This is the final volume of three released by Naxos more or
less simultaneously, breathing new life into some oldish Delos
recordings. Leaving aside any questions regarding the point
or musical validity of orchestral 'bleeding chunks' riven 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. Besides countless 'best of opera'-style
compilations, there are two 'Orchestral Highlights from Operas'
as well as instrumental excerpts from The Ring on three
separate discs by different ensembles and conductors (8.550136,
In all cases sound quality is below par. Unfortunately these
Gerard Schwarz recordings have a similar vintage and do not
entirely avoid such audio shortcomings. Sound quality is not
bad by any means, but whether it is impressive enough to warrant
a rescue of these recordings from the vaults is debatable -
especially when there are still some old Delos discs in circulation.
Naxos now own the copyright for these recordings, however, so
once the originals have all been taken, these reissues will
come into their own.
There is no denying that the Seattle Symphony are a fine orchestra.
Their sound is urbane and relaxed, directed with the lightest
of touches by the highly dependable and hugely experienced Schwarz.
They have recorded prolifically for Naxos over the years, especially
American repertoire - although their recent Rimsky-Korsakov
volumes are particularly praiseworthy (8.572693,
Whether they have quite the right temperament for Wagner's deeply
serious music is more arguable. The brass in the Tannhäuser
Overture sound rather perfunctory, for example, and there
is not the same passion in the Venusberg Music or the
Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde that many European
orchestras and conductors seem to generate.
In general, however, with so many alternatives in the huge Wagner
discography, sound quality is not really quite good enough for
this volume or either of the previous two - sharing recordings
from the same sessions - to merit a place on the shelf. The
strings exhibit a distinct lack of depth, giving an overall
quality that is a little on the thin side. However, perhaps
as a cheapish introduction to Wagner these three volumes may
find a market, in which case this last disc is probably the
best of the set, offering a maximum of drama and volume, nowhere
more so than in the literally orgiastic Venusberg Music
that follows on from the serene Tannhäuser Overture.
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 the two sung items.
Though Alessandra Marc's voice is warm and attractive, its inclusion
does rather undermine the album concept.
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see also review by Paul