Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Fantasies for 8 Horns
Lohengrin Fantasie (arr. Manfried Klier, 1935)
Rheingold Fantasie (arr. Karl Stiegler)
Siegfried Fantasie (arr. Karl Stiegler)
Tristan und Isolde Fantasie (arr. Karl Stiegler)
Gerd Seifert, Klaus Markowski, Jan Schroeder, Manfried Klier, Siegfried Manchata, Barry Garbage, Klaus Schneider, Günter Fritzsche (horns).
rec. October 1983, ADD
ACANTA 233597 [64:23]
I was looking forward to hearing this re-released disc but ultimately it proved to be a disappointment. Listening made me realise what goes missing in Wagner’s orchestration when the under-cushioning swell of strings is replaced by horns which can only oompah an accompaniment. Eight horns expertly played must always sound ear-tickling. That said, moments of great grandeur so familiar to the Wagner aficionado too often fail to deliver and seem under-powered and static, especially when played at the rather careful speeds adopted here. The sonorities undoubtedly begin to outstay their welcome over an hour and five minutes. 

I mean no criticism at all of the players, who are virtuosos to a man; it’s the arrangements themselves which pall. The Lohengrin arrangement by one of the players, Manfred Klier, is to my ears the most successful and coherent; the gentler, more mystical music of Lohengrin seems best suited to being played by eight horns. I am afraid that the Tristan arrangement more often than not put me in mind of a colliery brass band - hardly apt. Least successful of the fantasy transcriptions is the Rheingold which is hardly more than a kind of musical collage, with little cohesion or musical sense; more like “spot the leitmotiv”. Siegfried fares better but again in crucial passages the music stalls.
Evidently this recording will appeal to horn-players and devotees of the instrument but for lovers of the music itself I suggest that its allure will be less compelling. I can think of little reason to listen to this when you can hear the real thing played with more verve, colour and brilliance by a full symphony orchestra.
Inexplicably, the disc itself bears the information “Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks; Dirigent/Conductor Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt”; Unfortunately that esteemed personage died ten years before this recording and no orchestra is to be heard - although I for one would have welcomed its presence here.  

Ralph Moore 

Will appeal to horn devotees but for others its allure will be less compelling.