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Wagner: Two Symphonies, Marches, Rienzi Overture / Jarvi, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Wagner / Royal Scottish National Orch / Jarvi
Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 5097   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Symphonies: in C, WWV 29; in E, WWV 35. Huldigungsmarsch. Rienzi: Overture. Kaisermarsch Neeme Järvi, cond; Royal Scottish Natl O CHANDOS 5097 (SACD: 79:14)

Here’s a milestone of sorts for me. In my nearly 10 years with Fanfare , this is my first time reviewing Read more anything by Wagner. Mainly, the reason, I suppose, is that I don’t do opera, and what else is there, really, by Wagner that isn’t opera? Well, quite a lot, actually. Prior to his earliest completed stage works dating from between 1833 and 1838— Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot , and Die hohe Braut —Wagner wrote a goodly number of works, including several piano sonatas, a string quartet, concert overtures and overtures to plays, study fugues, songs, a considerable volume of miscellaneous piano pieces, and the two symphonies on this disc. And even after he threw himself into music drama with a passion, he continued to compose in other genres throughout his life.

Thus, the Huldigungsmarsch of 1864 was written right smack in the middle of Wagner’s work on Die Meistersinger , and the Kaisermarsch of 1871 comes dead-center during work on Parsifal . Still, the composer’s non-operatic music on record—I count the large numbers of collections of just the orchestral overtures, excerpts, and fragments from the operas as operatic music—seems to be an endangered species.

Wagner’s two symphonies have received one review each in these pages. The more recent appeared in Fanfare 31:2. That review by James Miller dealt with a two-CD Decca Eloquence Wagner collection of opera overtures and preludes performed by a host of orchestras and conductors. Buried among the familiar nuggets was the C-Major Symphony with Edo de Waart leading the San Francisco Symphony. Miller hears influences of Beethoven and, even more strongly, strains of Schubert in the work, and I wouldn’t disagree with him. Wagner was 19 when he wrote the piece in 1832, so it can’t be said that he was a precocious genius on the order of Mozart, Schubert, or Mendelssohn. It’s a pretty formulaic score, strongly redolent of some of Beethoven’s overtures and, curiously, Schubert’s Ninth, which Wagner could not have heard, since its first public performance was given by Mendelssohn in 1839.

A review of the E-Major Symphony goes back even further, to issue 20:4. Submitted by William Youngren, it covers an EMI recording by Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Wagner’s second attempt at a symphony dates from 1834, but he never completed it. An Allegro con spirito first movement and 30 bars of an Adagio cantabile second movement are all he wrote. Moreover, Wagner didn’t orchestrate it. That task fell to the conductor Felix Mottl when Cosima Wagner enlisted him for the job. The symphony opens with a gesture startlingly reminiscent of the overture to Beethoven’s Fidelio.

Those recordings are still available. I’m afraid I don’t have either of them, but I do have a fine 1992 Denon CD containing both scores with Hiroshi Wakasugi leading the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, a disc you’ll find listed by Amazon but not by ArkivMusic. This new Chandos SACD, however, with Neeme Järvi’s tight grip on the reins and the recording’s deep stage and phenomenal spotting of instruments, is definitely the way to go, if these early works by Wagner interest you.

The Huldigungsmarsch is another item Wagner didn’t orchestrate himself, at least not completely. Purely out of a need for money, Wagner wrote the piece to pleasure the mad king of Bavaria, Ludwig II, originally scoring it for military band. He then began orchestrating the march for symphony orchestra but deferred to the advice of conductor Hans von Bülow to allow Joachim Raff to complete the task. One can’t help but wonder what this says about von Bülow’s opinion of Wagner’s abilities. Raff, you will recall, is the composer who also assisted Liszt with orchestrating some of his works.

Genesis of the Kaisermarsch is a little more complicated. In 1871, the Peters publishing house commissioned Wagner to write something upbeat and patriotic to cheer the troops and boost German morale during the Franco-Prussian war. Like the Huldigungsmarsch , the Kaisermarsch was originally scored for military band, but barely two months later, to celebrate the German victory and the coronation of the Prussian king as emperor of the newly founded German Reich, Wagner rescored the piece for symphony orchestra and added to the end of it a kind of community sing-along set to a sacred text for a strictly secular ceremonial occasion. As note author Emanuel Overbecke points out, “Wagner proved himself ever the political pragmatist, for only four years earlier he had dismissed the same monarch as feeble and ineffectual.” The choral finale is not included on the current recording.

Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen , or just Rienzi as it’s commonly known, was Wagner’s first real stage hit after a string of operatic works that were either left unfinished or that were completed and mounted but with little success. First produced in Dresden in 1842, Rienzi would also be Wagner’s last opera in which the Italian influence is strongly felt. Even before Rienzi premiered, Wagner had completed his next opera, The Flying Dutchman , in 1841. Rienzi’s overture is a staple of recorded collections featuring the overtures, preludes, and orchestral music from Wagner’s operas. Beginning at around 2:45, the slow-moving, chorale-like intoning of the brass, overlaid by striding, leaping figurations in the strings, anticipates the same technique Wagner used for similar effect in the overture to Tannhäuser two years later.

All of the works on this disc, with the exception of the Rienzi overture, have relatively few recorded listings and, to my knowledge, this is their first in surround sound. If you’re a Wagner fan, and your interest in his music extends beyond his operas, I can think of no reason for you not to be thrilled by this release. Neeme Järvi, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Chandos have teamed up countless times over the years to bring us many truly outstanding recordings, and this is another of them.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony in C major by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1832; Germany 
Symphony in E major [fragment] by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1834; Germany 
Notes: The work is unfinished and exists in two movements.  
Huldigungsmarsch by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Germany 
Kaisermarsch in B flat major by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Rienzi: Overture by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1843; Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  3 Customer Reviews )
 Wagner SYMPHONIES? October 13, 2012 By J D  Blatchford (Mill Valley, CA) See All My Reviews "I have been a longtime fan of all of Wagner's operas. It took me a few years, but I now treasure Parsifal. I wasn't even aware that he had composed any symphonic works. These are up to his usual high standards." Report Abuse
 Symphonies Historically Noteworthy -- Not Hits August 2, 2012 By L. Wilborn (Richwood, TX) See All My Reviews "The playing and sonics are good as expected. Recommended. I'm glad to have these early Wagner symphonies in my collection for completeness, but I did not find them captivating. It would have been nice had Wagner composed more symphonies, because I think he would have come to what I consider Wagnerian. I'll re-visit these works occasionally and will revise this review if I have a change of heart." Report Abuse
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