5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Meistersinger around!!
DON'T listen to this cdsullivan. He/She is totally inconsistent in his/her recommendation of Meistersingers. Here, she praises the Kubelik, to quote "he pulls off so well you don't notice what speed they are: you only notice the music." AND "Walther, often the weak link, is here turned into one of the greatest strengths of the opera by Sándor...
Published on Jan 4 2004 by johngreenberg645
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A summary of "Meistersinger" recordings
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is Wagner's greatest opera. However, there is no definitive recording of it, and at four compact discs, assembling a complete discography in the search for the best recording can be very expensive. I thought I should give my opinion on the best recordings of this masterpiece, because I HAVE assembled five recordings. My opinions are...
Published on April 8 2001 by firstname.lastname@example.org
Most Helpful First | Newest First
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A summary of "Meistersinger" recordings,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is Wagner's greatest opera. However, there is no definitive recording of it, and at four compact discs, assembling a complete discography in the search for the best recording can be very expensive. I thought I should give my opinion on the best recordings of this masterpiece, because I HAVE assembled five recordings. My opinions are on this page because the two best recordings are NOT available from Amazon.com.
SOLTI (Decca 452 606-2): My opinion is now rather lower than it was at the time of my earlier review; Solti rushes the Prize Song, which is a serious drawback, even with his excellence earlier in the work; Van Dam is severely lacking in both interpretation and voice, Mattila is wholly inadequate next to her predecessors, Heppner (a once-promising tenor whose voice has gone downhill alarmingly quickly) is beautiful of voice but not ideally ardent interpretatively; all of this puts this recording out of the running for top Meistersinger recording, even with superb work from Opie, Lippert, Vermillion, Pape and the Chicago Symphony forces. ***
JOCHUM (DG 415 278-2): For: superb conducting from Jochum, good work from the Berlin Opera forces, a gloriously lyrical Walther from Domingo, moments of breathtaking insight and beauty from Fischer-Dieskau's Sachs, the greatest Beckmesser on record in Hermann, excellent support from Ludwig, Laubenthal, Lagger. Against: the miscast Sachs of Fischer-Dieskau (lack of weight and authority), the blowsy, wobbly Eva of Ligendza, the RIDICULOUS German of Domingo. I still give it four stars thanks to Jochum. ****
CLUYTENS (Music and Arts 1011): For: arguably the greatest Sachs of the century in Hotter, a girlish Eva in Brouwenstijn, excellent Beckmesser in Schmitt-Walter, luxury casting with Greindl and Fischer-Dieskau as Pogner and Kothner. Against: the uninspired Walther of Windgassen, the mannerisms of Stolze as David, uninspired orchestral, choral and conducting work, above all the excrutiating sound. ***
KEMPE (EMI 7 64154 2): For: perhaps the best conductor on any Meistersinger set, Kempe is absolutely inspired, drawing glorious playing from the BPO, he has a consistent, comprehensive view of the work's structure, builds up raptly to the big emotional climaxes and directs the huge cast with warmth and sensitivity. His only rivals are Jochum and Kubelík. He also has arguably the greatest Eva ever in Elisabeth Grümmer: an adorable, lovable, spontaneous Eva who sings with a large, silvery, soaring soprano, if not quite with the radiance of Janowitz for Kubelík. Kempe also has a weighty, dark-toned Sachs in Frantz, an uncaricatured Beckmesser in Kusche, an ideal Magdalene and David in Höffgen and Unger, a noble Pogner in Frick, and a good chorus. Against: the dry-voiced, leathery Walther of Rudolf Schock is a serious handicap. Frantz has several passages of unsteadiness and grittiness. The mono recording distances the orchestra. It is outrageous that 1) Hotter was not cast as Sachs, 2) Gedda was not cast as Walther and 3) the recording was not made in stereo. Still an essential recording. ****(*)
KUBELÍK (Calig 50971-74): Kubelík matches Kempe's 1956 EMI achievement. He takes spacious tempi (272'10" is the total playing time, as against 255'26" for Solti) which he pulls off so well you don't notice what speed they are: you only notice the music. He has an ideal orchestral texture, built firmly on excitingly resonant, firm timpani; it is sumptuous without turgidity. He is every bit as moving as Kempe in the great emotional climaxes of the work, perhaps even more so. Kubelík is a conductor who was rather neglected on record; this recording is testament to his greatness. It is a huge loss to Wagnerians that this recording, made in 1967, was not released until 1994 (internal politics kept it on the shelf) - but now we can hear and revel in one of the great examples of Wagnerian conducting on record. Kubelík also has the best cast on disc. Thomas Stewart's Sachs has the weight and earthiness I found wanting with Fischer-Dieskau, with something close to an ideal mixture of bass and baritone, and in terms of characterization an ideal balance among poet, cobbler and mastersinger. Gundula Janowitz as Eva does not offer as lovable and charming a portrait of Eva as does Grümmer for Kempe, but has never been even remotely approached for sheer tonal beauty and radiance. She sings all of her role, especially the "O Sachs, mein Freund" outburst and the great "Selig wie die Sonne" lead into the Quintet with a gleaming, warm radiance, a silvery serenity and an incandescent glory that, allied to her perfect phrasing, are incredibly moving. Walther, often the weak link, is here turned into one of the greatest strengths of the opera by Sándor Kónya, a little-recorded Hungarian tenor. He sings here with a youthful ardency that is enormously compelling, and his voice is a radiant outpouring of liquid gold, quite able to match the voice of his Eva in tonal beauty. Each time I listen to the Quintet and hear him enter with "Deine Liebe," a chill runs down my spine; and his ecstatic account of the Preislied is peerless. With glorious playing and singing from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a superb supporting cast, and demonstration-quality sound, this must take its place as the top recommendation. *****
A note about the availability of these recordings: Solti's, Jochum's and to a lesser extent Cluytens' are all easy to find. Kempe's is out of print in the US, but is available from Amazon's British branch, Amazon.co.uk. Kubelík's, however, is very hard to find, and I fear it has gone out of print. If anyone knows anything about its future, please post something on this page! If you can't find Kubelík's, get Kempe's, but if you need stereo, Jochum's.
I would like to end by saying that this glorious opera needs to be in every self-respecting music collection. If you haven't heard it, TELEPORT to your nearest store and get a copy of this endlessly fascinating and incredibly moving masterpiece!!!
4.0 out of 5 stars It's good,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)There is absolutely nothing wrong with this recording. Mattila can sometimes be a problem. She tends to go a bit off pitch and can become a little squally on top. That is not in evidence here. Perhaps the engineers helped her a bit. Perhaps she was just in very good voice. I don't know.
Heppner is, well Heppner. And that's pretty great, in my book. Clearly of the Melchior school, and much better than in the disappointing (at least to me) Met Tristan telecast.
Solti, I think, was more exciting (which is what you go to Solti for, after all) in the earlier recording.
Now, here's the deal. I like the Sawallisch recording better. He is more from the "kappelmeister" school, and less of the "Übermäßiger Stern", if that means anything to you. Heppner is a little freer of spirit, if that makes any sense. And Studer is more interesting than Mattila. I also prefer Weikl here to van Dam. I simply feel its a little late in the game for van Dam. Of course, that's a personal opinion. Isn't that what all music is?
As for the Karajan recordings. I am awed by Karajan's talent. I love his Ring Cycle (except Rheingold). But I think he over refines "Meistersinger" and the undervoiced, overmiked and way over-recorded Kollo is always, at least for me, objectionable. Heppner is much to be preferred, in either recording.
And perhaps one of the recording companies will discover the fabulous American, ROBERT DEAN SMITH, put him in front of a microphone, give him a great conductor and allow him to put to disc the greatest Walther (and Lohengrin and Parsifal and Siegmund) of this generation. Hopefully, soon.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Meistersinger around!!,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)DON'T listen to this cdsullivan. He/She is totally inconsistent in his/her recommendation of Meistersingers. Here, she praises the Kubelik, to quote "he pulls off so well you don't notice what speed they are: you only notice the music." AND "Walther, often the weak link, is here turned into one of the greatest strengths of the opera by Sándor Kónya, a little-recorded Hungarian tenor. He sings here with a youthful ardency that is enormously compelling, and his voice is a radiant outpouring of liquid gold, quite able to match the voice of his Eva in tonal beauty."
But she also wrote a "So you like to buy a Meistersingers guide" in which, she herself said of the Kubelik, "It is sunk by the unacceptable Walther, the orchestra's overbright, string-dominated sound, and Kubelik's at times sluggish tempi."
First she says the tempi is good and Konya is wonderful. Then she turns around and lambasts the tempi & Konya. What kind of reviewer is that.
On the other hand, here she gives the Solti 3 stars, but there she says "Solti's second set ('Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg'), from live Chicago concerts, is more musical but less idiomatic. Every member of the cast offers some of the most solid, beautiful vocalization anywhere in the Meistersinger discography...This will be first choice for many."
Again, totally inconsistent reviews!!
Let me give you a more objective viewpoint. The recording was made from live performances in Chicago's Orchestra Hall in Sep 1995. In the concert performance, the orchestra, soloists and chorus were situated next to each other with little separation. As a result, when Decca's engineers recorded the concert, they would not "separate" the three elements. The result you get is relatively closedly miked soloists, very upfront choral singing (unlike most modern sets where the chorus is placed backwards" and also upfront orchestral playing "Culshaw-style" (though perhaps a little less upfront than "Culshaw-style". Basically everything is upfront and the soloists, orchestra and chorus sound like they are next to each other (and in fact they are). Whether you like it or not is a matter of taste. But the digital sound is full, vivid and gorgeous. The choral singing is superb - the precision is breathtaking and astonishing. The soloists vocalize very beautifully but not very dramatically. If they had addded more "drama" into their vocalization, this would have been even a better set. Having said that, everyone of the singers sing very beautifully and there's not a weak link in terms of vocal beauty. Solti's conducting is "flowing" rather than "punchy". The orchestra plays magnificently, but like the soloists the playing is beautiful with a certain lack of "drama" in their playing (the CSO is afterall a symphony orchestra not an opera orchestra).
If you listen to, for examples, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra or Convent Garden Orchestra or Orchestre de l'Opera-Bastille, you will realize that these opera orchestras play somewhat differently - with more "drama". Listen to Solti's La Traviata (Convent Garden) or Solti's Die Frau Ohne Schatten (Vienna Philharmonic) or Chung's Samson Et Dalila or Chung's Otello, and you will get the point. For that matter listen to Solti's Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Parsifal (all played by the Vienna philharmonic), and you feel the difference immediately.
The conclusion is this: This is a gorgeous performance by first-class solosists, orchestra and chorus beautifully caught by Decca's engineers. The dramatic side is downplayed somewhat (not totally). But it works!!! I love this recording. Whoever said that Meistersingers can only be performed very dramatically?? The fun with listening to opera is to hear different ways of playing it. Would this work as a top recommendation? Definitely.
5.0 out of 5 stars SUBLIME AND PROFOUND,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)First, I'd like to thank the reviewer below, cdsullivan, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who took the time and energy and talent to write critiques of every CD set available of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg." I read and re-read the critiques and then decided to go, not with sullivan's top choices, but with a set that had the most up-to-date sound, singers I admired and a conductor with whom I had a "relationship:" Every year, in the spring, Sir Georg Solti brought his Chicago Symphony to Carnegie Hall for a two or three concert series. And I was there. Sitting in the "nosebleed" section of that greatest of halls, I heard my first (and some of my best) Mahler, Bartok, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Ravel.
Last season, I was lucky enough to hear "Meistersinger" at the Met with both Ben Heppner and Karita Mattila. They were superb. Heppner's sweet and yet powerful voice is never strained; Mattila's innocence and purity glowed in her voice and in her person. Rene Pape is, perhaps, the finest young bass singing today: certainly his 'King Mark' in "Tristan and Isolde" will never be forgotten by Met audiences.
On this recording the Chicago Symphony Chorus is, as it always was for Solti, forceful and sure. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is, as I remembered them, nothing short of tops.
This sublimely and profoundly musical opera gets better and more beautiful every time I play it. And let's admit it: committing oneself to a complete performance of this opera (more than 255 minutes on this recording) takes the better part of one's waking day! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
3.0 out of 5 stars I would any day go for...,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)I find it diffecult to see what this recording should have to offer when compared to Kempe with Grummer, Frantz and the Berlin Philharmonic (excellent mono sound) or Karajan's live Bayreuth account with Schwarzkopf (the best Eve in History), Hopf, Kunz et al or, indeed, Knappertsbusch with HIS Vienna band.
The singers are by all account inadequate and Solti conducts - as usual - as if he was searching for an orgasm in every bar (to quote Walter Legge.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite ideal - but nearly,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)Die Meistersinger has proved an extremely difficult work to record successfully. This recent Solti recording is definitely valuable, despite its flaws, and of the three I have heard, it is first choice.
This was an ideal time in Solti's life to be recording Meistersinger; his approach to Wagner's operas is mellower and more thoughtful than the bang-bang, big moments Ring. He still has a tendency to rush things sometimes, including, unfortunately, the Prize Song. But otherwise, he conducts a magnetic reading of glowing warmth, and this, with his "Lohengrin," is one of his two best Wagner recordings. He gets superb playing from the CSO, who show themselves to be almost on the sublime level of the VPO and BPO. The chorus is superb, too.
His cast is highlighted by the glorious Walther of Ben Heppner, who has a warmly ringing, powerful tenor that is simply ideal for the role. His Eva is Karita Mattila, whose voice may be slightly mature for the role, but who can clearly relate to the personality, and she leads a wonderful quintet. Alan Opie, as Beckmesser, is excellent as well - he brings out the venemous villainy of the town clerk without caricaturing him. Iris Vermillion and Herbert Lippert as Magdalene and David are ideal; Lippert has a beautiful lyric tenor that deserves to be heard in some larger roles. René Pape, who seems to be the head of a new line of Wagnerian basses, sings a warm, effortless Pogner, a worthy successor to Ridderbusch for Karajan.
You will have noticed, though, that I have not yet mentioned Hans Sachs. José van Dam was Solti's choice, and I wish he had chosen differently. Van Dam once possessed a beautiful, resonant instrument, but his voice has now dried up and he no longer has a real bottom register. He offers constant insight, but the majesty and weight necessary for an ideal Sachs are simply not there. Bernd Weikl would probably have been the best choice for Sachs at this time, but he is not ideal, either.
The digital sound is excellent, but there is a bizarre lack of stage noises which renders the action during the Cobbling scene, for instance, meaningless. (This is a live recording made at concerts in Chicago.)
So - this comes closer than any recording I've heard to being ideal. BUT - the Kubelik recording, on Calig, has a very, VERY promising cast and if it lives up to my expectations at all, it will be my first choice. But it's getting hard to find. If you can't find it, go with this excellent Solti. Happy listening!
4.0 out of 5 stars A brief response to Mattila vs. Schock,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)Madememusica observes that Rudolf Schock in the "venerable" Kempe recording has the "second ugliest" tenor voice on records--with the strictly-from-hunger Nicholas Di Virgilio, whom I heard many times in Baltimore in the late 60's and 70's, the ugliest. No question, Di Virgilio is an undistinguished vocal presence--that he recorded at all is the oddity here; but have we forgotten the dreadful Fillipeschi, and the horrible Gianni Poggi? And among the Germans, what about Hans Beier and Hans Hopf? Schock was an astoundingly popular singer in Germany and Austria, and although I don't love him much myself, his countrymen regarded him as the real thing. A really ugly-voiced, stiff-jawed, leathery German barker to me (Wagner asked that his works be sung in an Italianate way--I know some listeners will respond "what does that mean?" and I'd suggest comparing Schock to Heppner, another great Canadian, for a demonstration). Mattila is now being touted as the great hope of the Verdi repertoire. The Solti set is, indeed a landmark, as is the Kempe. Can any Wagner recording be advanced as perfectly cast? I'd be curious to hear listeners' opinions on that.
5.0 out of 5 stars The major trade-off: Rudolf Schock for Karita Mattila,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)I concur with everything Laon from Sydney stated in his most excellent review--one of the best I've seen on this site--but would like to add a few comments.
The now-ancient-but-venerable Kempe recording, made at the tail end of the Golden Age of German singing, contained a mostly marvelous cast: Elisabeth Grummer, Ferdinand Frantz, Gottlob Frick, etc. The marvelous character singers Benno Kusche and Gerhard Unger portrayed Beckmesser and David. In this late Solti recording, most of the substitutes are equally excellent, in fact Alan Opie has an even better voice than Kusche, and Herbert Lippert sings an outstanding David. Karita Mattila, however, is not a flawless Eva: as Laon points out, her voice is a tad mature (though I would place her age as being late 30s/early 40s, no younger). I would also add that it has a pronounced flutter-vibrato in the high range, not out of control but not always pleasing either.
HOWEVER! (Three exclamation points! ) The Kempe set has RUDOLF SCHOCK, the second ugliest tenor voice in the history of the world (the first ugliest was Nicholas DiVirgilio). He is throaty, unsteady and often inelegant, damaging factors for Walther who, after all, is supposed to be THE "Master Singer." Indeed, he even goes hoarse twice during the Prize Song, which to me disqualifies him entirely as an adequate Walther. (Why Walter Legge did not use his golden boy Nicolai Gedda for the role is utterly beyond me; in 1956, Gedda's voice was still steady, creamy and dreamy, perfect qualities for Walther.)
And so we have what I call a major trade-off: a good but not-quite-perfect Eva in the Solti recording (though she DOES float some high notes beautifully, and the Quintet brought tears to my eyes) vs. a totally inadequate Walther. Heppner, by the way, sings so beautifully that the voice doesn't even sound "real," it sounds like an ethereal voice coming down from the heavens (plus he gives us a serviceable trill in "Am stillen Herd," which is practically unheard-of nowadays). Indeed, the only really substandard singer in the Solti set is the Night Watchman... in Kempe, we get the masterful Hermann Prey at the start of his great career. But still, given the excellence of the cast, the almost 3-D sound, the exquisite playing and singing of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, plus NO RUDOLF SCHOCK, the Solti set wins hands down.
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a great stereo _Meisteringer_,
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)I'm talking here about Solti's second Meistersinger recording, with Ben Heppner.
This is, I believe, the classic recording of one of the two Wagner operas that has so far not been lucky on CD - the other is Die Walküre, in which Fürtwangler's near-definitive recording with Martha Mödl is weakened by the unbelievably stupid decision to record it in mono, and Solti's reading, also near-definitive, is weakened, it has to be admitted (however much one admires the artist), by Hans Hotter's wobbling and hooting in Act III. The other leading Walküre set, the Leinsdorf, suffers from neither of these recording or vocal faults, but is not quite as great a performance. There's still a gap in the catalogue for a truly great Walküre, without serious and debilitating flaws.
In reviewing this Meisteringer recording I'm comparing it with the two Karajan recordings, the earlier Solti, the Jochum, the Varviso, Keilberth and the Kempe. Every one of these recordings has been fatally flawed, though the Kempe and the Jochum, in my estimation, were the best of an inadequate bunch.
The Kempe's sole fault is not in the playing or the cast, but simply that it is in mono. As a performance it is one of the very finest, but the flatness of the mono sound is cruelly telling in this of all operas. As with the Fürtwangler Walküre this was a tragically stupid decision, given that stereo was available when the recording was made.
The Jochum offers interesting performances from Fischer-Deskau as Sachs (fine acting, the voice a little light-weight when gravitas is called for), and Domingo (a magnificent voice, not always in character). It's always worth listening to, but it's not _the_ Meistersinger the way this Solti performance is.
Both Karajan sets include grave casting problems, and (a controversial view, probably) a conductor who doesn't respond to the varying demands of the score. The long passacaglia that makes up the street fight in Act 2 has both energy and clarity in this Solti performance; it is muddy and confused in both Karajan sets. Karajan's first set benefits from Schwarzkopf's Eva, but suffers from Edelman's ugly Sachs and Hopf's ordinary Walther, as well as from being in mono. The second set fields the best-ever Eva in Helen Donath, but is otherwise undistinguished. Theo Adam is one of the least adequate Sachs on record.
Keilberth and Varviso are simply dreadful, with almost no redeeming merits. (Not even Hotter is good in the Keilberth, in the small part of Pognor.)
The superiority of this second Solti recording over all comers makes itself apparent almost immediately, in the superb overture from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO).
This is one of the best performances of the overture I've ever heard. I've certainly never heard the CSO play like this before; they are inspired, with astonishing bloom and beauty in the string parts, mellow strength in the brass - playing that conveys both authority and sweetness. And Solti is a changed man from the hard driver of his Ring, and his previous Meistersinger (the least successful, along with Fliegende Holländer, of his Wagner recordings). This is a Wagner conductor who relishes not just the power of the music but also its delicacy; Solti's renowned discipline makes the amazing complexity and dexterity of Wagner's counterpoint clear, but his direction also lends it grace, and allows some of the comedy of Wagner's amazing virtuosic display to come through. This is joyous music-making.
The cast introduces, to me at least, a new Wagner star: Ben Heppner. Heppner is quite simply the Walther of anyone's dreams - his voice clear, beautiful, heroic in that civilised vein that marks Walther apart from the other Wagner tenor roles. Unlike Parsifal, Tannhäuser, Siegfried, Tristan, even Erik, Walther is not an emotional extremist. He's at home in a city, though he also likes the woods. Which may be why the greatest Wagner tenors, Melchior and Windgassen, are noticeably less successful in this role. Heppner is simply the finest Walther ever recorded, with a considerable gap between him and his nearest rivals (Kollo and Melchior). This is an outstanding performance.
And Jose van Damm is a magnificent Sachs. The greatest Sachs can only be heard dimly on transcriptions from 78 rpm disks - Friedrich Schorr. And the New Zealander Donald MacIntyre may have been the greatest actor to play Sachs. But van Damm is a believable and when necessary moving actor in the role, and offers (not something that can be taken for granted in this role) an even, warm, beautiful and focussed voice, that has no trouble staying on the notes. He's not the revelation that Heppner is, but he is one of the finest Sachs on record, taking the voice and the interpretation as a whole.
Karita Mattila, as Eva, I initially had reservations about - the voice seems mature for the role, which is odd since the singer herself is about the right age for Eva (and a very beautiful woman, which is always a bonus when staging the opera in one's head as one listens). She always sounds pure and focussed, and contributes some lovely singing. But when I hear "Kiener wie du..." in my mind, I still hear Helen Donath from the otherwise inferior second Karajan recording.
Alan Opie gives Beckmesser more dignity and presence than most people in this role. The drama actually works better, as does the comedy, if Beckmesser is not grotesquely wrong for Eva. He should be subtly wrong, acceptable but not quite right, only becoming completely out of the question when he tries to use Walther's song, thinking it a Sachs composition. Opie's Beckmesser is not purely a buffoon.
The David, Magalena and Pognor are also exemplary. The chorus and the orchestra sing and play like stars.
I've always considered that there is a gap in the catalogue for a truly great stereo Meistersinger (the Kempe is the other great Meistersinger, but in mono). That gap has finally been filled.
5.0 out of 5 stars The basic Wagner Opera.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Wagner: Die Meistersinger (Audio CD)I reccomend it, specially when your're a little bit festive. Is the masterpiece of Richard Wagner, indeed.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Wagner: Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner (Audio CD - 2008)
CDN$ 77.99 CDN$ 72.95