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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
FULL CONTENTS LIST
CD1 [55:14] 999 003-2
Herzog Wildgang, opera, Op 2 (1900): Overture [12:20]
Der Friedensengel, opera (1914):
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
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
Rainulf und Adelasia, opera, Op 14 (1922):
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
Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär! scherzo, for orchestra
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)
Concertino for flute and small orchestra (1913) [11:04]
Die heilige Linde, opera, Op 15: Prelude to Act 2
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
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
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
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
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