This 3 CD set brings together Richard Wagner's rarely heard (non-operatic) Orchestral and Choral works. Though by no means complete, this is a good selection. Inexpensive too. Excellent performances in up-to-date digital sound (except three marches recorded in 1972 - excellent analog sound, in no way inferior to digital).
Amazon doesn't allow me to provide links to websites, but if you go to Wikipedia and look up: List of compositions by Richard Wagner you will find the Wagner Catalog with WWV (Wagner-Werk-Verzeichnis) numbers (1-113). There are 23 orchestral compositions: 5 are lost. 4 have never been recorded. 14 are available on CD; 8 are in this set.
Two - the Faust Overture and Siegfried Idyll - are in the basic repertoire. Michael Plasson and the Dresden Philharmonic (not the better known Dresden Staatskapelle) give nice performances, but not the equal of Toscanini or George Szell, both of whom recorded the Faust Overture. EVERYONE recorded the Siegfried Idyll.
DISCOGRAPHY OF WAGNER ORCHESTRAL WORKS ON CD ( * = included in this set):
SYMPHONIES: - Symphonies 1+2, WWV 29+35 = Jarvi or Wakasugi ** * Symphony 2 only = Sawallisch, Philadelphia Orchestra (but he only recorded the first of two surviving movements) *
Originally scored for military band, these are Wagner's versions for full orchestra. Unlike everything else on this list, these marches are mature Wagner, composed 1865-1876. Bombastic, but fun if you're in the right mood. They have been recorded a lot lately, but Janowski is the only conductor to include all three marches. *
These orchestral works are mostly early Wagner, composed before Der Fliegende Hollander (1843). My favorite is the Rule Britannia Overture, which has had but one recording. Not especially profound, but it has a catchy tune. - If you want all 14 published compositions, you will need to buy five CDs in addition to the 3 CD set, which will involve a lot of duplication. At least the two Naxos CDs are inexpensive.
- Never Recorded: WWV 13 = Fragment in E Minor WWV 20 = Concert Overture No.1 in D Minor WWV 27 = Concert Overture No.2 in C Major WWV 78 = "Symphonien" (sketches for a symphony?) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CHORAL WORKS: This set also includes 3 of 10 surviving Choral Works by Wagner: "Das Liebesmahl der Apostel" (a 26 minute cantata), WWV69, and two brief motets, "Der Tag Erscheint", WWV68 and "Hebt an den Sang", WWV72, conducted by Plasson. This is where I must register a complaint: There are no texts or translations, not even a brief plot summary. Aaargh! I recommend that you investigate the Plasson collection as EMI originally issued it: Wagner: Das Leibesmahl der Apostel, etc. It came with a thick booklet of program notes + texts and translations. Deleted and expensive. -- My review of this CD - dated February 12, 2014 - includes a discography of Wagner Choral Music on CD.
P.S. If you are interested in obscure Wagner, I have also prepared: - a Discography of Wagner Lieder on CD: Wagner: Faust Lieder - review dated January 28, 2014 - a Discography of Wagner Piano Music on CD: Complete Piano Music - review dated February 6, 2014. - a Discography of Wagner Choral Music on CD: click the link to the Plasson CD in the previous paragraph.
I'm not especially proud of these Wagner discographies/reviews. They are basically just lists of what is available on CD. Filling a gap.
-- Plus EMI's 3 CD set offers a token selection of piano pieces and songs (no texts or translations). Aaargh!
For about the price of a single disc you get a good serving of obscure and better-known Wagner. One good thing about all the recordings is that they are all in good sound: so creaky old versions of the piano can now safely be binned. I shan't be playing disc 3 very often: for all Mikhail Rudy's persuasive advocacy, the piano works are marginalia. As for the version of the Siegfried Idyll (although some of the credit goes to Rubinstein apparently), I don't really find it convincing or revelatory. There are two good Wesendonk lieder cycles here - Jessye Norman with piano, and the magisterial account by Christa Ludwig and Klemperer. A bit of an EMI regular, that, but none the worse for it: it's one of the best. The other solo songs (done well by Hampson) were a bit of cynical hack-work by Wagner, and sound like it. Disc 2 pulls together some of the stand-alone orchestral pieces as well as the Ludwig songs referred to above. Janowski's accounts of various marches are apprpriately overblown and give little sign of the sensitive opera conductor he is proving in the new Pentatone cycle (and the old Dresden Ring). The gem is disc 1 of course. A big-band Siegfried Idyll has many competitors, and there are quite a few Faust overtures too. But the remaining pieces on this disc are really fascinating. They rely on good performances - which they get from the Dresdner Philharmonie under Michel Plasson. The stars here though are the massed choral forces from Vienna and Dresden who turn in a tremendous performance of the longest piece in the whole set: Das Liebesmahl der Apostel. The lengthy unaccompanied section is powerful and subtle by turns and ends in tune when the orchestra finally joins the voices.They probably don't match the original forces: 1200 singers gave the first performance in the Dresden Frauenkirche; but they are surely the most skilled ensemble one could hope for. I can't imagine there will be many (any?) performances of this monster piece, even in Wagner 200 year - so it's worht getting the EMI box and playing this track very loud.
Quality performances of Wagner's non-operatic orchestral works. A lot of it is very well crafted, but the lack of the sort of melodies omnipresent throughout his operas makes it clear why most people have never heard any of this stuff before.
To celebrate the Wagner bicentenary, EMI have searched through their archives and compiled this three disc anthology of his non-operatic music. Two works are duplicated in that, in addition to being in their original form, they also appear in arrangements by other composers.
The first disc, all conducted by Michel Plasson, contains the well known 'Faust Overture' and the even better known 'Siegfried Idyll' in its orchestral form. These are both good performances. Also included are the works composed by Wagner for Weber's reburial in Dresden. Of these, the 'Trauersinfonie' for wind ensemble is especially effective. As well as a splendidly performed version of 'Das Liebesmahl der Apostel' which in many ways prefigures the choral writing in 'Tannhauser' and 'Parsifal', the disc is completed by other short vocal works.
The second disc opens with an excellent anthology of Wagner's lesser known orchestral works. The three marches are very enjoyable; the 'Columbus Overture' and the single movement from the 'Symphony in E' equally so. However the orchestral version of the 'Wesendonck Lieder' in the classic version by Christa Ludwig and conducted by Klemperer, which brings the disc to a close, remains what is arguably the finest ever recording of this moving work.
The third disc has the feel of an evening of domestic music making. The three early piano works are very pleasant and the arrangement for solo piano of the 'Siegfried Idyll' very effective. Mikail Rudy's performance combines effortless virtuosity with great poetic feeling. Next, six early songs which, although they lack profundity, make very pleasant listening in this performance by Thomas Hampson. The 'Wesendonck Lieder', in Wagner's original piano version, completes the anthology. This receives a lovely performance by Jessye Norman and Irwin Gage. Norman's bright, youthful, soprano voice provides a perfect contrast to Ludwig's more mature mezzo. An inspired choice.
Sadly no texts are included in the booklet but, although not new, the remastering is more than acceptable. A delightful issue.
Good old EMI, probably with an eye to cashing in on Wagners bicentenary this year of grace, 2013, have raided their back catalogue and given us Wagnerians a real treat in some of the old boys fairly well known (and others less well known)works.
There is much to enjoy here, from Christa Ludwig and the Wesendonck Lieder, to the Huldigungsmarsch. I'd like to have heard more of Wagners earlier piano efforts, but the Love Feast of the Apostles is worth the purchase price alone.
Why we had to wait until 2013 to hear some of these gems, I'll never know. That's marketing for you, I suppose.
Excellent performances of less commonly heard works. It was instructive to hear how Wagner developed his expressiveness by means of shorter pieces, for piano and/or voice mainly, plus orchestration. All beautifully performed.