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Wagner: Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest - Järvi

Wagner: Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest - Järvi

Chandos  CHSA 5077

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Wagner: Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest (arr. Henk de Vlieger), Overture and Venusberg Ballet Scene from "Tannhäuser", Prelude to Act III of "Lohengrin"

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi


Wagner: Parsifal, an orchestral quest etc. – Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme JärviNeeme Järvi conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the second of four albums featuring the bold arrangements of Wagner by Henk de Vlieger. Of the first album, Classic FM wrote: ‘Dutch composer Henk de Vlieger builds a penetrating symphonic poem that reflects the dramatic depths of The Ring.’

In Parsifal, an orchestral quest, commissioned by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and dedicated to the musicians of this orchestra, Henk de Vlieger has compiled the musical and emotional highlights of Wagner’s last opera, and whenever necessary stitched these into a new context. Thus de Vlieger retells the story of Parsifal with Wagner’s music. In order to do so he has kept the symmetry of the opera through seven sections: 1. Vorspiel, 2. Parsifal, 3. Die Gralsritter I, 4. Die Blumenmädchen, 5. Karfreitagszauber, 6. Die Gralsritter II, 7. Nachspiel.

This arrangement is complemented by the Overture and Venusberg Ballet Scene from Tannhäuser and the concert version of the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin.

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Review by Graham Williams - May 9, 2010

Neeme Järvi and the Scottish National Orchestra follow up their recording of Henk de Vlieger’s ‘The Ring, an orchestral adventure’ Wagner: The Ring - An Orchestral Adventure - Järvi with the Dutch composer’s orchestral arrangement of music from Wagner’s Parsifal. Like the earlier work, this one was commissioned by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and dedicated to de Vlieger’s fellow musicians in that orchestra. This imaginative arrangement comprises what is essentially a suite of seven unbroken sections that attempts, with considerable success, to encapsulate some of the most memorable music from the opera’s three acts in a manner that preserves the symmetry of Wagner’s final masterpiece.

The two most familiar orchestral excerpts from Parsifal regularly heard in the concert hall and on disc are the ‘Prelude and Good Friday Music’ that here appear unaltered as sections 1 and 5 of de Vlieger’s tapestry. Inevitably comparisons will be drawn between Järvi’s performance and those by some of the legendary Wagner conductors of the past, not it has to be said, to the advantage of the former. Though it would be unrealistic to expect Järvi to achieve the spirituality and rapture of say a Knappertsbusch or Karajan in this music, the conductor’s undue haste in the ‘Prelude’ (marked ‘sehr langsam’) and to a lesser extent in the ‘Good Friday Music’ robs this contemplative music of its essential repose. Henk de Vlieger’s brief portrait of the opera’s virile and reckless protagonist, using some of the faster music from Acts 2 and 1 respectively (track 2), and his imaginative evocation of the Flower Maidens (track 4) are both evoked much more successfully by Järvi who elicits ravishing playing from the Scottish National Orchestra throughout. The score’s timing for this piece is 55’, but on this recording Järvi despatches it in 45’. 56”, something that might leave some listeners feeling somewhat short-changed.

Following ‘Parsifal, an orchestral quest’ Järvi gives us a thrilling performance of the ‘Overture and Venusberg ballet scene from Tannhäuser’ (without voices) in Wagner’s Vienna version of 1875. The playing in the bacchanale is vital and energetic, while Järvi effectively captures the languid sensuality and eroticism of the final section that, in other hands, can sometimes outstay its welcome. The disc concludes with a blazing performance of the popular, not to say over-recorded, Prelude to the third act of ‘Lohengrin’.

The SNO is in tremendous form in all the music on this SACD. The brass section cut through Wagner’s often heavy orchestral texture magnificently while the strings are both agile and supple. Percussion playing is particularly crisp and, for once, the ‘Monsalvat’ bells in the Parsifal Grail scene (track3) sound most convincing. All this orchestral opulence is beautifully captured on the impressively rich and spacious Chandos 5.0 recording, made in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow last year.

Hopefully, one can look forward in due course to this same team committing to disc de Vlieger’s other two Wagner arrangements, ‘Tristan und Isolde, an orchestral passion’ and ‘Die Meistersinger, an orchestral tribute’ in equally sumptuous sound.

Recommended.

Copyright © 2010 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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