Collins Classics originally recorded this collection
of popular Wagner overtures and preludes though this reissue gives no
information as to when and where the recordings were made (it is a DDD
recording, by the way). No complaints, though, about the quality of
the recorded sound which is full and well balanced.
The performances are a touch uneven. I thought that
Simonov shaped the timeless Act I prelude to Lohengrin pretty
effectively. The tempo flows nicely without being rushed and Simonov
gets his players to realise well the translucent beauty of the opening.
As the music progresses he builds the tension impressively.
He is good, too, in the Meistersinger overture,
sensibly adopting a moderate tempo which avoids pomposity and he keeps
the various lines of counterpoint clear. This, too, was a successful
performance which I enjoyed.
I was a little less sure elsewhere, however. In some
of the other pieces tempi sometimes seem to err on the side of caution.
Thus, for example, the speed for the Pilgrims’ Hymn which opens
the Tannhäuser overture just sounded a touch too slow and,
as a result, rather careful. In the Weber-esque Rienzi overture
I liked the suspenseful opening (even if the solo trumpet does allow
the pitch of those cruelly exposed single notes to waver slightly).
However, when the speed picks up (track 1, 5’48") I thought Simonov
had chosen a tempo which was just a bit too deliberate. It’s only a
matter of fairly fine degree (and other listeners may have differing
views about these things) but such details do tend to make a difference
between decent and excellent performances.
This is pretty unexceptionable collection and I think
anyone buying it on impulse would not feel short changed (though they
should be warned there is no documentation at all accompanying the CD).
That said, there are many such collections on the market, many at medium
or budget price, and it would be idle to pretend that these performances
seriously challenge the hegemony of the likes of Klemperer, Reiner,
Szell or Tennstedt, to name but a few.