Thomas Dausgaard, normally a favourite, has shown real affinity with late Romantics such as Zemlinsky, but his Wagner proves rather disappointing. That it employs chamber forces – about half a normal theatre orchestra – offers a fresh, incisive sound, but no extra vividness of the kind Robin Ticciati and the SCO achieve with Berlioz. In fact, both versions of the Dutchman overture – the original 1841 version, and the final 1860 version – suffer from cramped and hurried phrasing in a way that recalls Roger Norrington’s; likewise, Meistersinger. Interpretation is always personal, of course, but when phrases are rushed in a way that similar passages in the score wouldn’t stand, something is surely wrong; and the entire end of the overture suffers this way. The Siegfried-Idyll, intended for chamber forces, comes closer to excellence, performed with a bright morning airiness that recalls its famous premiere.
The Wesendonck Lieder are better paced, too, perhaps because of Nina Stemme, rapidly establishing herself as today’s leading Wagner soprano; her voice has grown in steely tone, but without taking on Nilsson’s slightly inhuman power and hardness. Her approach remains expressive and searching, with excellent diction that rides the lighter orchestration effortlessly and makes even Mathilde Wesendonck’s more plonking lines sound quite distinguished. Nevertheless, there are other good performances, and Stemme is not really enough to elevate the disc as a whole.
Michael Scott Rohan