Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Studio recording in stereo
November 24 - December 4, 1970
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Hans Sachs Theo Adam
Veit Pogner Karl Ridderbusch
Kunz Vogelgesang Eberhard Büchner
Konrad Nachtigall Horst Lunow
Sixtus Beckmesser Geraint Evans
Fritz Kothner Zoltán Kelemen
Balthasar Zorn Hans Joachim Rotzsch
Ulrich Ei▀linger Peter Bindszus
Augustin Moser Horst Hiestermann
Hermann Ortel Hermann Christian Polster
Hans Schwarz Heinz Reeh
Hans Foltz Siegfried Vogel
Walther von Stolzing René Kollo
Eva Helen Donath
Magdalene Ruth Hesse
David Peter Schreier
Ein Nachtwächter Kurt Moll
Staatskapelle Dresden
Chor der Dresdener Staatsoper
Chor des Leipziger Rundfunks
EMI, CDS 7 49683 2 4 CDs ADD
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Review by Constantijn Blondel

I'll come to the point quickly: This recording will always have a special place in my heart, whether I buy other Meistersingers or not. It features some of my favorite singers and has gorgeous playing under a conductor who understood Wagner in his own special way. The cast is headed by Theo Adam's Sachs. Admittedly, he is a bit wobbly, but it never disturbed me since I'm used to his being wobbly whatsoever. He sings a sensitive and poetical Sachs, using the same world-wiseness he uses with so much effect as Wotan.

The second star prize in the cast must go to René Kollo (who is becoming my favorite Wagnerian tenor by now) as Walther. His vocal power, combined with the lyrical softness that he always has to his command, makes a Walther who is not only singing gorgeously, but who is also sufficiently 'knightly'. His is a beautifully and sensitively sung and intelligently acted performance.

Sir Geraint Evans is making a lot of the Beckmesser part. I heard some criticism about the fact that he portrays Beckmesser not as a noble master, but as a caricature. I do not agree with is quite well-known that Beckmesser was (at least initially) a caricature for Eduard Hanslick. Evans sings the character in a way that often makes me laugh and he succeeds in making the part multi-dimensional, since the caricature is purely comical and not malicious.

Another point of discussion (at least in what I read about it) is Helen Donath as Eva. There are commentators who say that she has to be sung as an intelligent girl with lots of character and power and stuff...but my dear friends...She's blonde! IMHO she stems directly from the line of sweet dumb blondes Elisabeth-Elsa-Freia. She's no Brunnhilde, nor is she an Isolde, nor even a Senta. Helen Donath sings lovely and makes most of the 'blonde' image...I like it tremendously!

The principals are complemented by Peter Schreier's David. He makes a lot of the role and his voice is beautiful as ever. If you like his Loge and Mime for Janowski, you'll probably like his David as well. I still find it amazing that a singer who is most known for his Lieder and his Bach can make such a great character tenor.

The prize for beautiful singing must go to the two basses: Karl Ridderbusch sings a deeply sympathetic Pogner and Kurt Moll as the Nightwatchman.

Herbert von Karajan is always a point of discussion among Wagnerians, but I think there can be no doubt about the fact that he conducts a beautifully consistent score which positively blossoms like a spring day, shines like midsummer afternoon, and glows like a cool summer night after a long hot day. His conducting is picked up well by the Dresden orchestra, famous for its 'golden tone'. The transparancy in the recording makes that one can hear most of the orchestra groups play in their fantastic way. The orchestra is of course somewhat 'lightweight' but personally I've always liked that in Wagner.

It's a pity that the set is very much full-price, but it's worth having for every serious Wagnerian who bears a warm heart to Meistersinger.