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Wagner: Meistersinger - An Orchestral Tribute / Henk De Vlieger

Release Date: 11/09/2010 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72326   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Henk de VliegerRichard Wagner
Conductor:  Edo de WaartOtto Tausk
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER-VLIEGER Der Ring—An Orchestral Adventure. Tristan und Isolde—An Orchestral Passion. Parsifal—An Orchestral Quest Edo de Waart, cond; Netherlands RPO CHALLENGE CC72338 (3 CDs: 185:33)

WAGNER-VLIEGER Meistersinger—An Orchestral Tribute. 2 Tragic Entr’actes 1 Edo de Waart, Read more class="SUPER12">1 Otto Tausk, cond; Netherlands RPO CHALLENGE CC72326 (65:04)

I’m never certain who the audience is for these kinds of Wagner conflations. On the one hand, general audiences seem perfectly happy with the usual overtures, preludes, and other “bleeding chunks” that keep turning up on concert programs and on disc. On the other, dyed-in-the-wool Wagnerians, while mildly entertained, may be suspicious of the complete excision of texts from the Master’s “Total Works of Art.” Maybe it’s the arranger who enjoys them the most: It’s a chance to roll up one’s sleeves and work re-creatively with musical materials they are obviously very devoted to.

Leopold Stokowski was great at this kind of thing, and his “symphonic syntheses” of music from Tristan and Parsifal , as well as his versions of material from the Ring, have long been embraced by even rigid keepers of the Wagner flame. (José Serebrier’s readings on Naxos are superb.) Plenty of others have tried their hand at Wagner-arranging, including, in the recent past, Charles Gerhardt and Lorin Maazel. With these two new releases from Challenge Classics, there are now competing recordings for three of Henk de Vlieger’s extended Wagner treatments, plus a new-to-disc Meistersinger arrangement.

Edo de Waart and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic gave complete concert performances of the four Ring operas between 1988 and 1991. For a tour of Germany in 1992, de Vlieger—principal percussionist of the orchestra and a prolific arranger of all sorts of music—was commissioned to create A Ring Symphony , later renamed Der Ring—An Orchestral Adventure . The Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde works followed in 1994 and 1995; the Meistersinger “tribute” dates from 2006. De Vlieger employs a light touch with his transcriptions, sometimes perhaps too light. The standard orchestral sections—the preludes to Meistersinger and Tristan , “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” Parsifal ’s Transformation Music, etc.—work out just fine, of course, but these 51- to 67-minute works are fleshed out with extended excerpts that originally had a vocal component. More often than not, de Vlieger simply drops the vocal line and lets the orchestral contribution stand on its own. Although Wagner’s orchestral writing is always interesting enough by itself (and the voice is frequently doubled instrumentally), the experience can be a little odd. It’s like attending an orchestra rehearsal, before the singers arrive in town. Or a Music-Minus-One record: All you Bathroom Brünnhildes feel free to join in.

There are some instances when de Vlieger has to add the vocal part(s), or we won’t be hearing much of anything—the heavenly choir near the close of Parsifal; the choruses of shoemakers, tailors, and bakers in Meistersinger ’s climactic act III scene. But, mostly, we get the orchestra as written (though it should be noted that Vlieger employs a standard orchestral brass section for the Ring —no Wagner tubas or bass trumpet). Other arrangers have reaped the benefits of a more activist approach. “The Ride of the Valkyries” may be the best-known music from Die Walküre , but it’s “Wotan’s Farewell” that’s the emotional highlight of the drama, and de Vlieger just ignores it. Charles Gerhardt, on a Chesky Records collection (CD161), assigns Wotan’s vocal line to varying instruments quite convincingly. De Vlieger does get more aggressive in his Meistersinger arrangement, freely excising bars when necessary for the sake of musical continuity. For example, during the “Prize Song,” the volk ’s interjections are gone.

Edo de Waart’s conducting may not be revelatory, but it’s far more idiomatic than Neeme Järvi’s on a pair of Chandos SACDs offering de Vlieger’s Ring and Parsifal arrangements. The orchestra plays beautifully. Filling out the Meistersinger disc are two snippets of very early Wagner. Deux Entr’actes tragiques exist in the Richard-Wagner-Gesamtausgabe mostly as piano sketches, with just 52 bars fully orchestrated, and de Vlieger has done an admirable job of turning them into short, enjoyable pieces. The liner notes remark on “an affinity with Carl Maria von Weber.” True, and perhaps Schubert as well. But not Wagner, not even the Wagner of just a decade later. Otto Tausk, a well-traveled Dutch conductor, does a fine job leading the reconstructions.

The sound is excellent; the three-CD set was recorded at the Concertgebouw and the Meistersinger program in a studio. In both cases, there’s plenty of detail—especially with a score in hand, you can tell exactly what the arranger has done—but there’s also satisfying orchestral weight and spatiality. I definitely agree with Arthur B. Lintgen (in Fanfare 32:1 and 34:2) that the Järvi performances are very disappointing; there is another version of the Tristan und Isolde transcription from Antony Hermus and the Hagen Philharmonic on the Acousence label that I’ve not heard. But these Challenge Classics CDs are recommendable on their own merits, if this kind of endeavor floats your boat. Start with the Meistersinger disc, if you’re at all unsure.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Meistersinger, an orchestral tribute by Henk de Vlieger
Conductor:  Edo de Waart
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 2006 
Venue:  MCO Studio 5, Hilversum, The Netherlands 
Length: 50 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Entreactes tragiques (2), for orchestra by Henk de Vlieger
Conductor:  Otto Tausk
Written: 2000 
Date of Recording: 04/16/2009 
Venue:  MCO Studio 5, Hilversum, The Netherlands 
Length: 13 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Act 1 Prelude by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Edo de Waart
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867; Germany 

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