Wagner: Excerpts from Parsifal, Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Tristan und Isolde

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Halle
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Excerpts from Parsifal, Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Anja Kampe (soprano); Hallé/Mark Elder
CATALOGUE NO: CD HLL 7517
The problem besetting any Wagner excerpts programme is that there’s so much competition, much of it from legendary giants like Karajan and Solti. This one will naturally attract Hallé fans, but it’d be a shame if it stopped there. Mark Elder got his Wagnerian grounding with another giant, Sir Reginald Goodall, while working at English National Opera, and he recalls Goodall’s magisterial, flowing approach; at ten and a half minutes his Mastersingers prelude is easily two minutes longer than the composer’s own timing, and the great march doesn’t sound quite crisp enough.

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Now, though, Elder has also developed much of Goodall’s ability to leaven slow tempos with expressive phrasing; and the Hallé once again show they’re far from the dispirited band I used to hear 20 years ago. Together they make the prelude to Mastersingers Act III and the Parsifal music splendidly burnished, glowing affairs, while the Flying Dutchman’sstorm swirls with Klemperer-like impact. The Tristan prelude is atmospheric without being entirely riveting, but the Liebestod is graced with the voice of the rising German soprano Anja Kampe, Glyndebourne’s Fidelio last summer. After some vast bronze-voiced Isoldes lately, she sounds refreshingly young and feminine, though her slight ‘beat’ is perceptible.

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‘Bleeding chunk’ collections like this are entirely worthwhile if they’re well done, and this one is – a lot more vivid, individual and involving than some done by many bigger names. Michael Scott Rohan