Culture: CD Reviews

The Birmingham Post (England), August 31, 2002 | Go to article overview

Culture: CD Reviews


Byline: Christopher Morley

CLASSICAL

Muck - Wagner Overtures and Preludes (Naxos Historical) Despite his unfortunate name (but one still, in the current fashion, given precedence over the name of the composer), Karl Muck was an important figure at Bayreuth for several decades following the death of Richard Wagner. For 30 years, for example, his was the baton entrusted to conduct the 'sacred stage-drama' Parsifal; there is an abridged recording of his interpretation on a recent Naxos Historical release.

Added to that comes this collection of Wagner overtures and preludes recorded between 1927 and 1929. The early electrical process does not come out too badly from this subtle and sensitive transfer, but the playing of the Berlin State Opera does on occasion sound smug and perfunctory. Violin-playing in Die Meistersinger, for example, is often very scrappy, with ensemble going out of the window, and timpani in the Gtterdmmerung Funeral March are frequently overhit and out of tune. There are, however, some glories as well, notably a Tristan und Isolde Act I Prelude that grips from the very first note, and features some wonderful playing from solo oboe (captured remarkably well for such early technology) and bass clarinet. The Siegfried Idyll, Tannhuser Overture (Dresden version) and Lohengrin Act III Prelude complete this collection which I guess will appeal most to those more nutty in their Wagnerphilia even than I am. …

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