticeable in the higher-volume passages. A final irritant is that the recordings are very quiet, somewhere around a third of the norm, giving the music - the Faust Overture in particular - a lacklustre quality that it is hard to get past.
 
The booklet (leaflet) notes by veteran annotator Keith Anderson are detailed and germane to the music, and Naxos provide, not strictly necessarily, text and translation of Elsa's Dream as sung by Alessandra Marc. Her warm, attractive voice notwithstanding, the inclusion of a sung excerpt goes rather against the album concept. As a compilation, by the way, this CD - for those determined to acquire it - works less well than the first of the set, which offered more variety of tempo and dynamics: much of the music here is on the soft and slowish side.
 
Byzantion
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk    

see also review by Rob Maynard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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