Wagner: Siegfried Idyll; Sonata for Mathilde Wesendonck’s Album; Tannhäuser Overture

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Siegfried Idyll; Sonata for Mathilde Wesendonck’s Album; Tannhäuser Overture
PERFORMER: Mikhail Rudy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57181 2
The programme of this disc is praiseworthy: placing some of Wagner’s most interesting solo piano works alongside piano transcriptions of his better-known music is an attractive idea. Unfortunately, the concept is compromised by the playing. I expected Mikhail Rudy to endow ‘Träume’ (in his own transcription) with optimal sensuality and melting loveliness, but the actual performance seems hard and ungraceful, lacking the exquisitely intimate voicing and billowing phrasing that could make it memorable. Hans von Bülow’s paraphrase of the Meistersinger Quintet is perhaps excessively flowery, but even so Rudy could do more to dignify and exalt its ecstasy. Both here and in Joseph Rubinstein’s transcription of the Siegfried Idyll, Rudy’s differentiation within polyphonic textures is disappointingly monochromatic. His rendition of the Sonata for Mathilde Wesendonck’s Album sounds busy rather than expansively and passionately phrased, and his valiant assault on the fearsome demands in Liszt’s transcription of the Tannhäuser Overture falls short of the panache and sovereign virtuosity Jorge Bolet displayed in this music. Despite the interest of the various arrangements – among them the concluding Magic Fire portion of Hugo Wolf’s paraphrase on Die Walküre – Rudy’s clear but unalluring tone and fitful phrasing cause Wagner on piano to seem a poor substitute for the originals. David Breckbill