WORKS: Tannhäuser Overture; Prelude to Act I of Parsifal; Act III of Parsifal (excerpts); Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Swedish Radio Chorus, Berlin PO/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 474 377-2
Claudio Abbado’s infrequent excursions into Wagnerian terrain have been welcome, despite his respectful wariness, and here is further evidence that this repertoire would profit from his more consistent attention. Even the most jaded Wagnerian will perk up on hearing the polished textures and melodic cogency Abbado achieves in the opening paragraph of the Tannhäuser Overture. Despite the rich (and richly recorded) sound of the Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado’s Wagner is less grand and harmonically oriented than febrile and melodic, as the end of the same overture (the ‘Pilgrims Chorus’ with rapid violin scales) and the Faith motif of the Parsifal Prelude clearly demonstrate.
The suite of excerpts from Act III of Parsifal includes choral passages sung beautifully but rather superficially by the Swedish Radio Chorus. Abbado’s account of the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde is wonderfully limned but makes a chivalric rather than erotic impression – certainly Abbado does not wallow in the Liebestod in the customary way. In short, this disc allows us to hear one of the leading conductors of our time discover well-known music he recognises as important and worthy of his best. If Abbado is not yet a ‘true’ Wagnerian, he is something more: an interesting one. David Breckbill