Wagner: Love duet from Tristan und Isolde; Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Love duet from Tristan und Isolde; Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung
PERFORMER: Margaret Jane Wray, John Horton Murray, Nancy Maultsby; Russian State SO/John McGlinn
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555789
Not so much bleeding chunks as whole sides of beef, these scenes from Tristan and Götterdämmerung provide a welcome opportunity to experience at budget price the heightened emotion of two of Wagner’s greatest operas in their proper context. Margaret Jane Wray is commanding of tone, albeit with a steely top, and shapes her phrases with real musicality. John Horton Murray is sadly no match for her: his puppyish, breathless excitement is almost comical, his uneven, strangulated tone results in bumpy phrases and he generally lacks vocal and emotional weight. John McGlinn, better known for his work in the musical theatre, proves a more than competent Wagnerian, though he has much to contend with: an orchestra that sounds raw and undernourished and a recorded sound that fails to blend textures satisfactorily – peripheral strands of melody leap out of nowhere and the supposedly offstage hunting horns are thrust right under our nose. Like EMI’s Voigt/Domingo disc, the Naxos version uses Wagner’s own rarely heard 1862 concert ending (which neatly joins the love duet to the close of the Liebestod), but it can scarcely emulate its superior singing, excellent orchestral playing (ROH orchestra) or superb conducting (Antonio Pappano). The Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung fares slightly better. Wray rides the flood impressively, even if her incisiveness borders on stridency. The brass are unappealingly brash towards the end, but McGlinn paces and shapes the music with genuine feeling for both expressive detail and the broader tidal flow. Barry Millington