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Siegfried WAGNER (1869-1932)
Complete Orchestral Works
see end of review for details
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg,
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/Werner Andreas Albert
rec. 1993-97, Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen; Musikhalle Hamburg (CD6)
CPO 999 655-2 [7 CDs: 416:04]
Experience Classicsonline

CPO once again sweep their warehouse shelves of a whole composer series, prints a cardboard sleeve, slips the discs into the sleeve, shrink-wrap and hey presto! Nothing wrong with that. They’ve done it before for Pepping, Pettersson, Atterburg and most recently Svendsen. I hope they keep doing it. CPO benefits from freshened sales and clearing dead inventory space. We benefit because the price is dropped drastically in return for the consumer buying a complete set. MusicWeb also gains an advantage because it allows us to reach back into the catalogue from before the classical CD review side began operation.
Siegfried Wagner was the son of Richard Wagner and Cosima Liszt. He is the Siegfried of the Siegfried Idyll. He outdid his father - at least in quantity - by writing eighteen operas between 1898 and 1929. From 1908 to 1930 he was the artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival.
After years of neglect his late-romantic music has since the 1990s been emerging from the light-engulfing shadow cast by the life and music of his father Richard. CPO first issued these seven CDs between 1994 and 1997 to celebrate his eighteen music dramas through the orchestral work – mainly operatic interludes and preludes. Before that there had been some LPs and if I recall correctly a couple of Delysé CDs which included a recording of the Symphony by a Danish orchestra. Operatic snippets had been issued in the days of the 78. In addition his cause is now promoted by the International Siegfried Wagner Society.
Herzog Wildfang (1901) when premiered at Munich caused a stir because he had parodied his father's Die Meistersinger. The overture gives an epitome of the plot in tone poem form. It has a sturdy Teutonic surge and can repeat material just once too often. The style drifts in and out of Richard Wagner with the occasional Weberian flourish. It is pleasing but not compelling yet is well performed. The strings of the orchestra seem rather hesitant and unconfident in the long serene, yearning, invocatory introduction to Der Friedensengel (1916 but only premiered in 1926). They settle down by 4:11.
Der Schmied von Marienburg was his thirteenth opera and was premiered in Rostock in 1923. The opera was concerned with legalities and freedom. The overture has a Brucknerian bearing with singing surging strings and dignified heroic brass. The fifteenth opera is Die heilige linde which dates from 922 and which was premiered at Bayreuth in 1924. This is the freshest overture on the disc and has an optimistic and confident bearing with memorable themes deployed. The note-writer tells us that of all the preludes this is the one that has been most often broadcast and recorded. The opera is set in Third Century Christian era where King Arbogast fells a sacred tree - tragedy follows. It is a most peaceable and pleasing work with delicate pastoral and woodland atmospherics and more open textures and poetic life than the other overtures on disc 1.
This disc is themed around Wagner's Fairytale operas. An allem is Hutchen Schuld is represented by a winding Prelude which establishes a calming mood yet one clouded by a sense of anxiety not far distant. Some grotesque drawing is done in Dukas and Nutcracker style by the woodwind and other solo instruments at 3:20. From the same opera we also hear a boot-heavy rustic Waltz and Forest Scene with a Brahmsian dancing aspect familiar from the Haydn Variations. An allem is Hutchen Schuld is from1915 and is based on various Brother Grimm stories. The opera seemingly melds a large number of the titles and has the tales interacting with real life. Sondheim's Into the Woods was not the first, then. It was premiered in Stuttgart in 1917 and proved almost as successful as Das Barenhauter.
Das Fluchlein's prelude is, at 10:42, short by this Wagner's standards. It is another seraphic peaceful piece with the impression of misty landscapes gradually lit by the rising sun. Gambolling spirits cavort and caper as at 2.40 although Wagner cannot help giving some of this a stultifying fugal aspect when greater liberation would have aided the music. Some sturdy climaxes recall the jollity of Franz Schmidt's Hussarenlied Variations. The piece ends as it began.
During 1899-1900 Das Barenhauter was the most performed opera in German-speaking lands and was translated into English, French and Hungarian. It was Wagner’s first opera and again bears the light hand of Weber in the fluency and roundedness of its celebration and romantic mien. Parts of it may well also remind you of the pastoral idylls of Bruckner's Romantic symphony. The prelude has trumpets and the rest of brass choir opening the proceedings in some regal confidence. The long introduction to Act III depicts the placid prayerful fidelity of Luise who awaits the return of Hans. The final extract from the opera is The Devil's Waltz which is flittering and fluttering piece with a slightly Hungarian flavour and obsesive hysteria and much of the open soloistic writing which marks out the prelude to An allem is Hutchen Schuld.
Clearly the operas are not short of orchestral snippets - freestanding interludes, dances and the like. Herzog Wildfang is mined again, this time for the Introduction to Act III which is bright and silvery perhaps with a touch of high-tide Glazunov about it. Bruder Lustig is an opera from 1905. Its prelude is cheery and not especially profound or serene - rather obstreperous and gap-toothed in fact. There is another rustic waltz with some woodland horns and a creaking accordion music-box feel. The Vision (tr. 4) portrays the moment when the holy figures on the church altar come to life with the onlooker lost in awe. In fact this music had me thinking of Tchaikovsky so throbbingly passionate does it become. There is a wonderful, almost Korngoldian violin solo at 3:23. The Act III Prelude has a stern quality which occasionally tips over into bombast.
The short introduction to Act I of Banadietrich is more conflict-riven than the other preludes – some true stormy drama here although this does take us into Flying Dutchman territory. The equally short prelude to Act III is again dramatic with the scent of war, distant fanfares and whooping horns - nothing of Weber about this. The story itself will bear ignoring; suffice to say that it includes a dragon, the Huns and the watersprite Schwanweiss. The music is suitably stormy. The opera was premiered in Karlsruhe in 1910.
The prelude to Schwarzschwanenreich is appealing in a dark Tchaikovskian way with a lovely oboe solo at the start and a moment of cor anglais that recalls that perhaps Wagner knew Sibelius's Swan of Tuonela. There is more Tchaikovskian intensity at 8:50 onwards in the pattern of Hamlet yet a lassitude settles in later which I think must be in the music rather than the performance. What was promising gradually dissipates.
Wahnopfer has as its subject a murdered child in the time of the Visigoths. Avian woodwind and the gentle breath of the strings make the prelude another one of his successful operatic overtures. The Introduction to Act II is celebratory with impressive stern brass and dancing woodwind. A final flourish of rolling thunder and celebratory uproar ends the Introduction and the disc.
There are four extracts from the opera Sternengebot which was premiered in Hamburg in 1910. It was his fifth opera and the last of sequence dealing with mania of various sorts. It is unusual for Siegfried in that there is no operatic prelude. There is a steadily tautening intensity about this prelude which rises to a kind of torment. Rather like the portrayal of feminine fidelity in Das Barenhauter the Introduction to Act II depicts, in peaceful golden string-led tones, Agnes the daughter of Duke Conrad. The Tournament Parade is (Richard) Wagnerian in the exultant manner of Lohengrin. The Introduction to Act III has that luxurious romantic amplitude that one finds in the most exultant episodes in Korngold's operas – well maybe a notch down from that but very familiar all the same.
Siegfried was clearly keen on ancient or remote history. Sonnenflammen is a further example – an opera set in the Byzantine court of the 14th century. The music has a rather Delian sound. This is bound up in the loss of Wagner's close friend the English composer Clement Harris who died in battle in the Greek wars of liberation.
Heidenkonig was finished in 1913 and has the conflict between Pagans and Christians as its focus. However the Interlude Glaube is peace-imbued rising to a satisfying warmth and a rounded melodic hymnal contour at 2:52 onwards. Das Kupalo-Fest depicts the pagan harvest festivities.
The opera Reinulf and Adelasia was first performed in Rostock in 1923 conducted by the composer. This is tense music yet of a romantic and discursively atmospheric disposition. There are fantastic episodes along the way including some strange piccolo flourishes at 6.20 which accompany what seems to be an exotic dance. Later there is some truly rapturous writing for strings and horn at 13:12 redolent of Mendelssohn's Hebrides but in sunshine. The music curves down into a warm sunset.
Here are five tone poems by Siegfried Wagner including one very early one from 1895 - the earliest work in the set. Sehnsucht is after Friedrich Schiller and has that downcast concentration and dark glower that we find in Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead complete with Tchaikovskian wind solos. Once again all ends in the glow of a peaceful sunset. It is his first surviving work.
The lively mature 1922 Scherzo Und wenn die Welt voll teufel war is a strange mix of jollity – some superb bouncing horn calls - and a Mephistophelean edginess. An entertaining work with some lovely chilly wind solos.
The 1923 Gluck (Happiness) is in six movements across 27 minutes. One of Wagner’s evident strengths is the ability to build a stilly shining angelic warmth out of silence – that’s certainly on display here. The six movement piece seems to have been driven by memories of the death of Clement Harris whose tone poem has been recorded on Marco Polo. The Wagner piece is a counterpart in music to Stefan George's poem in memory of Clement Harris. The work was premiered in Munich in December 1923. This is mature Wagner and has the spark of inspiration more consistently ignited. Warlike and devilish episodes alternate with a cheery innocence and seraphic prayers. The final section returns to rustic chivalry, antiphonal fanfares and a romping sanguine jollity.
Siegfried Wagner's four movement 46 minute Symphony in C is here recorded in its original version of 1925 with the 1913 second movement Sehr langsam. In 1927 the composer substituted a sweetly contemplative Langsam alternative which is track 5 on this disc. The symphony was not premiered until after the composer's death. It was given privately at Bayreuth in August 1941 conducted by Heinz Tietjen and then publicly under Karl Elmendorff in Mannheim in November 1941. A discursive and rhapsodic work it lacks symphonic concentration. It is interesting to hear but suffers from a prolixity which despite my best efforts defeated me. Wagner's limitations as a symphonist are borne out by the non-symphonic Allegro third movement. Things improve for the sometimes tempestuous and often determined finale. While this has a Mahlerian majesty and some magnificent writing for the brass this does not of itself make a symphony. Interesting but the best of siegfried's purely orchestral music lies in the operatic work and tone poems.
Ekloge is Wagner's orchestration of Liszt's seventh piece from the Années de Pèlerinage. It is laid out for a small orchestra - unusual for Wagner. It's peaceful, speaking of the lawns of some pantheistic pristine classical world.
We move now from Wagner the symphonist to Wagner the concerto writer. Ulf Hoelscher leads us through his 25 minute single movement Violin Concerto written in 1915. The concerto is late-romantic, of course, and lies somewhere between the rhapsodising of the Delius and the passionate emoting of the Bruch G minor. There are however a few moments when the soloist recalls the 1945 Korngold concerto (3:46). This is an attractive work and is more effective than the Symphony. The premiere was given in December 1915 in the Herkules Hall in Munich by Seby Horvath. It was also taken up by a composer friend of Siegfried, Henri Marteau and it is Marteau's edition that is used here. The work ends in an energetic blaze of innocent enjoyment.
The short prelude to Act III of the opera The Kobold is another of those radiant innocent visions of which Siegfried was a master. They all have a certain inner calm which links with the his father's Siegfried Idyll.
The little Flute Concertino was premiered in 1914 in Hamburg. It's a jolly piece with a trace of Gallic accent and is smoothly and poetically played by Andrea Lieberknacht. It is another very successful piece with a delightful radiance all of its own. Flautists should seek it out and surprise audiences with this German flute concerto; it only requires a small orchestra. The short - less than two minutes - prelude to act II of Die Heilige Linde is jolly, sanguine and celebratory.
Then finally an oddity - Das Marchen vom dicken fetten Pfannekuchen for baritone and orchestra. This is a setting of a poem the words of which are printed in German and English at the back of the booklet. It is a fun piece delivered with élan and vivid characterisation by baritone Dietrich Henschel. It tells the absurd story of an escaped pancake and its adventures. It joins the ranks of German ballads. No doubt it has some parable value and Peter Pachl outlines one such theory in the booklet. Pachl is a constant and welcome presence in all the booklets. The music of the ballad has a ingenuous Mahlerian stamp as of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen.
As far as I am aware these seven discs also remain available separately.
I was a bit taken aback when opening the booklet for volume 1 to find that inside the Volume 1 cover were the contents of the booklet of volume 2. But you've guessed it. Inside volume 2's cover were the contents of volume 1. Anyone buying the set will bear this in mind.
Contrary to experience with some other CPO issues Pachl’s notes are well expressed and succinct and not given to long and convoluted asides.
Let us not leave this set without paying tribute to Werner Andreas Albert who invested three years and more of his life in this project and many hours in preparation.
While Siegfried Wagner is not a staggering talent he should not be forgotten. This set, done with conviction and no little passion, well serves his memory and the pleasures of curious listeners of today and tomorrow.
Rob Barnett

CD1 [55:14] 999 003-2
Herzog Wildgang, opera, Op 2 (1900): Overture [12:20]
Der Friedensengel, opera (1914): Prelude [12:20]
Der Schmied von Marienburg, opera (1920): Overture [14:10]
Die heilige Linde, opera, Op 15 (1927): Prelude [16:21]

CD2 [66:45] 999 300-2
An allem ist Hütchen Schuld, opera (1915): Prelude [17:41] Waltz [5:44] Forest Scene [4:59]
Das Flüchlein, das jeder mitbekam, opera (1929): Prelude [10:43]
Der Bärenhäuter, opera (1898): Overture [14:19] Introduction to Act III [8:20] Devil's Waltz [4:57]

CD3 [63:51] 999 377-2
Herzog Wildfang, opera, Op 2 (1900): Introduction to Act 3 / Kermis Dance [5:47]
Bruder Lustig, opera, Op 4 (1904): Overture [9:25] Waltz [4:36] Vision [4:47] Prelude to Act III [2:35]
Banadietrich, opera, Op 6 (1909): Introduction to Act 1 [4:12] Prelude to Act 3 [3:54]
Schwarzschwanenreich, opera, Op 7 (1910): Prelude [11:29]
Wahnopfer, opera, Op 16 (1928): Prelude [12:25] Introduction to Act 2 / Inaugural Celebration [4:39]

CD4 [61:35] 999 378-2
Sternengebot, opera, Op 5 (1906): Introduction to the Prelude [5:00] Introduction to Act II [4:55] Festzug (Tournament Parade) [5:20] Introduction to Act III & Huldigungstreigen (Hommage Round) [6:26]
Sonnenflammen, opera, Op 8 (1912): Prelude [10:19]
Der Heidekönig, opera, Op 9 (1913): Interlude ("Glaube") [5:47] Interlude ("Das Kupâlo-Fest") [7:43]
Rainulf und Adelasia, opera, Op 14 (1922): Prelude [16:02]

CD5 [59:08] 999 366-2
Symphony in C (1925) [46:47]
Symphony in C (Langsam only) (1927) [9:29]
Ekloge (Eclogue, after Années de Pèlerinage No. 7 by Franz Liszt) [2:49]

CD6 [57:57] 999 531-2
Sehnsucht, symphonic poem after Friedrich Schiller (1895) [20:18]
Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär! scherzo, for orchestra (1922) [10:19]
Glück, symphonic poem (1923) [27:16]

CD7 [51:34] 999 427-2
Concerto for violin and orchestra (1915) [24:37]
Der Kobold, opera, Op 3 (Prelude to Act 3) (1903) [5:31]
Concertino for flute and small orchestra (1913) [11:04]
Die heilige Linde, opera, Op 15: Prelude to Act 2 [2:05]
Das Märchen vom dicken fetten Pfannekuchen, fairy story for baritone & orchestra (1913) [8:15]

Other CDs of Music by Siegfried Wagner
Der Heidenkonig, Op.9. Carsten Sabrowski, Mechthild Georg, Thorsten Scharnke. Bergische Symphony Chorus and Orchestra / Hiroshi Kodama. Marco Polo 3cds 8.225301-03
Der Friedensengel. Hanne-Lore Kuhse, Valerie Hill, Martha Modl, Raffaele Polani, Raimund Herincx / Leslie Head. Rec. London 1975. Living Stage 3cds LS1060
Sonnenflammen, Opera in 3 acts. Trekel, Schneider, Brunner, Giesecke, Batori, Orchester & Chor des Opernhauses Halle / Roger Epple. CPO 2cds 777 097-2 (review)
Der Kobold (The Goblin). Broberg, Mauel, Mitschke, Horn, Hoffmann, Fottinger, PPP Music Theatre Ensemble München, Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra / Frank Strobel. Marco Polo 3cds 8.225329-31
Bruder Lustig Klorek, Thies, Hesse, Bennett, Adam, Gothe, Hahn, Dittebrand, Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra / Georg Fritzsch Marco Polo 3cds 8.225245-47
Der Barenhauter. Volker Horn, Beth Johanning, Henry Kiichli, Theresa Koon, Ksenija Lukic, Adalbert Waller, Thuringian Symphony Orchestra / Konrad Bach. Marco Polo 8.223713-14
Die Heilige Linde Op. 15: Opera in three acts Wegner, Horn, Schellenberger, Trekel, WDR Rundfunkchor Koln, WDR Sinfonieorchestra Koln / Werner Andreas Albert CPO 3cds 999 844-2
Banadietrich. Johannes Fottinger, Vivian Hanner, Volker Horn, Beth Johanning, Andreas Schmidt, Adalbert Waller, Andre Wenhold, Thuringian Symphony Orchestra / Viesturs Gailis. Marco Polo 2cds 8.223895-96
Schwarzschwanenreich. Conrad Haase, Beth Johanning, Kerstin Quandt, Walter Raffeiner, Andre Wenhold, Thuringian Symphony Orchestra / Konrad Bach. Marco Polo 8.223777-78
Sternengebot Bayerische Singakademie, Bayerisches Landesjugendorchester / Albert Marco Polo 2cds 8.225150-51
Scenes & Arias for Mezzo-soprano Iris Vermillion, WDR Rundfunkchor Koeln, WDR Sinfonieorchester Koeln / Werner Andreas Albert CPO 999 651-2
Scenes & Arias for Baritone Roman Trekel, WDR Rundfunkchor Koeln / Werner Andreas Albert CPO 999 684-2
Overtures, Opera Scenes & Violin Concerto, Willibald Roth, Bayreuther Festpiele Orchestra, Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden, Berliner Philharmoniker / S. Wagner, Karl Bohm, Tietjen, Abendroth. Rec.1925-45 Archipel 2cds ARPCD0275


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