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ALBUM TITLE: James Rutherford sings Wagner
WORKS: Overture and ‘Die Frist ist um’ (Die fliegende Holländer); ‘Blick ich umher’ and ‘O du mein holder Abendstern’ (Tannhäuser); ‘Du Fürchterliches Weib!’ (Lohengrin); ‘Was duftet doch der Flieder’ Prelude to Act III, ‘Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!’ (Die Meistersinger); ‘Ja! Wehe! Wehe! We’ über mich!’ (Parsifal); ‘Wotans Abschied und Feuerzauber’ (Die Walküre)
PERFORMER: James Rutherford (baritone); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton


Many singers avoid Wagner till late in their careers; others seem born to the challenge. James Rutherford served a decent apprenticeship, but winning Seattle’s International Wagner Competition led him to sing that most mature role, Hans Sachs, at hallowed Bayreuth at only 37, performing many other roles internationally since.

The Norfolk-born bass-baritone’s voice, on this showing, is close to ideal – chocolate-dark and rich in tone, with a deceptive effortlessness and security that shows up many more famous exponents. He approaches Hans Hotter’s ‘bel canto Wagner’ ideal, but with incisively clear diction. His expressiveness isn’t overdone or showy, without resorting to exaggerated pianissimos, but it’s there – especially in Sachs and the Dutchman. His Wolfram sounds slightly stiff and his Amfortas could use more visceral anguish, but he makes the most of Telramund’s ranting aria. Even Wotan’s difficult tessitura betrays little strain; he sounds more natural in the role than Bryn Terfel, for one, though perhaps less touching. Andrew Litton offers capable support.


Michael Scott Rohan