WORKS: Siegfried Idyll; Wesendonck Lieder; Symphony in C
PERFORMER: Helena Döse (soprano); Swedish CO/Sixten Ehrling
CATALOGUE NO: ABCD 063 DDD (distr. CDA)
This coupling, of Wagner’s principal non-stage works, is an attractive one, even if the performances are far from ideal. The early Symphony in C, which Wagner revived at the end of his life, fares best in a crisp, no-nonsense reading, too lightweight to convey its revolutionary, Beethovenian fervour. Wagner himself referred to its ‘clarity and power, with some strange aberrations’. Ehrling and his Swedish players bring clarity but little power, attributes which also inform their somewhat impressionistic and architecturally flaccid reading of the Siegfried Idyll. The Edenic calm of the opening is well caught, as are some delightful solo woodwind contributions, but the lack of symphonic momentum causes the work to fall apart rather more than usual. Norrington’s recent period-instrument account on EMI is as good a first choice as any here.
The Wesendonck Lieder face some stiff competition from the likes of Flagstad, Ludwig and Baker, to name but three distinguished exponents, and, despite a fine sense of Wagnerian style, Helena Döse emerges heavily scarred from her losing battle with a prematurely worn voice and inflexible accompaniment. A pity, because she has the wide emotional range needed. All in all, this is a disc to be recommended only if you want this particular coupling. Antony Bye