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Wagner, Verdi: Great Opera Choruses

Wagner, Verdi: Great Opera Choruses

Chesky  SACD230

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


"Great Opera Choruses" Wagner, Verdi

Czech Philharmonic Chorus
St. Florian Boys' Choir
Bruckner Orchestra
Bernhard Klee (conductor)

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Tracks
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1. Tannhauser: Act II, Scene 4 Chorus - "Freudig Begrussen Wir Die Edle Halle"
2. Nabucco: Parte Prima - "Gerusalemme", Coro D'introduzione
3. Parsifal: Act I - "Gurnemanz and Parsifal Now Enter the Mighty Hall of the Castle of the Grail"
4. Aida: Gran Finale Atto 2
5. Lohengrin: Act III, Scene 1 - "Bridal Chorus"
6. Nabucco: Parte Terza - "La Profezia", Coro D'introduzione
7. Nabucco: "Coro di Schiavi Ebrei"
8. Tannhauser: Final Chorus - "Heil! Heil! Der Gnade Wunder Heil!"
Reviews (1)
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Review by John Miller - November 14, 2007

Wagner and Verdi are both severely under-represented on SACD at the moment. This 2001 disc from Chesky with the Bruckner Orchestra of Linz, the Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno and the St Florian Boys' Choir has been neglected, yet it is an enterprising and most worthy issue.

Some reason for association of these two composers is heralded by the quotation by Verdi at the head of the sleeve notes, lamenting the death of Wagner. The programme contains concert performances of scenes from several operas by each composer, rather than just excised choruses as 'bleeding chunks'. They have clearly been well-prepared by the production team and performers, and notes about the placing of the various vocal and orchestral resources in the Brucknerhaus auditorium at Linz refer to exploiting the various spatial effects which would have been apparent at opera performances, such as off-stage bands and groups of singers and instrumentalists at different perspectives on the platform. The recording itself is 5.0 DSD from a multichannel PCM master. At first I thought it was a little colourless and hazy, but turning the volume up considerably revealed a very vivid and immersing sound-stage. It might lack a little of the sophistication and glow of the most recent true DSD recordings, but it vividly conveyed the presence and location of all the considerable forces deployed. The auditorium has a very well-tamed acoustic which does not cloud detail.

Praise also for the selection of works. These are not all the standard popular choruses found on other compilations (apart from the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves from Verdi's Nabucco and the Grand Finale from Aida). The disc begins with Tannhäuser Act II, 'Entrance of the guests into the Wartburg Hall' which has fanfares of joyful trumpets and finely hissing cymbals, and ends with Tannhäuser's Final Chorus 'Heil! Heil! Der Gande Wunder Heil!', which reprises the Pilgrim's Chorus theme which is heard in the orchestral overture and at the start of the opera.

There are three selections from Verdi's Nabucco; 'Gerusalemme' from Part 1, strongly sung with good lilting rhythms and rippling harp arpeggios; Nabucco Part 3 'La Profezia', a brisk duple time staccato melody very typical of Verdi, and of course the famous 'Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves', which alone ensured Verdi a steady flow of commissions. It also became an iconic hymn in the growing rise of Republican resistance to Italy's government by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor. These are all very well sung and played. Bernhard Klee certainly has the ability to create idiomatic performance styles for both Verdi and Wagner. The Grand Finale of Aida is given the spectacular sonic and musical reading which it deserves, making it easy to recreate the spectacular stage settings with masses of people and exotic animals in one's imagination.

I particularly enjoyed the extensive section of Wagner's Parsifal, Act 1, where Gurnemanz and Parsifal enter the mighty hall of the Castle of the Grail. There are three choirs here, the Knights of the Grail, Youths and Boys (who are heard angelically from the back of the auditorium). Klee keeps this moving steadily, but generates considerable tension which builds inexorably to a sonorous brassy climax with bells and pounding timpani. I should also mention the inclusion of the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin Act II Scene 1, which many people have never heard in its original form. Far from being murdered by millions of organists at uncountable wedding services, this is a delightful performance, richly coloured and capturing the atmosphere of joy and ceremony perfectly.

Despite rather short measure at just under 51 minutes, this disc is well worth seeking out. Play it loud and you will be rewarded with a splendid concert by uniformly excellent musicians. Sadly, however, there are no texts for the choruses, and the booklet, rather than placing each extract in its operatic context, gives an account of the operatic composing histories of Wagner and Verdi, spending more time on the operas not represented!

Copyright © 2007 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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