WORKS: Parsifal: An Orchestral Quest (arr. Henk de Vlieger); Tannhäuser – Overture and Venusberg Ballet; Lohengrin – Prelude to Act III
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5077
Parsifal: An Orchestral Quest is literally a stitch-up, a 45-minute fly-over of that great opera’s ‘musical and emotional highlights’ patched together from its score by arranger Henk de Vlieger, with occasional changes to the orchestration necessitated mainly by the absence of voices.
De Vlieger has had plenty of experience in this area, having previously done the same exercise in reduction to The Ring (also recorded by Neeme Järvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, reviewed April 2008), Tristan and Die Meistersinger (an ‘adventure’, ‘passion’ and ‘tribute’ respectively).
Though essentially ‘surplus to requirements’, the Parsifal ‘quest’ could have been a mildly educational experience, if only the performance were better. The Act I Prelude (unaltered) is symptomatic – glib and penny-plain in Neeme Järvi’s reading, stripped of awe and mystery, and plagued by odd tempo relationships and imprecise chording. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a flatter version of this awesome music.
Things improve later, with more momentum from Järvi and better playing in the Transformation Music section. The Tannhäuser excerpt also really begins to boil in the infamous ballet music, giving the sonorous RSNO brass something they can finally tuck into with relish, though you wouldn’t exactly call the music-making subtle.
I suppose the surround mix on the SACD layer may prove attractive to audiophile purchasers. All told, though, this is a disc for Wagner esotericists only. Terry Blain