Wagner, Arr. Stokowski

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Arr. Stokowski,Wagner
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music; Symphonic Synthesis from Tristan and Isolde; Symphonic Synthesis from Parsifal
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Matthias Bamert
Continuing its series of Stokowski’s transcriptions Chandos has come up with three chunks of Wagner not recorded since the conductor himself with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Thirties and in 1950. The end of Die Walküre is a straight transcription, Wotan’s vocal line distributed among various instruments of the orchestra (often cor anglais or trumpet) or removed where it takes a subsidiary role to Wagner’s quasi-symphonic use of the orchestra. The music from Tristan and Act 3 of Parsifal is not necessarily in its original order (hence the term ‘Symphony synthesis’, though this was not Stokowski’s description), eg, between the familiar and untouched Prelude & Liebestod come selections from Tristan. Stokowski only ever conducted one Wagner opera, Parsifal, a concert performance in 1933, but he clearly loved Wagner’s music. So do Bamert and the BBC Philharmonic judging by these impassioned accounts. The strings bring an incandescant glow to their sound, the sumptuous brass (including off-stage horns) are thrilling, wind solos lovingly phrased. Bamert, who we need to hear more of in opera, chooses his tempi convincingly. Judge Stokowski’s tamperings for what they are, not for what you might expect (such as conventional tubular bells rather than those distinctive Parsifal ones). Highly recommended. Christopher Fifield