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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 123
  Wagner: Overtures & Preludes - Varviso/Schumacher
  Wagner: Overtures & Preludes (Meistersinger, Tristan, Lohengrin, Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser), Siegfried Idyll

Staatskapelle Dresden
Silvio Varviso (conductor)

London Chamber Orchestra
Richard Schumacher (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 2

Site review by ramesh April 21, 2005
Performance:   Sonics:  
An absolutely splendid demonstration disc of Wagner. Pentatone's description of it as 'Preludes and overtures' is utterly correct, because apart from the status of the Siegfried Idyll, this is what you get; the 'Tristan'prelude ends with a judder, without a tonic resolution that others have improvised as concert endings, there is no concluding Liebestod! Should you want one on SACD, go to the Oehms disc of Isolde excerpts from the opera with Deborah Polaski; she is no Flagstad or Nilsson, but Isoldes don't come too much better than her nowadays. The Meistersinger and Tannhauser have concert endings, the Lohengrin prelude to act 3 doesn't. There is no Lohengrin prelude to act 1.
There are other Wagner orchestral excerpts available on SACD recorded in DSD, but I haven't heard these, being unsure whether the orchestra or conductor were up to it. This disc originally emerged on LP in the mid seventies, without the Siegfried Idyll( I know nothing of what the latter was originally coupled with), on midprice Philips, which presumably was the company's own commentary on the prestige of the release. Varviso is a Swiss who apparently conducted lots of opera, the conductor of the Idyll is unknown to me.
For sound, I compared this to the EMI DVDA of Karajan with his BPO in the '70s (24/48 digitisation of analogue master), the Tristan to the Szell Sony SACD from the late 60s, and the Hollander overture from the DG SACD featuring Bryn Terfel (24/48 PCM recording)
The sound was superior on the Pentatone to all comers listed above. As usual, I was only listening in stereo. Most disconcerting was the ample evidence the most modern recording, the Abbado/Terfel,more than 25 years later than the Pentatone,was murkier,especially on the Hollander overture, as though one had bedsheets draped over the speakers; not quite as big a mismatch as pitting Tiger Woods versus OJ Simpson on the golf course, I mean in golf not a knife fight, but getting there. The Berlin Philharmonic on the similarly vintaged EMI sounded notably more lustrous than on the Abbado DG, although the latter had better defined bass. The Szell recordings sound fine, so much better than on CD, but the Dresden orchestra on Pentatone had more three dimensionality; this may be due to the acoustics in Cleveland, as the flattened perspectives seems a consistent, but not overly annoying feature, of Szell's recordings.
Varviso whips up the orchestra into magnificent readings of all excerpts, without excess distortions of tempi. Karajan is more subtle in colouring, as though he sees the works constructed in overlying and interlocking sheets and planes of sound; this is his legato style of conducting which would prove so effective in Bruckner(except for the fourth and sixth symphonies); Varviso stresses the propulsive and rhythmic qualities of these works. His Tristan prelude is as passionate as Szell's. The orchestra may have been recorded a little backwardly compared to modern in-your-face audiophilia nervosa, but this is a good rendition from a back stalls seat, including the slightly undefined bass. It's atmospheric. Not a demonstration disc for speaker busting dynamics or hyperreal high frequency sonics, but good for a demo in how to shoehorn a large group of acoustic instruments into a small domestic space. The Siegfried Idyll is cleanly and more closely recorded, by an apocryphal group called the 'London Chamber Orchestra'. The performance is accomplished in the professional London session musician sense, but inflected with an unassuming tenderness which is quite touching.

Review by Oscar August 30, 2005 (8 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
A splendid collection of Wagner Overtures and Preludes. But ( a reminder) we need complete operas now on SACD.
This said, Silvio Varviso conducts with great verve, never "over-cooking" Wagner. As a result, not only the music unfolds in the most natural way, but also the drama and the climaxes never sound forced. Indeed, Varviso has been an excellent conductor.
Schumacher , a new name to me, conducts the Siegrfried Idyll with a light touch, but no special insights.

The reprocessing of Pentatone is simply superb.

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Works: 6  

Richard Wagner - Der fliegende Holländer, WWV 63
Richard Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, WWV 96
Richard Wagner - Lohengrin, WWV 75
Richard Wagner - Siegfried-Idyll in E major, WWV 103
Richard Wagner - Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg, WWV 70
Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde, WWV 90