|Meistersinger von Nürnberg|
Live recording in mono from
|Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler|
|Hans Sachs|| |
|Veit Pogner|| ||Josef Greindl|
|Kunz Vogelgesang|| |
|Konrad Nachtigall|| |
|Sixtus Beckmesser|| |
|Fritz Kothner|| |
|Balthasar Zorn|| |
|Ulrich Ei▀linger|| |
|Augustin Moser|| |
|Hermann Ortel|| |
|Hans Schwarz|| |
|Hans Foltz|| |
|Walther von Stolzing|| |
|Eva|| ||Maria Müller|
|Ein Nachtwächter|| |
|Chor und Orchester der|
|Grammofono 2000, AB 78602/05
Review by Davyd Melnyk|
"I have just listened to the overture from Die Meistersinger once
again for the first time". With these words Nietzsche opens the
section of "Beyond Good and Evil" called 'Peoples and Fatherlands';
he also anticipates the possible reaction of most Wagnerites on
settling down to hear Furtwängler's reading. Before beginning this
review I checked the site for other reviews, comments and preferences
regarding Die Meistersinger so as to not waste too much time on the
possibility of preaching to the converted.
The review of Karajan's Dresden set is perhaps a good place to start
as I assume many will be familiar with this reading. Those who have
found Karajan's reading too 'light', a quality praised by the reviewer,
can turn with relief to Furtwängler. Not that the conducting threatens
to be TOO serious, a charge some have levelled at Kempe and Solti
(in Vienna); just listen to the overture for an advance preview of
how the sheer joy of the score can be combined with an unmatchable
intensity in the realization of Wagner's orchestration. Before
returning to pre-war Bayreuth I had always believed the Vienna strings
to be unmatchable, but I must report that in 1943 Bayreuth had
achieved a perfection in its string section (not that the rest of the
orchestra is far off perfection) that the mono sound cannot even begin
to sully. One caveat though: if you listen to Furtwängler's reading
you may find it difficult to take much pleasure in any of the snazzy
post-war stereo recordings of Meistersinger's masterly orchestration.
Act III's prelude is likewise the most moving, the most eloquent
performance I have heard in any recording from the 30s to modern times.
Having said all that it must be stressed that this is not QUITE a
complete recording. After Act I's chorale we move to scene 2 without
the brooch retrieving antics that normally open the dialogue - no great
loss. The one sticking point for many critics though, is the absence
of - brace yourselves - the quintet (and Sachs's dialogue from
"Ein kind ward hier geboren". This tragic loss should not lead anyone
to write the set off, however - bear in mind that this was Hanslick's
(the real Beckmesser) favourite bit - for I have always suspected
that people who go on about the quintet TOO much don't really like
Meistersinger; personally I would grieve any set's loss of the
'Wittenberg Nightingale' chorus still more in dramatic terms.
The other reservations concern the cast. As is generally well known,
amongst Meistersinger nuts, in '43 performances were alternated between
Furtwängler and Abendroth with different singing casts. The singing on
Abendroth's set is legendary - and the conducting is almost as good as
Furtwängler's. Unfortunately Furtwängler kept faith with many aging
favourites that perhaps should have been pensioned off. We have here a
Walther in his forties and an Eva in her fifties! Oddly enough, the
Eva, Maria Müller, is actually very beautiful and does not show her age.
The same cannot be said for Max Lorenz's Walther who is well below par;
imagine René Kollo on his USUAL form as opposed to his freakishly
reasonable performance in Dresden. The Preislied is seriously
compromised as a result, but against this must be weighed the dramatic
conviction and experience that Lorenz does bring to the role.
Eugen Fuchs is an artful Beckmesser and the fact that he is half
caricature and half Meistersinger tends to cover any faults in his voice;
his is an enjoyable performance. Jaro Prohaska clearly WAS an excellent
Sachs but, again, time was not on his side. He sings with intelligence
and compassion but the beauty of the voice is variable particularly when
stretched to higher notes. His 'Wahn' monologue is mainly good though,
and the 'Verachtet mir' comes off quite well despite his obvious tiredness.
Josef Greindl is a good Pogner and adds to the desirability of the set.
The other singers are less noticeable although Zimmermann's David is
not without moments of beauty; a delicately understated performance
in the main. The chorus is variable, good at the opening chorale
(so powerful that the beautiful string detailing emerges only partially
at times) but clearly more tired in Act III.
I have laid bare the set's faults because I love this recording so
dearly that I wouldn't want to leave reservations unsaid and force
another to pounce on such imperfections in a less affectionate manner.
If I have made the singing sound unsatisfactory, in performance it
actually is not because the worst singers tend to be buoyed up by
the better ones and the magic of Furtwängler carries even the worst
sung scenes to a level higher than Solti (and, to my mind, Karajan)
could ever achieve even with younger singers. The worst singer IS
Lorenz but he is no worse than Kollo in Vienna on balance.
To repeat: the Eva IS excellent and Prohaska's Sachs is certainly
preferable to Fischer-Dieskau's "hectoring" Sachs and has more
character than the dull Frantz who is too often protected from
criticism by the other excellencies of the Kempe set.
I urge anyone who loves Die Meistersinger to buy this set; I also
urge anyone who doesn't to do the same as perhaps Furtwängler's
touch can convert you. Virtually no allowance needs to be made for
the sound - far superior to Cluyens '56 on Music and Arts - apart
from a mercifully brief distortion in the transition to the Chorale
after the vorspiel.
Listen to Die Meistersinger, once again for the first time.