ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: The Ring – an orchestral adventure (arr. de Vlieger); Siegfried Idyll
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5060 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Few would listen to an hour’s worth of Madama Butterfly or Aida without the singing. Yet Wagner is somehow different, as the many voice-free ‘symphonic syntheses’ and orchestral stitch-togethers of music from his operas continue to testify. Henk de Vlieger’s The Ring – an orchestral adventure dates from 1991, and was recorded a decade ago by its dedicatee Edo de Waart, who continues to perform it. Traversing all four Ring operas, chunks of genuine Wagner are hammered together by rivets of freshly composed music in a manner one critic has called ‘quite ingenious’. Clunkingly discontinuous would be another way of putting it: I defy anybody who knows the cycle not to flinch bodily at the horrendous wrench de Vlieger makes from halfway through the Entry of the Gods into Valhalla from Rheingold to the Ride of the Valkyries in the succeeding opera. There is, however, sterling playing from the Scottish orchestra, whose dark, burnished brass section particularly suits Wagner’s scoring, and virile, purposeful conducting from Neeme Järvi. A little too purposeful, perhaps, in the coupled Siegfried Idyll, where for all the welcome freshness of Järvi’s interpretation, a certain rigidity of tempo prevents the music warming in its many tender sequences. Solti’s chamber version remains a reference Idyll, coupled either with Wagner overtures or Schubert’s Ninth Symphony.