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Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Zaide, Opus 19 No. 1 (1845)
La captive, Opus 12 (1848)
La belle voyageuse (1843)
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)

Adagietto (Symphony No. 5)* (1902)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Wesendonck Lieder (1858)
Siegfried Idyll* (1870)
Yvonne Naef (mezzo soprano)
Capella Istropolitana
Pilsen Radio Symphony Orchestra*
David Heer
Recorded 26-19 October 2002 (Berlioz, Wagner Wesendonck Lieder); Studio Radio Pilsen, February 2003 (Mahler, Wagner Siegfried Idyll
CLAVES CD 50-2309 [65.46]

 

The highlight of this interesting programme comes at the beginning, in the form of the three songs by Berlioz. First, they are marvellous songs, eclipsed in the public popularity by Les nuits d’été, perhaps, but at least as fine. The performance of Yvonne Naef could hardly be more idiomatic, and the orchestral contribution is distinguished too. Add to that compelling combination the excellent recorded sound and the disc is worth its price for these opening items alone.

The artists choose to perform Hans Werner Henze’s version of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder rather than the more familiar edition scored by Felix Mottl. The colourful scoring does have an edge of expressive intensity in Henze’s version, and it never sounds unnatural, but the performances do not quite catch fire in the way that the Berlioz songs do. Perhaps this is because the singer is less idiomatic in the German repertoire. She copes well enough with the vocal demands, to be fair, but the last degree of subtlety seems to be lacking.

The two purely orchestral items feature the same conductor, David Heer, but another orchestra, the Pilsen Radio Symphony Orchestra. These days it seems strange to hear Mahler’s Adagietto outside the context of the whole of the Fifth Symphony. It is strong enough to stand on its own, though any music lover who knows it in context is likely to be frustrated when nothing follows the silence at the end. The range of dynamics might have been more carefully controlled, and while the Pilsen orchestra plays more than capably, the climax is over-lit and the tone lacks the warmth of the world’s great orchestras.

In fact the Siegfried Idyll of Wagner is sensitively, even intimately, shaped across its 20-minute span. When there are intensifications of tone they work well, and the performance brings much satisfaction.

The disc comes with a nicely produced 28-page booklet, including full texts and translations.

Terry Barfoot

see also review by Chris Howell


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