Like most who love Wagner's music I find complete performances of his Opera's difficult to sit through, so I tend to turn to orchestral compilations. Apart from a couple of boxed sets, I have a few orchestral 'highlight' CD's and this is one of them. It probably gets played most but the music itself is so rich and sonorous that it just has to be heard through the baton of other exponents. The two other CD's I have - Maazel/BPO. and Abbado/BPO - giving me a nice 'balanced' selection.
It's important to remember these are (for the most part) 1960 recordings and the sound identifies itself to that period. There is a slight 'dryness' of tone but is otherwise perfectly acceptable and reproduces well on high-end audio equipment. Klemperer's Wagner can be both satisfying and frustrating. He is well known for his often slow tempo interpretations and this does show on some pieces. In my opinion his Meistersinger prelude is a bit heavy going and his Ride of the Valkyries cuts off too abruptly for some reason - leaving one a sense of incompleteness. On the other hand, he gives us a beautiful and intimate rendition of the Siegfried Idyll - scored for small orchestra, a tear-jerking Prelude and Liebestod and a definitive Flying Dutchman Overture. He extracts some exquisite sounds from the Philharmonia Orchestra resulting in a thoroughly recommended great value-for-money double CD.
I am not a music expert, much less an authority on Wagner. I am not even a great enthusiast.;but I did enjoy this There are 3 points worth making.(1) There is a good range of Wagner's music. Rienzi overture; Tannhauser overture and prelude; Lohengrin prelude; Meistersinger prelude and dance of the apprentices;Parsifal prelude; Flying Dutchman overture;Rheingold- entry of the Gods;Ride of the Valkyries; Siegfried Idyll; Gotterdammerung -Siegfried's funeral; and Prelude from Tristan and Isolde. (2) The works were performed many years ago -but have been well reproduced (3) Many Wagner enthusiasts regard this as a particularly outstanding performance by Klemperer and the Philharmonia
i fell in love with wagner's music after hearing the sublime tannhauser overture, surely one of the most beautiful sounds ever created by man. but am not a huge fan of opera, so what to do? There are dozens of orchestral compilations of his orchestral pieces, most of them recommended, but on single cds. Wagner's music cannot be contained on a single cd, therefore the only alternative is a double disc compilation. There are a handful of recommended recordings out there, but for my money, this is possibly the best 2cd compilation of his orchestral pieces. Most others run for a little over 2 hours, where this is full to the brim at 158 minutes, all in glorious remastered sound. Klemperer was also a wagnerite and his interpretations here can compete with anything out there. Highly recommended.
A perplexing recording. Listening to this on LP in the early 1970s, even then it spoke from a different age (as a yet another Wagner revival got under way in favour of the existential and avante-garde) yet this LP seemed to embody the very man, the conductor, the relic. That was the image. Not helped I suppose by the gloomy funereal LP cover and Klemperer's personality and appearance modulated by advanced years.
But then there was the sound - Klemperer's selections seemed to confirm the widespread view that Wagner's music is, on the whole, lengthy and dull but also punctuated by moments of sheer unadulterated excitement, passion and unbridled melody almost unmatched by any other composer. On thinnish used 1970s vinyl on a budget record player my gauche view then was REJECT REJECT REJECT.
Full circle. I am the relic. These rather slow - Klemperer was famously self indulgent - readings now shine in the digital medium. Having said that, the 1960 recordings from Klemperer's first Wagner LP (probably the one I threw in the cupboard) sound better, to me, than those from subsequent sessions in 62 and 63 which represented follow up releases.
It is no coincidence the best track in this compilation is The Flying Dutchman overture. This is as taut and disciplined and energetic as can be - reflecting the only Klemperer recording of a whole Wagner opera in the catalogue and isca gem. The EMI sound and performance of the three LP set, especially those pressed in Germany, is mind blowing and a benchmark in the Wagner discography. As mint vinyl it oozes collectable.
The 1960 Tristan Prelude and Liebestod is just as good.
Goodness me! I only ordered this last week (as a replacement for a thoroughly disappointing Zubin Mehta CD) and played it right through yesterday afternoon, all 150 minutes of it. I even missed the Chelsea match on the TV - and aren't I glad I did! I was doing the washing and preparing tea, but kept having to stop because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty, the power and the drama that went into these interpretations. Not once did I feel I was listening to an extract played as a concert show piece; every single piece (Siegfried Idyll apart) was performed as if it were extracted from a full performance, which is why I say there was such drama.
And Siegfried Idyll! Breathtakingly beautiful. This is real "lump in the throat" playing.
Beecham might be my favourite conductor. Sibelius is without doubt my favourite composer. But this has to be my favourite CD set and I urge everyone to share in it!
These recordings from 1960-1963 have been mainstays of the catalogue since they were first issued. This initially surprised many listeners who had no reason to associate Klemperer with Wagner performances. However, the recordings soon found plenty of support from reviewers and now finally they have been re-mastered once more to join the series of Great Recordings of the Century.
The performances certainly belong to that category as their prolonged life suggests but what about the recording quality?
The originals were inclined to be a bit thin on the high strings and had a 'wooden' texture to some of the full orchestral passages. The last remastering I owned before this one was made as recently as 1990 and was a considerable improvement and the greatness of the performances were less hindered than on previous issues.
The good news is that this latest remastering from 2002 is the best yet by some appreciable distance. There is now a glow over the strings, the brass are burnished and all trace of 'woodenness' has been eliminated so it is hard to imagine now the sound could be further improved.
The fat box, previously used for 3-disc sets, seems over-large but it does include good notes unlike other reissues on some other labels.
I would suggest that for those who are considering an upgrade to this latest version this should be worth the cost although quality of playback equipment will also play its part. For those who have yet to experience these famous recordings, this is now the best version to get and would be better than buying a cheaper second hand version of a previous issue.
Absolutely wonderful recordings, remastered. I tend to listen to Wagner nowadays in the context of opera. However, not one note is sung here: you can enjoy his amazing music simply as music. And it is amazing music. Every "song" on this 2 CD collection is a classic. The operatic overtures of course, from Rienzi to Parsifal. But, also most of the orchestral interludes: Very few composers would be able to fill 2CDs with music of this outstanding quality and originality. I do not know why I was surprised, but having it all together made me see it as a whole. The performances are wonderful, Klemperer a great maestro, the Philharmonic at its best. I am so glad I bought this.