The composer was the only
son of Richard Wagner and Cosima (then von Bülow). He trained as
an architect before turning to the family business of music. After study
with Humperdinck, and others, he conducted in Germany and at Bayreuth
from 1896. However, he turned to production and composition and first
staged works at Bayreuth in 1901; he succeeded his mother as artistic
director of the festival in 1908. Siegfried married an Englishwoman,
Winifred Williams, who directed Bayreuth from his death until 1944.
She achieved notoriety for her enthusiasm for National Socialism and
entertaining Hitler at Bayreuth.
Siegfried Wagner wrote
fifteen completed operas, of which twelve were staged, as well as tone
poems and a violin concerto. The CPO label has issued a number of discs
featuring the composer's works and these are referred to in the essay
notes in the booklet. These informative notes are given in German, English
and French, as are biographical notes on the conductor and singer. The
words of the extracts are given with English translation only.
Track one, of 18 minutes
duration, from opus 13, one of the composer’s more popular works (produced
Rostock, 1923) tells all about music, singer, conductor and recording.
The music is largely lyric and melodic, if somewhat stylised. One can
perhaps too readily visualise a singer declaiming whilst stood on a
rock. The influences are more from his teachers and lack the genius
of his father. The music is, nonetheless, interesting and certainly
worth hearing. The booklet postulates that the soprano parts of Siegfried's
operas cover a broad spectrum, from child woman via the disappointed
lover to the woman burnt at the stake, an adulteress and a 'honourable'
prostitute. Dagmar Schellenberger has a pleasingly full-toned and creamy
soprano voice with good legato and extension at each end. She has graduated
through the classic Mozartian lyric soprano parts, essayed the three
female roles in 'Hoffman', and with her capacity for expression and
nuance, as exhibited here, can look forward to an expanding career in
heavier roles. I shall be looking out for her name in the theatre and
on disc. I note from the booklet that she will feature in forthcoming
CPO issues which will include Siegfried's opera 'Die heilige Linde',
as well as Tatjana in Lehár's only opera.
The conductor, not previously
known to me, has recorded a number of discs of Siegfried Wagner's works
on CPO and elsewhere, as well as other symphonic works 'off the beaten
path'. His reading here seems idiomatic and wholly in sympathy with
both the composer and the singer. He allows Schellenberger to phrase
and does not hurry the music inappropriately. Opera buffs should listen
to this disc and its music without thinking too much of the surname.
The recording is bright
and airy with the orchestral textures well balanced and unconstricted.
The singer is nicely set within the overall acoustic. The supporting
singers are all adequate if set a little further back (tr. 8).
Robert J. Farr