Audio Video Club of Atlanta
, September 2012
WAGNER, R.: Orchestral Excerpts, Vol. 1 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.572767
WAGNER, R.: Orchestral Excerpts, Vol. 2 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.572768
WAGNER, R.: Orchestral Excerpts, Vol. 3 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.572769
Volume 1 consists of the Flying Dutchman Overture and a selection from the Ring tetralogy. The overture is as storm-tossed and lyrical as we could wish, illuminated at just the right moments by those famous horn calls that summon the protagonist to resume his wandering for all eternity. Things pick up, in human interest as well as drama, in the two highlights from Die Walküre, Wotan’s moving Farewell to his daughter Brünnhilde and Magic Fire Music…Forest Murmurs from Act II of Siegfried is as persuasive as we are likely to hear this well-loved Wagner favorite, thanks to the transparency of sound from the SSO string section and some truly lovely commentary in the way of bird-calls by the various woodwinds. The luminosity continues with the four deeply atmospheric excerpts from Götterdämerung (Twilight of the Gods): Dawn, Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Death, and Funeral March, as the music moves from near-impressionism to frothy romance, and at last stark tragedy.
In Volume 2 we have the unjustly neglected Faust Overture, the work of an ardent young romantic, plus excerpts from Wagner’s ultimate continuous stream-of-music dramas Lohengrin and Parsifal. In the former, besides the enchantment of the Preludes to Acts I and III, we have “Elsa’s Dream,” with its vocal superbly rendered in all its longing and spiritual beauty by the great German-American soprano Alessandra Marc. The famous Good Friday Spell from Parsifal achieves moments of transcendence and religious exaltation without descending to sticky piety under Schwarz’ tasteful direction. And the dark, layered sound of the Seattle Symphony strings serves the various moods of mystery and desolation in Preludes from acts I and III very well.
Finally, in Volume 3 the dark, rich color and tonal palette of the Seattle Symphony finds its best showcase in the music from Tristan und Isolde. The purely orchestral excerpts, consisting of the Preludes to acts I and III, show the results of Wagner’s advanced chromaticism, often in the form of a visible darkness that enhances the doom-laden mood of the music. Alessandra Marc is on hand again in these 1992 performances recorded at the Seattle Opera house by Adam Stern and John Eargle, first in a knowing account of Brangäne’s Warning, then in a superlative rendering of Isolde’s famous Liebestod (Love in death) in which her voice dips and soars seamlessly through the various emotions experienced by the heroine. Earlier in the program, we have Schwarz guiding the orchestra through well-loved highlights from Tannhäuser (the glowing Overture and the exciting Venusberg Music) and Die Meistersinger (Act III Introduction, a light-hearted and more-than-welcome Dance of the Apprentices, and finally the stirring March of the Meistersingers). As they are throughout the 3-CD set, the sonics are first-rate. © 2012 Audio Video Club of Atlanta