Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Meistersinger , an orchestral tribute - symphonic compilation (arr. 2005, Henk de Vlieger (b.1953)) [47:51]
Eine Faust-Ouvertüre (1840, rev. 1855) [11:03]
Deux Entr’actes Tragiques (orch. 1996, Henk de Vlieger after Wagner’s compositional sketches) (1832) [12:26]
Overture to Columbus (ed. Felix Mottl (1856-1911) as concert overture with the title Christopher Columbus) (1835) [8:05]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
rec. Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow; 17-19 August 2010. SACD
CHANDOS CHSA 5092 [79:54]
Suites of purely orchestral music from Wagner operas are hardly new. The Ring Without Words - orchestral highlights from The Ring Cycle (Lorin Maazel/Berliner Philharmoniker, Telarc CD 80154 (rec. 1987) or Euroarts 2057604) isprobably the best known and best appreciated.
This particular condensation is described as an ‘orchestral tribute’ to Meistersinger - notice that the words Die and von Nürnberg are omitted from Henk de Vlieger’s titling. From this CD’s booklet I noticed that Chandos had already recorded three more of Dutchman de Vlieger’s Wagner arrangements - The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure(CHSA5060); Parsifal: An Orchestral Quest (CHSA5077) and Tristan and Isolde: An Orchestral Passion (CHSA5087).
De Vlieger’s Meistersinger is arranged in eleven episodes, some clearly recognisable. The purely orchestral episodes like: the Overture, The Dance of the Apprentices and The Entry of the Masters are well known. In aggregate they would comprise a significant proportion of the 48 minutes that this arrangement spans. Chandos’s notes are not helpful. The titling of the eleven episodes is given in German only. There is no English translation so if you are not proficient in German it can prove a problem although the meaning of some episode titles are reasonably easy to guess. Also if you do not have a libretto handy, it can be difficult to ascertain where you are in the opera’s plot. This is especially if you are not too familiar with this huge work. If my memory serves me right it used to span some 10 or even 12 LP sides. Add to this that too little information to be of real help is given in the barely one-page allotted to this work about the episodes. Having said all this de Vlieger has assembled a seamless and reasonably satisfying whole. The work can be appreciated in its own right as a through-composed symphonic structure.
Listening to de Vlieger’s Meistersinger I felt curiously unmoved and uninvolved. I cannot remember listening to Wagner’s wonderful score without feeling uplifted. Usually I cannot sit still and there are yells of protest from my household about my arm-waving, the thudding of my desk, joyful humming or whistling. In this instance there was very little of any such happy manifestation. If I wasn’t moved by Walther’s Prize Song at the opera’s climax then there could be no hope. First I suspected that Chandos’s super sound might be intruding on my appreciation of the music, but I soon dismissed this notion and began to wonder about tempi, nuance, dynamics and the orchestration that de Vlieger might have overlaid to serve his vision.
Only after I had listened to the Tribute right through and written the above paragraphs did I work on the links to the other three Chandos de Vlieger Wagner treatments in paragraph two above. Only then - honest! - did I read through Dan Morgan’s review of de Vlieger’s The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure. I was struck by Dan’s remark “Try as I might I simply could not engage with this watered-down Wagner.” Which pretty well sums up my feelings about this Meistersinger - despite virtuoso playing from Järvi’s forces.
Henk de Vlieger also worked on an early Wagner composition, Deux Entr’actes Tragiques from compositional sketches made by the youthful composer in 1832. The two short pieces were thought to have been written as intermezzi for a play staged in that year. Wagner only orchestrated the opening of the first - de Vlieger completed this and fully orchestrated the second taking the style of Weber as his guide since it was known that Wagner was greatly influenced by Weber at that point in his life. The Deux Entr’actes demonstrate a wide gulf between early Wagner and the genius that would later shake the music world. If not especially memorable they make pleasant enough listening. The first, marked Allegro, bustles along cheerily and is mildly dramatic; the second an Allegro con brio - Adagio- Tempo I offers more punch and atmosphere.
More interesting are the two early and purely Wagner works. Wagner had been fascinated by the Faust legend and his exciting 1840 composition, Eine Faust-Ouvertüre has some splendid devilishly-wrought material. There is much more confidence here and it is interesting to compare this work with Liszt’s Faust Symphony and Two Episodes after Lenau’s Faust. Wagner’s Columbus Overture is another early work, salty and nicely evocative of heaving waves and jubilant exploration.
This Meistersinger is not a prize-winning song.

Ian Lace

see also review by Brian Wilson
This Meistersinger is not a prize-winning song.