Like the lead reviewer, I also felt that the Cleveland Orch. got off to a rocky start with an anemic Beethoven Ninth, the kind of performance that makes anti-Welser-Most listeners shake their heads. He is a remarkable musician, but in recent years I've detected a strong preference for technical excellence with diminished passion. Not a good trend. This new CD is based on concerts that I heard,partly in person (the Wessendonck lieder), the rest as broadcasts. The opening Rienzi Over. brings to mind comparisons with Szell's famous account form the Sixties. The new one is just as well played and better recorded. But Welser-Most's caution does show through at first; he seems reluctant to generate raw excitement, and early Wagner needs it. this is an elegant account with bouncing rhythms, reminding me of Weber's Oberon more than Wagner's own Flying Dutchman.
The Prelude to Tristan proceeds with more elegance than passion, also, in the manner of Abbado and Rattle. Modern conductors don't want to be accused of excess romanticism -- but isn't that the whole essence of Tristan? the Cleveland sound is strikingly European now in its smoothness, suave contours, and perfectly blended sonority. In itself that brings pleasure. I thought the live broadcasts had more visceral impact, but as the other extracts unfold, even the fire-breathing Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin is taken with civilized taste.
The sensational young Canadian mezzo Measha Brueggergosman toured with the Clevelanders, and although she sang very softly at times, th performance I heard live was wonderfully musical and very moving. Her voice has an enticing color, and although somewhat throaty, thee's a tremulous quality that is light and feminine even in heavy passages (the young Anja Silja had the same girlish flutter). I am not sure how steady Brueggergosman's production will be over time. At this magic moment, however, she's captivating, and she restores the Wessendonck songs to their proper season, the springtime of love. There is o hint of fustiness, and although Welser-Most seems a bit restrained, his singer isn't. The microphone, of course, solves any problem of hearing her over the orchestra.