LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Sonata for the Album of Frau Mathilde Wesendonck; The Two Grenadiers; In the Greenhouse; RW – Venice; At the Grave of Richard Wagner; Solemn March to the Holy Grail from Parsifal; Isolde’s Liebestod
PERFORMER: Gerhard Oppitz (piano)Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61843 2 DDD
Gerhard Oppitz is the fortunate pianist who gets to perform the music of both Wagner and his father-in-law Franz Liszt on Wagner’s own piano in the Villa Wahnfried. And what a piano it is. From the first note it sings out with a depth and velvety richness which is conspicuous by its absence from most over-bright modern concert grands. Now and then you can tell that the piano is old, or hear something creak gently, but this does not adversely affect the impression. The sustaining pedal gives a liquid limpidity to the sound without any loss of clarity and though the bass is most notably the richest area, the treble is no less powerful and contrasted. Nathalie Stutzmann, whose contralto is exceptionally deep and chocolatey, seems the ideal choice of lieder partner for the tone of this piano.
The programme of the Villa Wahnfried concert is as illuminating as the piano. Wagner’s songs were mostly efforts on his part to find lucrative employment in writing for salons and are interesting mainly in the light of contrast with the much greater operatic music; the solo piano music represented here often conjures the ghost of Lohengrin’s lofty, rhetorical tone. The Liszt element portrays the older composer’s tribute to the younger: the March from Parsifal is cleverly placed after ‘At the Grave of Richard Wagner’, which features the same main musical motif. And the whole is crowned by a glowingly ecstatic rendition of Liszt’s transcription of the Liebestod from Tristan. Jessica Duchen