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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


SWR

Richard WAGNER: Carl Schuricht Conducts
Prelude to Parsifal
Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung
Siegfried Idyll

Good Friday Music and Closing Scene from Parsifal
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra of the SWR/Carl Schuricht
Recordings made in Stuttgart 1950/1954/1955/1966 remastered by Michael Sandner in 2001
SWR CD 93.019 [74:59]

I’m not a devotee of ‘historic’ recordings (usually instructive, but rarely satisfying listening experiences), but on this occasion it gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to one such. Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) belonged to the generation of Wilhelm Fürtwängler, Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter and is certainly worthy of inclusion in such distinguished company. He established his reputation at Wiesbaden (where he worked from 1912 to 1944). After the war, he declined to be tied down to the position of a resident music director and travelled extensively as a much sought-after guest conductor. He enjoyed the rare distinction of earning nothing but praise from Sergiu Celibidache (chief conductor of the Stuttgart Orchestra, 1971-83), who was notoriously critical of his fellow-conductors. One reason for this perhaps was that Schuricht detested the ‘mix and match’ approach of recording engineers and insisted on long takes, so that, as is richly evident here, his studio sessions have the character of a live concert.

He had a particularly happy relationship with the Stuttgart Orchestra, of which he was Chief Guest Conductor from 1950 until a few months before his death and with whom he made the bulk of his surviving recordings. The oldest of these (the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde) was made live in 1950. The sound is somewhat cramped and ‘boxy’ but this cannot hide the glowing intensity which Schuricht brings to his interpretation and to which his players respond so ardently. In the other tracks (all studio recordings) Michael Sandner’s remastering is splendidly effective, especially in the two excerpts from Götterdämmerung, pulsating with drama and superbly paced. It’s especially rewarding to hear such richly sonorous brass. And Siegfried Idyll is graced by an array of exceptionally poised soloists. Remarkably, these three pieces were recorded in one day.

No less glowing and intense are the two final extracts from Parsifal, which have a special poignancy, for when recording them the 86-year-old conductor knew that his life was drawing to its close, and these were indeed his last recordings.

For lovers of Wagner and of the ‘old school’ of conductors, a disc not to be missed.

Adrian Smith

 


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