> Schuricht conducts Wagner[CF]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Prelude to Act 1, Good Friday Music and Finale to Act 3: Parsifal
Prelude: Act 1 Tristan and Isolde
Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey: Siegfried
Funeral March: Götterdämmerung
Siegfried Idyll

SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart/Carl Schuricht
Historical recordings 1950-1966
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC CD 93. 019 [74.59]


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Carl Schuricht (1880-1967) was born three years before Wagner’s death, the son of an organ builder and an oratorio singer. His composition teachers included Humperdinck and Reger but he soon began on the bottom rung of the traditional operatic conducting career with his appointment as coach, then conductor in various German opera houses just like his contemporaries Klemperer, Furtwängler and Walter, attaining his first post as GMD (General Music Director) at Wiesbaden in 1922, an association which would last twenty years. An early champion of Mahler (he gave performances of the second, third and eighth symphonies as well as an early account of Das Lied von der Erde) he began to tour extensively throughout Europe, in particular in Holland, and to the USA between the wars. Though never persecuted by the Nazis, he endured increasingly restricted activity until he managed to move to Switzerland in 1944. For the rest of his life he refused to be tied to a post and became a frequent guest with many orchestras, in particular those run by German radio stations, with one of which he appears in this compilation of Wagner orchestral excerpts.

Steeped in the heavyweight Romantic repertoire from Beethoven to Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Reger, he was nevertheless versatile enough to give a light touch to the music of Bizet, Johann Strauss and Offenbach as well as a curious predilection for Gottfried Stölzel, a contemporary of Bach. By the end his arthritic problems were limiting his conducting technique and so his interpretations tended to be conveyed to his players by charismatic magnetism (photos reveal an intense stare from a skeletal head below which bobbed the inevitable spotted bow tie). The SWR orchestra has preserved an archive of his work with them over a period of sixteen years, and what with Celibidache’s time with the same band (1971-1983) that orchestra can count themselves highly fortunate. The earliest (the Prelude to the opera Tristan and Isolde) dates from a live concert in 1950 from a bomb-damaged concert hall, more of archival interest than anything else. The orchestral excerpts from Götterdämmerung and Siegfried, and the Siegfried Idyll were astonishingly all recorded on the same day (27 September 1955) and very fine they are too. The sound quality is inevitably vastly superior in the first and last tracks (excerpts from Parsifal), made a full twelve to sixteen years after the other five (on 18 March 1966) when Schuricht was terminally ill. Nevertheless the galvanised intensity of the playing is electrifying throughout.

Christopher Fifield

See also review by Adrian Smith

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