ALBUM TITLE: Wagner: Siegfried
PERFORMER: Stephen Gould, Tomasz Konieczny, Violeta Urmana, Anna Larsson, Matti Salminen, Jochen Schmeckenbecher, Christian Elsner, Sophie Klussmann; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186408
This is a lively and enjoyable performance of what Wagner called his ‘heroic comedy’. In this, the third opera in Wagner’s epic Ring cycle, the greatest pleasure comes from the orchestral playing and the conducting of Marek Janowski, who seems much more at home here than he was in Die Walküre (the second opera of the cycle, reviewed Christmas 2013). Away from the pressures of expressing intense emotion, Wagner was able to enjoy himself in this score, evoking nature with extraordinary originality. In the third Act – composed 12 years after the first two (which were composed by 1857), when he was a far more sophisticated composer – he displays remarkable feats of counterpoint and colouring which Janowski brings off to thrilling effect: listen to the short but dense Prelude and you’ll hear many things that you won’t have heard on any other recording, combined with terrific drive. You realise immediately that this is the beginning of the end, to be worked out fully in the next drama.
Siegfried, Wagner’s single most taxing role, is sung adequately but not excitingly here by Stephen Gould. He is less of a barker, more of a phraser than he once was, but his voice has no intrinsic beauty. The other half of Act I’s double act, Mime, is taken by Christian Elsner, who verges on ugly caricature. The Wanderer is Tomasz Konieczny, here dry of voice and unimposing, but with the right ideas about the part. The Fafner of Matti Salminen is wonderful, luxury casting, and Jochen Schmeckenbecher’s Alberich is almost as fine. Violeta Urmana takes over the role of Brünnhilde for this opera, and has many moments of shrillness and wobbliness, but she is an intelligent artist. In summary, the whole here is very much more than the sum of its parts – worth acquiring.