Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Orchestral Excerpts - 1
Der Fliegende Holländer - Overture [11:35]
Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla (Das Rheingold, Scene 4, arr. H. Zumpe) [7:48]
Wotan's Farewell and Magic Fire Music (Die Walküre, Act III) [15:29]
Forest Murmurs (Siegfried, Act II, arr. W. Hutschenruyter) [7:57]
Dawn - Siegfried's Rhine Journey - Siegfried's Death - Funeral March (Götterdämmerung, Acts I & III) [26:32]
Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
rec. Seattle Opera House, Washington USA, 21 October 1987 (Holländer); March 1986 (Rheingold, Götterdämmerung); 19-20 February 1992 (Walküre, Siegfried). DDD
NAXOS 8.572767 [69:21]
Naxos have been here before: twenty-plus years ago they released two volumes of Wagner entitled 'Orchestral Highlights from Operas', as well as orchestral highlights from The Ring - each recording by a different ensemble and conductor (8.550136, 8.550498, 8.550221). More recently, Naxos Historical have issued Wilhelm Furtwängler's own recordings of similar material (8.111348, 8.110997).
None of the aforementioned were of the greatest quality, either in terms of sound or - Furtwängler aside - performance, and perhaps therein lies Naxos's motivation for three new albums, of which this is the first, with two and three released more or less in tandem. The problem is, these recordings are of the same vintage, and suffer from similar technical problems. These are all old Delos recordings, by the way - most of the tracks in the three Naxos volumes can be heard on a 3-CD boxed set released in the mid-1990s (DE 3182).
Sound is not bad by any means. There is pretty good stereo and the different sections of the orchestra are generally well defined - Schwarz's direction playing a role too in that regard. Yet there is minor sound distortion in the louder sections of most of the works, and overall the audio often has a rather thin, muddy/lossy quality, again most noticeable in the higher-volume sections. In other words, whether audio is impressive enough to warrant a rescue of these recordings from the vaults is debatable - especially when there are still quite a few old Delos discs in circulation. On the other hand, Naxos now own the copyright for these recordings, so once the originals have all been taken, this reissue may well be worth another look.
Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony have recorded prolifically for Naxos over the years, especially American repertoire - although their recent Rimsky-Korsakov volumes are particularly praiseworthy (8.572693, 8.572787, 8.572788). Whether they have quite the right temperament for Wagner's deeply serious music is a moot point, and their readings here, for all their technical assurance, are just a little lacking in pathos. For all but devout Wagnerites, however, they would still suffice as introductions to the master orchestrator. Yet in the final reckoning, with so many alternatives in the huge Wagner discography, sound quality is just not good enough for this volume to merit a place on the shelf.
The booklet notes are detailed, but amounting to no more than a gallant attempt to summarise the 'plot' of Der Ring. Written by veteran annotator Keith Anderson, the text is probably as old as the recordings.
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Just a little lacking in pathos.
see also review by Rob Maynard