This disc offers a promising concept – Wagner in Switzerland – sadly unfulfilled. Not that these are bad performances: the poetic grandeur David Zinman brings to his acclaimed Mahler is equally evident here, with tempos slow enough to please Klemperer or Goodall. And bass-baritone Egils Silins, whose capable Wotan featured in the recent Hallé Walküre, is gruffly majestic. The Swiss connection, though, is simply tacked on to a Swiss-based excerpts concert – highly conventional excerpts, too, from complete works which belong much more to Wagner’s later Munich and Bayreuth years. True, Wagner did conduct Dutchman in Zurich, and also began to sketch the Ring libretto. However, the real products of his Swiss exile, besides an enhanced delight in exploring wild mountain landscapes, are, chiefly, his three famous aesthetic essays, Tristan und Isolde and the Wesendonck Lieder, none of which feature here. And the elaborate ‘84-page limited deluxe edition’ booklet is less lavish than it appears, accommodating three language versions.
MGB’s 1999 CD Richard Wagner in Swiss Exile featured, beside contemporary works (admittedly fairly dim stuff), performing versions of some of the early Ring sketches he made in Switzerland. Something more along those lines would have been fascinating; but as it is, this is merely another compilation along the lines of recent albums from Donald Runnicles or Iván Fischer.
Michael Scott Rohan