Avoid the Myto edition of the Kubelik Meistersinger
Gary Galo | Potsdam, NY USA | 02/22/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The Kubelik Meistersinger is an outstanding performance, perhaps the best ever recorded in stereo. But, the Myto edition is from a bootleg copy, in inferior sound, and pitched slightly flat. The recording was once available in a fine transfer from the original Bavarian Radio stereo tapes on the Calig label, but Calig is now defunct. The German label Arts Music has now re-mastered this recording 96kHz/24-bit, also from the original stereo tapes. The catalog number is 43020 - this is now the preferred edition of this recording, and the price is far less than the Myto. Arts Music has also issued a Bavarian Radio Parsifal with Kubelik from 1980, an equally fine performance, cat. number 43027. Let's hope that Amazon.com carries both of these recordings soon. In the mean time, avoid the Myto Meistersinger at all costs!"
Terrific, but certainly doesn't eclipse the Solti !
MartinP | Nijmegen, The Netherlands | 08/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well... Here's one of those must-have recordings, one of the all-time classics of the recording industry. So after I finally got to know, and love, Die Meistersinger through Solti's final recording on Decca, I just had to have this one too. Nothing but glowing reviews around, some of them snubbing Solti in the comparison. A stellar cast, a conductor at the height of his powers, and a recording that though made in 1967 "does not betray its age" (Gramophone) - this had to be really, really good. So I decided to splurge, and ordered it.
The first unpleasant surprise came directly on opening the package. Presentation is of secondary importance of course, but really: you can't market a recording like this at full price and then package it to look like the cheapest of super budget issues! That the cover layout is an eyesore is one thing - but the skimpy booklet, with no libretto and no timings for the tracks really is a disgrace, and compares very poorly indeed to the sumptuous 400-page documentation provided with the Solti (which in fact I bought at half the price I paid for this issue!).
The second shock came with the little phrase on the back cover: "Registrazione dal vivo" - i.e., live recording. Nobody had warned me about that! I hate live opera recordings, with all their stage noises destroying every opportunity to let your own fantasy roam free, if not obscuring the music itself. Fortunately, however, this Meistersinger was recorded in the Herkulessaal in Munich, during a concertante performance that is, and if there was an audience (which I doubt), it is inaudible.
And well, yes, the performance itself is indeed magnificent. Every one of the voices is terrific (though Janowitz's Eva is lacking just a touch in warmth, to my taste), and so are orchestra and chorus. Not that in my opinion Solti yields much to these standards; frankly I fail to register any differences of the kind that would make the Solti second-best and the Kubelik sublime. And sound-wise the Solti wins hands down, of course. "Does not betray its age"? You bet it does! Surely, for a recording made almost forty years ago this is extremely vivid. There is some tape hiss, but the ear quickly accustoms to it. A lot of orchestral detail can be heard, and I especially liked the audibility of the second violins placed opposite instead of next to the first (though this arrangement is ruthless in revealing that, inevitably, firsts and seconds are not always in sync) . Horns are also beautifully prominent, as is the bass-line (splendidly articulating the tune of Beckmesser's song while the ensuing brawl explodes over it in act 2).
But I didn't much like the close-miking of the voices, which are unnaturally oversized and cover too much of the orchestral sounds, and when fixed on one channel can become wearying (especially when listening through headphones).Franz Crass's (spectacularly powerful and firm) Pogner left me with a deaf right ear after Act 1. The stereo-effect is somewhat exaggerated. Also, there are several unsettling instances of old-fashioned tape "pre-echo".
But trouble really sets in as soon as the ensembles becomes larger. The dynamics fail to expand sufficiently to accommodate the exhilarating and complex crowd scenes at the end of each act. As a result the sound becomes strangely tinny and disembodied, distinctly unpleasant. Needless to say this ruins the climactic effect one desires. So even though this is undeniably a very great performance, I would certainly not prefer it over the Solti, which represents the work quite as dramatically cogent, with almost equally beautiful voices, and in a much more accommodating, natural and pleasant sound stage."
A highly mixed bag
Cheng Li-Lan | Beijing China | 06/25/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this CD largely based on the praises poured onto it by other reviews, after considerable hesitation over its price...The result: glad to own this rare recording, but quite disappointed that certain key elements are far from deserving those praises.Key strengths: 1) orchestra and conductor: sharp and nuanced reading. 2) Hans Sachs in Thomas Stewart: beautiful bass-baritone singing that's sensitive, lyrical and yet with all the dignity one would expect from the cobbler. 3) Gundula Janowitz's Eva: gorgeous voice. 4) David sung by Gerhard Unger: his Act I solo on the rules of the meisters is hard to beat.Key weaknesses: Walther. Sandor Konya is completely overrated. His singing is strained, his tone dry and lack in focus, his high notes painfully labored, approached from below, often flat, and with unpleasantly wide vibrato, or wobble. I have heard far better Walthers both in live performance and on record. Both Rene Kollo and Bene Heppner, who are available on other well known recordings, are much better. By the way, Myto Records adds at the end of the opera, as bonus, some old recordings of Walther's numbers sung by Franz Voelker and Lauriz Melchior. It's nice of Myto to do that, but unfortunately, it only further highlights the inadequacy of the featured Walther in the main recording.Strange casting: Thomas Hemsley and Beckmesser. He sounds completely unlike any other Beckmesser I had ever heard. Personally I don't like it: he almost sounds like a Don Basillio in Mozart's Figaro! But it's a matter of personal taste."
Perhaps an ideal meistersinger
S. F. Spooner | sheffield,england | 04/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am very grateful to have been warned off the myto recording and have able to track down an Arts and Archives one. The search is very well worth it. The hero of the piece (after wagner) is kubelik who conducts with extra-ordinary warmth and emotional depth.Thomas Stewart and Gundula Janowitz are pretty much ideal and the others are not far behind though I too have reservations about Sandor Konya ( I must confess to liking Domingo in this role if you can't have melchior).You can pine for Friedrich Schorr who must be the best Sachs ever recorded and for Furtwangler whose 1943 Bayreuth performance glows with a warmth no one has come near to since but as we have to have the whole performance ( Furtwangler's misses out a few absolutely vital bits) then for me it has to be Kubelik with Solti, Karajan 1951 and Kempe following along behind. Then the best recording ever of a bit of meistersinger is the quintet conducted by barbirolli with Schorr, melchior and Schumann. You can't breathe for the whole time it's on."
The one we had to wait for, but it was worth it
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 09/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"DG shelved this 1967 Meistersinger after a dispute over casting, in favor of a starrier 1976 version under Jochum featuring Domingo and a miscast Fishcer-Dieskau as a far too lightweight Sachs. That reading turns out to be a bit of a bust, but this one, once some smaller labels got hold of it around 1995, turns out to be a classic. Everyone is wonderful in every part, and if you happen to favor Stewart's direct, somewhat threatening style of Wagner--muted for this Sachs--you iwll particularly enjoy the absence of woolly, old Teutonic basses in the part. He is a bas-baritone with a more piercing, flexible, younger sound. Kubelik is brasher and faster than the usual Wagner conductors of the era, and on the whole it works, even though he's no Karajan in this piece. Highly recommended."