|Meistersinger von Nürnberg|
Studio recording in stereo
|Conductor: Wolfgang Sawallisch|
|Hans Sachs|| |
|Veit Pogner|| ||Kurt Moll|
|Kunz Vogelgesang|| |
|Konrad Nachtigall|| |
|Sixtus Beckmesser|| |
|Fritz Kothner|| |
|Balthasar Zorn|| |
|Ulrich Ei▀linger|| |
|Augustin Moser|| |
|Hermann Ortel|| |
|Hans Schwarz|| |
|Hans Foltz|| |
|Walther von Stolzing|| |
Deon van der Walt
|Ein Nachtwächter|| |
|Chor und Orchester der|
|EMI, CDS 5 55142 2
Review by Alan Peters|
There is a plaque on a building in Vienna which reads something like
"Here, in his deepest distress, Richard Wagner wrote his sunniest opera".
That the composer turned aside from his financial and domestic demons
and commit to paper one of the finest musical creations is far from
paradoxical, it is very nearly confirmation of the purity of his artistic
conscience and single-mindedness. Wolfgang Sawallisch, a conductor whose
work I dearly love, has here faithfully reproduced Wagner's daunting
vision. The assembled cast, along with the forces of Sawallisch's own
Munich Staatsorchester and Chor, have here fashioned an almost perfect
rendering of Wagner's richly complex score.
Ben Heppner, who has rapidly staked out his turf as one of the world's
foremost heldentenor, gets the opera off to a great start. He is urgent,
in his desire for a relationship with Eva, and he is also charmingly
vulnerable in his failed attempt to convince the assembled Masters,
at Act 1's end, that he truly belongs. Bernd Weikl's sympathetic and
supportive Hans Sachs is the correct and intuitive response to Sixtus
Beckmesser's frantic insecurity (wonderfully sung by Siegfried Lorenz).
Cheryl Studer's Eva is both yearning and virginal, precisely what one
would expect from this difficult role. Eva wishes to return the young
knight's ardor, but many Eva's find the shy restraint difficult to
maintain over such a long opera. Ms. Studer wins our sympathies,
especially in Act 2 where she flirts with Sachs, an experienced man
who realizes that the days when he elicited strong feelings from women
have receded into the distant past. Eva has much to negotiate here, and
one of the reasons for this opera's warm reception since 1868 is Wagner's
handling of Sachs. The old widower knows that he holds the key to Eva's
happiness in his hands - and Eva knows it as well. Their fencing in this
pivotal duet sparkles with wit, warmth and love. It is splendidly sung.
Beckmesser is the character, however, on which a "Meistersinger" can
either succeed or fail. Wagnerians know that the composer's first
sketches for the Marker were based loosely on the Viennese critic Eduard
Hanslich. Wagner, however, wisely avoided any topical references to
Beckmesser. The poor marker is easily held up to ridicule and shame, but
here, Lorenz avoids the convenient traps inherent in the character. I
think that many "Meistersinger" audiences, whether in a live performance
or in another medium, fail to remember (or to know) that Beckmesser is
himself a Mastersinger, no small feat indeed. That he is lonely and
socially awkward are not reasons for his undeserved scorn. Lorenz sings
the role with not a hint of caricature or misunderstanding, and for that
he has carved out for himself a singular niche.
Sawallisch, in his liner notes writes that "Die Meistesinger" has more
humour, fun and life, more intelligence and brilliance than any opera
"I know". These are not lightly-chosen words from an established,
well-respected conductor who knows Wagner down to his bones. Maestro
Sawallisch's handling of "his" orchestra is flawless. I hear in this
recording subtleties and nuances hidden from many of the world's most
renowned orchestras. The chorus, too, comes in for the highest praise.
The "brawl" which concludes the second act is not a confusing amalgam
of voices and sound but a realistic slice of a moment in a small town
when "everything went off" for just a few minutes.
It has always intrigued me to wonder how Wagner conceived his characters
and what he really thought of them. Sachs is the moral foundation of the
opera, and Wagner gives him his own "master song" at the end of the work.
His apostrophe to "die heil'ge deutsche Kunst" wins him not the chaste
maiden, but the deep affection and love of his plain, honest burghers.
The final chorus is wonderfully moving, and Sawallisch brings this
tremendous score to a rousing, but noble, shining close.