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Rob Maynard
MusicWeb International, October 2012

WAGNER, R.: Orchestral Excerpts, Vol. 1 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.572767
WAGNER, R.: Orchestral Excerpts, Vol. 2 (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz) 8.572768

An impressive account of the overture to Der Fliegende Holländer makes a positive opening statement. High on drama, it is very nicely judged and well balanced. Schwarz’s superb control of dynamics is enhanced by the intensely fine sound engineering…

Disc one then majors on music from the Ring cycle and a consistent musical viewpoint quickly becomes apparent as Schwarz plays down the theatricality in favour of a more measured and deliberate approach. Thus, in Das Rheingold, the rainbow bridge is crossed in a very stately fashion and with markedly less bombast and grandiloquence than usual; Wotan’s farewell is delivered with impressive, weighty gravity in Die Walküre

Moving on to the second disc, the same characteristics are often in evidence. A Faust Overture is powerfully done…

The Act 1 prelude to Lohengrin moves along nicely…The famous Act 3 prelude goes whizzing along as ever and the subsequent wedding march is also a success.

The Good Friday Spell music comes off best.

…the playing of the orchestra…[in] the Das Rhinegold track demonstrates rare sensitivity and finesse in all sections, while the Siegfried music allows the winds, in particular, to shine. The brass and lower strings acquit themselves very well indeed in the extracts from Parsifal…Delos employed a crack team of engineers and they have achieved a near-ideal balance of depth and transparency, revealing all sorts of felicitous detail in these dangerously dense scores while maintaining throughout a sound that is consistently warm and never clinical. There is absolutely no hint of the age of these recordings on the new Naxos pressings.

At their price, these discs are certainly well worth acquiring, especially if sound quality is of primary concern…they are never anything less than entirely sound interpretations that will offer a great deal of pleasure. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2012

The second in the Seattle Symphony’s Wagner excerpts centres on the purely orchestral sections of Lohengrin and Parsifal and avoids spurious arrangements. It is in every respect in a different league to the first disc I reviewed last month. Gerard Schwarz seems much more at home with both operas, his tempos coming direct from the theatre rather than the concert hall. Just turn to the exciting account of the Prelude and Wedding March from the third act of Lohengrin, while the Parsifal excerpts capture the religious aspects to perfection, the two Preludes avoiding that rather silly piano-pianissimo that has recently become common currency. Heard in the theatre, the first prelude would have set the scene perfectly. The disc has already offered one of the most highly recommendable readings of A Faust Overture, and here again Schwarz avoids exaggerating dynamics, the music just communicating without conductor intervention. Maybe the inclusion of Elsa’s Dream was not a good idea, as this short vocal excerpt tends to ‘interfere’ with the general orchestral content, and there are too many versions with the great Wagner singers already in the catalogue. That said, Alessandra Marc sings with a feeling for the words, and a nicely warm tone. Orchestral playing throughout is of a very high order, and the original 1987 and 1992 sound for the Delos International label is of good quality, and at the time of issue was highly praised. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

Phil Muse
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

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