The legend appears at last
Robert J. Cruce | Muskogee, OK United States | 12/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is truly a legendary artistic document, as good as lost until now. And we have it in the best sound we will ever have. The best rescue possible was done. When one reads names like Seth Winner and Ward Marston associated with this project one can be assured of that. It is a memorable Meistersinger. You will want this if you venerate the Maestro, of course. It is still a "historic" recording so expect to make allowances after 66 years even with the excellent new transfer and restoration. Others have related the history of the festival where this was recorded and the artistic merits of the performers. We would give this 5 stars, but must withhold one in the face of the glorious modern Meistersingers that have been recorded. For the devotee of Toscanini, surely. Others could enjoy this set as an alternative if sufficiently interested and willing to pay the price."
Great music making
Nathaniel R. Brown | Edmonds, Washington | 02/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, the sound: surprisingly good in places, dated "off the air" sound in others (even though it's not off the air), very horn-dominated (microphone placement, one suspects). That said, the resoration is brilliant - but this is not a recording for those who do not easily listen to old recordings.
Presentation: luxury, fascinating booklet. This is the way opera sets or great performances should be presented.
And then the performance.
There are few such "live" Meistersingers available, by which I mean not only the live performance, but also the lively response to the score and the words. Only Karajan II is so "with" the music (though Kubelik and Furtwaengler are glorious). A superb Walter in Knoort (actually taking soft notes softly!), perhaps the best Eva on disc in Reining, and a very good Pogner and Beckmesser: all these artists make the words count, and have rehearsed with Toscannini to the point where musical nuances one never heard before are effortlessly accomplished, and illuminating.
If I save the Sach, Nissen, for last, it is in recognition that this is a long sing. He handles it all well, with a beautiful, well-rounded voice and clear diction - but one feels that it doesn't wuite catch fire the way it might. A very good Sachs, but not a Schorr (the best of all) or Schoeffler (perhaps the best "modern" Sachs).
Do not buy this unless you are willing to hear "through" some rough spots, but this is a treasure of a performance, and a momento of the last autumn of European music making before the long night of the Nazis and the war.
(For memories of the festival, with Lotte Lehman singing Lieder under Walter, look for Viktor Gollancz's "Journey Toward Music" or Eric kestner's "Kleine Grenzverkehr." They were both there before the night fell.)