Wagner
Orchestral selections from Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta

Recorded 5 & 8 May 2017 in Kleinhaus Music Hall, Buffalo, New York
CD No: NAXOS 8.573839
Duration: 64 minutes
Reviewed: June 2018

Wagner’s Ring in orchestral guise, which works well from the Buffalo Philharmonic and JoAnn Falletta, not so much a set of the oft-termed “bleeding chunks”, rather a wholesome tone poem, a story to tell.

From Rheingold is ‘Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla’, which shimmers into life, harp well-captured, strings softly radiant, and there is a wonderfully eloquent oboe solo (from 3’32”); furthermore, the brass-playing impresses for its sensitivity and security at a low dynamic – and you are never in any doubt that Falletta has thought-through where this music is going, and when the conclusion is reached it is majestic.

From there to Walküre and, yes, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, airborne and rousing (trombones biting but not obstreperous, side drum rolls a vivid part of the mix), and then to the most-extended section, ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’, the former emotionally charged and with heartfelt expression, with athletic brass and whirling strings then heralding the mystical ‘Fire Music’, to which ‘Forest Murmurs – we’re in Siegfried now – makes for a pastoral and enchanted contrast (lovely violin solo and very personable woodwind-birdsong contributions).

To the denouement that is Götterdämmerung. The early-morning gloom of dawn is well-conveyed as Siegfried prepares for his ‘Rhine Journey’, brought off with purpose and a breadth of wonderment (nimble horn solo, but the cello was a surprise), and from a youthful adventurer Siegfried soon becomes a corpse, his ‘Funeral Music’ nobly realised here, and glowering. The ‘Immolation Scene’ (without of course Brünnhilde’s vocal presence) is given with urgency and an increasing sense of redemption – real theatrical intensity – with something palpable saved for a significant ending, one of those for which words fail, but only too apparent is these musicians’ depth of engagement.

Unusually for such a collection, arrangers are credited if in a sketchy way. No worries with “E. Humperdinck” – Engelbert, famed for his Hänsel und Gretel opera, and a one-time assistant of Wagner – but “H. Zumpe” and “W. Hutschenruyter” might have been fleshed out; I assume the latter to be the Dutch conductor Wouter Hutschenruyter, 1859-1943. As for “L. Šťastný” (‘Funeral Music’), maybe it’s a relative of Jan, the Czech composer and cellist (1764-1830). You need to be Sherlock Holmes sometimes. But this is an aside to the main event, an impressive survey of Ring music, very well recorded.

 

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