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.