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Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder; Orchestral Music

3.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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  • Conductor: Franz Welser-Möst
  • Composer: Wagner
  • Audio CD (5 July 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B003FMFMKS
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 314,912 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

The Cleveland Orchestra and its chief conductor Franz Welser-Möst deliver a thrilling all-Wagner album of the Lohengrin Preludes to Act I and Act III, The "Ride of the Valkyries" from die Walküre, the Rienzi and Meistersinger Overtures and the Prelude and "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde.

In her performance of the Wesendonck Lieder, soprano Measha Brueggergosman embraces every aspect of the music from fierce declamation down to the faintest whisper.

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Format: Audio CD
So lovely is the playing from the Clevelanders here and so seductive is this selection of Wagnerian orchestral set pieces that it took me a while to realise that nobody is pushing the boat out and providing the kind of thrill the music can generate when in the hands of a more passionate conductor. There is a bloodless quality here that hardly satisfies although as sheer sound it’s impeccable, as is the technical brilliance of the orchestra. The Prelude to Act III of "Lohengrin" is neat, elegant and rather tame, while the vertical sense of spirituality that Kempe brings to the Act I Prelude is simply absent - maybe its absence derives from the foursquare phrasing or lack of variation in dynamics but it doesn't move the listener as it should; the introduction of the woodwinds at 1'52" is perfunctory. The overture to "Die Meistersinger" is simply plodding and stolid; there is no sense of release at the climax. The "Rienzi" overture needs more enthusiasm and attack, although the medley of great tunes is attractive in itself. The Prelude and "Liebestod" to “Tristan" is the most successful orchestral item here: poised and intense but hardly rapturous.

My disappointment is compounded by my adverse reaction to Measha Brueggergosman's voice. I wasn't impressed when a friend introduced me to her some while back, although she has been gaining rave reviews. Although she has a warm vocal personality, I find her vibrato intrusive and her phrasing lumpy; I can name half a dozen more alluringly sung versions of this lovely set of songs.
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Format: Audio CD
I felt a premonition of dread when I played this disc. Contents-wise, it was not dissimilar to the Wagner Gala disc that DG had published in the mid-1990s featuring Abbado, Studer, Terfel and a Berlin Philharmonic in free-fall Wagner: Gala (Tannhaüser, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre). It did not impress Gramophone's Alan Blyth - no mean reviewer - one little bit. He sent in the Lancasters. Both performances end in the Ride of the Valkyries, played energetically to the gallery . . . . .

The Wesendonck Lieder are the best items on this disc and highly enjoyable. Brueggergosman has a fine timbre and exemplary diction but I suspect it is a voice in transition. It's like cellaring a bottle of wine with potential: it could become magical or transform into vinegar. But my focus here is the orchestral works.

I agree that Rienzi needs some `crash & bash' to sustain any interest: who cares. But I am puzzled that anyone could see merit in these ho-hum performances of the Preludes to Tristan, Lohengrin and the Meistersingers. To my ears, they are pedestrian - and all the more so when laminated in that `high gloss' sonority which is the hallmark of American orchestras (nowadays, I hasten to add). A comparison with the plumb-line - the Karajan '74 Wagner: Orchestral Music or '84 for the Tristan Wagner: excerpts from: Tannhauser / Die Meistersinger / Tristan- shows up their lack of poise and grip.
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It seems a shame that given the dearth of new orchestral records they now release that DG should use their contract with the Cleveland Orchestra and Welser-Most to release an old fashioned "bleeding chunks" of Wagner CD. True, there has not been one such for a long time, but the catalogue really did not need another one. Of course, this is recorded from a concert, and the concert was not promoted by DG, so we must treat it as a welcome opportunity and not be too churlish.
The recording is superb, warm and detailed, confirming that FWM has built upon upon the warm Germanic style playing developed and encouraged by Dohnanyi during his tenure, so different from the whipcrack but glacial brilliance under Szell. FWM conducts these items as stand- alone concert pieces, not "extracts from the operas", and the programming and tempi reflect this. The Wesendonck Lieder are a particular success-although the voice seems to be in a slightly different acoustic, but this is not a major distraction. The Meistersinger Overture is very fast-as fast as Solti in Chicago-but the rhythmic flow is gentler, and the dynamic more "fluid" and less incisive than Solti, with a resulting greater success. Given the excellence of his Solo Artist, I had expected the Liebestod to be sung, but what we get is the full orchestral Prelude and Liebestod with no vocal contribution. A missed trick here I feel.
The Walkurenritt was obviously an encore, and is greeted rapturously!
All in all then, a superbly played and recorded collection, winningly conducted by FWM with a really fine Wesendonck Lieder. If this song collection is on your wish list, then this is a real contender.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Dynamic Duo Knocks It Out of the Park 2 Aug. 2010
By B. Shutes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First, let me disclose that I have been a patron of The Cleveland Orchestra for a decade and am a great fan of Ms. Brueggergosman's.

Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you how excitingly good this CD is. After the very poorly recorded Beethoven Symphony 9 of a couple years ago, I really feared that the marriage of The Cleveland Orchestra and Deutsche Grammophon was not one made in heaven. The bass notes were muddy, sections of the disc sounded muffled, and the vocalists were poorly miked.

My fears, for now anyway, have been allayed on this second collaboration of TCO and DG during the Franz Welser-Most era.

So much of the music of Richard Wagner is very well known in both classical and popular circles, but I'd never heard a rendition of the Wesendonck-Lieder before now. Ms. Brueggergosman's voice sparkles on the five lieder, especially in the "Schmerzen" song. Her soulful tone begs you to read the lyrics if you're not familiar with them. She's truly an artist who is not afraid to be in touch with the composer's intentions. She understands Wagner, it seems, on a fundamental level and shines when singing his songs.

On the tracks without Ms. Brueggergosman, The Cleveland Orchestra makes the playing sound effortless and exciting. You know "The Ride of the Valyries" as well as I do if you're looking at this disc. But an excellently-played version is enough to get anyone's blood pumping. This track doesn't disappoint. The other pieces, especially the Rienzi overture, are thrillingly played.

I'll be the first to admit that I've been a Welser-Most skeptic and critic for much of the last eight years. On this disc, however, the whole machine seems to be firing on all proverbial cylinders.

You won't be sorry adding this disc to your collection. The famed "Szell Sound" of The Cleveland Orchestra's past might be gone, the playing on this disc is exhilarating and precise. It's a wonderful modern recording that sounds marvelous.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welser-Möst and Brueggergosman: A Perfect Match 17 Sept. 2010
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Franz Welser-Möst seems to have found a level of ground with his Cleveland Orchestra on which he can firmly stand above the slings and arrows of his critics on this new recording taken from live performances of Wagner. Having observed him in concert over the years he has always seemed to be a solid conductor, paying attention to details others too often overlooked, and some may feel in his Wagner he goes more for precision than passion. But for this listener the time has come to relax and appreciate just how fine he is as a musician. He pulls glorious sound from the Clevelanders and makes each of the excerpts work well.

The 'Rienzi' Overture is played with flash and vigor and is as fine as any other version on records today. His approach to the Act I Prelude and the 'Liebestod' from 'Tristan und Isolde' holds more mystery and restrained longing. One wonders why he didn't employ the fine resources of his guest, the beautiful and immensely gifted Measha Brueggergosman for the 'Liebestod' - but perhaps that is in the wings. What he does offer is impeccable accompaniment for Miss Brueggergosman in the too infrequently heard Wesendonck Lieder. She sings these pieces with a limpid grace and tone, able to build to the mighty climaxes when necessary and then turn almost introspective in other places. One forgets how many of Wagner's ideas were in these pieces: 'Im Triebhaus' would become one of the preludes in 'Tristan und Isolde', and both soprano and the orchestra deliver a 'Träume' that seems channeled directly from Wagner. This is probably the finest 'Wesendonck Lieder' on records and anyone who has a love for these wonderful songs should pay attention.

Welser-Möst completes the CD with the' Meistersinger' Prelude and well-paced if not thrilling performance of 'The Ride of the Valkyries'. Yes, the attending audience sounds as though they loved the performance with the vocal applause at the end. In all, this CD is a fine one, especially for the opportunity to hear Measha Brueggergosman so radiant in the 'Wesendonck Lieder'. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, September 10
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant but underplayed Wagner excerpts, followed by a marvelous Wessendonck set 9 Sept. 2010
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars From One Colonial to Another 6 Oct. 2011
By Bernard Michael O'Hanlon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I felt a premonition of dread when I played this disc. Contents-wise, it was not dissimilar to the Wagner Gala disc that DG had published in the mid-1990s featuring Abbado, Studer, Terfel and a Berlin Philharmonic in free-fall Wagner: Gala (Tannhaüser, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre). It did not impress Gramophone's Alan Blyth - no mean reviewer - one little bit. He sent in the Lancasters. Both performances end in the Ride of the Valkyries, played energetically to the gallery . . . . .

The Wesendonck Lieder are the best items on this disc and highly enjoyable. Brueggergosman has a fine timbre and exemplary diction but I suspect it is a voice in transition. It's like cellaring a bottle of wine with potential: it could become magical or transform into vinegar. But my focus here is the orchestral works.

I agree that Rienzi needs some `crash & bash' to sustain any interest: who cares. But I am puzzled that anyone could see merit in these ho-hum performances of the Preludes to Tristan, Lohengrin and the Meistersingers. To my ears, they are pedestrian - and all the more so when laminated in that `high gloss' sonority which is the hallmark of American orchestras (nowadays, I hasten to add). A comparison with the plumb-line - the Karajan '74 Wagner: Orchestral Music or '84 for the Tristan Wagner: excerpts from: Tannhauser / Die Meistersinger / Tristan- shows up their lack of poise and grip. Welser-Most's Lohengrin is earthbound, not mystical: there is no 'falling upwards into radiant light' (Baudelaire). WM's inability to carve out a climax in Die Meistersingers is genuinely alarming.

These works are also included in Szell's famous performances with the Clevelanders from 1968 Wagner: Orchestral Music from Der Ring des Nibelungen Die Meistersinger - Tristan und Isolde. No-one is going to pretend Welser-Most is in the same class as our bespectacled friend but he does not even come close. The orchestra - sad to say - has also lost its Klang.

Subjectivity is king in the domain of Amazon reviews but I wonder whether other considerations are in play when our American brethren praise this concert to high heavens.

Should I summon the Redcoats?
3.0 out of 5 stars "Safe" Wagner with a controversially voiced singer 28 Feb. 2014
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
So lovely is the playing from the Clevelanders here and so seductive is this selection of Wagnerian orchestral set pieces that it took me a while to realise that nobody is pushing the boat out and providing the kind of thrill the music can generate when in the hands of a more passionate conductor. There is a bloodless quality here that hardly satisfies although as sheer sound it’s impeccable, as is the technical brilliance of the orchestra. The Prelude to Act III of "Lohengrin" is neat, elegant and rather tame, while the vertical sense of spirituality that Kempe brings to the Act I Prelude is simply absent - maybe its absence derives from the foursquare phrasing or lack of variation in dynamics but it doesn't move the listener as it should; the introduction of the woodwinds at 1'52" is perfunctory. The overture to "Die Meistersinger" is simply plodding and stolid; there is no sense of release at the climax. The "Rienzi" overture needs more enthusiasm and attack, although the medley of great tunes is attractive in itself. The Prelude and "Liebestod" to “Tristan" is the most successful orchestral item here: poised and intense but hardly rapturous.

My disappointment is compounded by my adverse reaction to Measha Brueggergosman's voice. I wasn't impressed when a friend introduced me to her some while back, although she has been gaining rave reviews. Although she has a warm vocal personality, I find her vibrato intrusive and her phrasing lumpy; I can name half a dozen more alluringly sung versions of this lovely set of songs.
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