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Ritchie Symphony 4
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The Ring - an orchestral adventure
(arr. Henk de Vlieger (b. 1953)) (1991) [60:19]
Siegfried Idyll (1870) [15:09]
National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. 5-7 August 2007, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
is a hybrid in more ways than one; not only does it offer
both CD and SACD playback, it also eschews the usual ‘bleeding
chunks’ in favour of a single, hour-long work. It’s not a
new idea – Lorin Maazel has done it in The Ring
Without Words (Telarc CD-80154) – but I was still curious
to hear de Vlieger’s take on Wagner’s tetralogy.
his liner-notes Maarten Brandt details the Dutch composer-percussionist’s
approach to this work. In essence it is conceived as a four-part
symphony, with each opera forming one of the ‘movements’.
For example, Das Rheingold starts with the prelude
and ends with the ‘Entry of the Gods into Valhalla’.
the best clue to the work’s intended audience lies in its
subtitle ‘an orchestral adventure’, which surely implies
a degree of accessibility. No doubt there are many listeners
who prefer ‘highlights’ to the entire epic, and I suspect
this recording is aimed squarely at them. At this point initiates
will probably mutter darkly about ‘dumbing down’, but for
the uninitiated this disc does at least offer a potential
gateway to Wagner’s potent mythical universe.
recording also marks Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi’s return
to both Chandos and the orchestra with whom he made some
excellent recordings in the 1980s. Many of these – the Richard
Strauss and Prokofiev cycles in particular – are still highly
regarded today. But is this ‘adventure’ the best way to celebrate
the renewal of old partnerships?
clear from the magical prelude to Das Rheingold that
the orchestra is in fine fettle, weighty and thrustful. Although
the recording is less sumptuous than usual orchestral detail
is excellent and tuttis bloom naturally, with no hint of
strain or grain. Add to that the presence of maestro Järvi
and the omens are very promising indeed.
why doesn’t it work? Try as I might I simply could not engage
with this watered-down Wagner. As an orchestral exercise
it has its moments but listeners hoping for a sonic or musical tour
de force will be bitterly disappointed. And despite all
the usual excerpts the work has far too many ‘flat spots’ to
make a convincing, unified whole.
least in the ‘bleeding chunks’ each piece has its own clear
dramatic structure and with the help of concert endings they
tend to work very well on their own. Here de Vlieger has
to deal with a much longer span – 60 minutes or so – and
I’m afraid the edifice sags in far too many places. Frankly,
if you like Wagner without a whiff of tedium you’d be better
off with excerpts from the likes of George Szell on Sony
Classics (if you can find it) and Klaus Tennstedt on EMI
and the LPO’s own label. These visceral, highly dramatic
performances – not the persistently undernourished and underwhelming
de Vlieger arrangement – are where the Wagnerian adventure really begins.
Idyll, the composer’s birthday present to his wife
Cosima, is light of tread and tender of heart. It was always
intended to be a private work, full of intimate allusions,
so it’s not surprising there is none of the love-as-destruction
we encounter in Tristan, for instance. What is surprising,
though, is Järvi’s rather roughshod reading of the piece.
It simply lacks the poise and delicacy this occasion demands.
That said the playing of the RSNO is wonderful in places,
a tantalising glimpse of what might have been.
while I’m delighted Järvi is back with the RSNO I really
can’t celebrate their new disc. Stick with the excerpts if
you want an introduction to The Ring; and if it’s
the Idyll you’re after there are plenty of more persuasive
versions out there. I can only hope the next instalment in
this rekindled partnership has more fire than this.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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