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Wagner: Symphonies - Järvi

Wagner: Symphonies - Järvi

Chandos  CHSA 5097

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Wagner: Symphony in C major WWV29, Symphony in E major WWV35, Huldigungsmarsch WWV97, Overture to "Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen" WWV49, Kaisermarsch WWV104

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi


Our series of works by Richard Wagner, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Neeme Järvi, continues with an album of early symphonies, later marches, and the Overture to ‘Rienzi’.

Early on in his career, Wagner composed two symphonies, both of which are included on this disc. The Symphony in C, which he wrote when he was just nineteen years old, is heavily influenced by Beethoven in its character, mood, and instrumentation. Written two years later, in 1834, the Symphony in E was left unfinished, Wagner completing only the first movement and thirty bars of the second. The completed version recorded here was prepared by the conductor Felix Mottl more than fifty years later at the request of Wagner’s widow, Cosima.

The two marches on this recording are the composer’s most obvious contributions to the genre of pomp and circumstance. The Huldigungsmarsch was written in 1864 for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The march-like rhythms and brassy colours complement sections in which the strings provide a continuously flowing movement, all leading to a jubilant conclusion. The Kaisermarsch (1871) was a commission from the publishing firm Peters, who requested from Wagner a heroic morale booster at a time when the German countries were at war with France. Having initially composed it for military band, Wagner soon rewrote it for symphony orchestra, the version recorded on this disc.

The Overture to Rienzi, Wagner’s third completed opera (1838 – 40), incorporates the melody of Rienzi’s prayer at the start of Act V, which became the opera’s best-known aria, and ends with a dazzling military march.

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Review by Graham Williams - February 25, 2012

Those who enjoy the music of Wagner 'ohne Stimme' will have already been delighted by the first four volumes of Neeme Järvi's purely orchestral survey of the composer's output splendidly played by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and sumptuously recorded by Chandos in DSD 5.0 surround sound. Each of these earlier issues centred on orchestral arrangements of the composer's most famous operas by the Dutch arranger and composer Henk de Vlieger.

These were:

'The Ring an Orchestral Adventure' Wagner: The Ring - An Orchestral Adventure - Järvi
'Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest' Wagner: Parsifal, an Orchestral Quest - Järvi
'Tristan und Isolde, an Orchestral Passion' Wagner: Tristan und Isolde, an Orchestral Passion - Järvi
'Meistersinger, an Orchestral Tribute' Wagner: Meistersinger, an Orchestral Tribute - Järvi

The majority of the music on this fifth, and possibly final, volume of the series, will be unfamiliar to most listeners, and with good reason, as it is could hardly be called anything but bottom-drawer Wagner.

The 'Symphony in C, WWV29' was written in 1832 when the composer was only 19. It is an ambitious work in classical style that clearly shows the influence of Beethoven, the composer Wagner venerated most throughout his life. Echoes of early Schubert symphonies appear in the first movement and Weber provides the model for the work's instrumentation. However, it is a most attractive piece and is certainly worthy of an occasional outing

Wagner began a second symphony in 1834 but quickly lost interest in its completion. The manuscript of the sketches was lost but eventually found in a second-hand bookshop in Berlin in 1886 . It was acquired by Cosima Wagner who then asked the conductor Felix Mottl to orchestrate the sketches. The result is the 'Symphony in E, WWV35' - a two-movement torso. On the basis of what is heard here, many will wish that Wagner had persevered with this symphony as its first movement is a joyous and confident piece whilst the brief and charming 'Adagio cantabile' unfolds with a graceful melodic flow.

Neeme Järvi and the RSNO give spirited and committed performances of both of these enjoyable symphonies that undoubtedly shows them in the best possible light.

Wagner in ceremonial mood is represented by two marches. Both were originally composed for military band and later orchestrated. The 'Huldigungsmarsch, WWV 97' (Homage March) of 1864 was written for King Ludwig of Bavaria and orchestrated at Wagner's request by the composer Joachim Raff. It is bold and brassy piece but does not outstay its welcome.

The 'Kaisermarsch, WWV104' is a more ambitious composition. It was written as a morale booster at the time of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 and exists both as a purely orchestral version, heard on this recording, and also one with chorus. After a grandly portentous opening it builds to the first of a number of statements of the Lutheran hymn melody 'Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott'. The music then seems to wander aimlessly before becoming increasingly martial and bombastic in the build up to its brass and percussion dominated ending. Wagner had little regard for the piece, and it is easy to see why, but he might have revised his opinion if he had heard it as thrillingly performed as here.

Between the two marches Järvi and the orchestra deliver a very fine performance of the overture to Wagner's third opera 'Rienzi'. The conductor's choice of tempi for the overture's various sections, though quite individual and at times unexpectedly measured, do work to the music's advantage.

The Chandos 5.0 recordings made in the capacious acoustic of the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow in August 2010 and March 2011 possesses both richness and clarity, brilliantly capturing the splendid playing of the RSNO in opulent sound.

This SACD can be recommended unreservedly both to Wagner completists and those curious to investigate the juvenilia of one of the 19th century's greatest composers.

Copyright © 2012 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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