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Wagner: Overtures & Preludes
Richard Wagner, Karl Muck, Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Wagner: Overtures & Preludes
Genre: Classical
 
Muck (1859-1940) had a successful international career that included leadership of the Boston Symphony and a reputation as a leading Wagnerian. Though a Bayreuth mainstay for decades, he left a meager recorded legacy. Alon...  more »

     
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CD Details

All Artists: Richard Wagner, Karl Muck, Berlin State Opera Orchestra
Title: Wagner: Overtures & Preludes
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Naxos
Release Date: 9/17/2002
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Forms & Genres, Symphonies, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 636943185827

Synopsis

Amazon.com
Muck (1859-1940) had a successful international career that included leadership of the Boston Symphony and a reputation as a leading Wagnerian. Though a Bayreuth mainstay for decades, he left a meager recorded legacy. Along with his 1927 recording of excerpts from Parsifal, also available on Naxos, this disc contains nearly all his electrical recordings. But don't let the dates--1927 to 1929--deter you. Sure, Wagner requires sound that's adequate to the dynamics and tonal splendor of his large orchestra, but the work of transfer engineer Mark Obert-Thorn on these ancient recordings is nothing short of miraculous. This sound here is akin to circa 1950 mono, and the performances have a spaciousness, structural integrity, and nobility that elevate them above the routine. Muck occupies an interpretive place midway between the emotional and spiritual generosity of a Furtwängler and the intensity of a Toscanini; these are straightforward, stylish readings enlivened with little personal touches that bring the music to life. Here's a rare chance to hear Wagner from a conductor who grew up when this music was excitingly new. --Dan Davis
 

CD Reviews

Ouch...my ears!
08/17/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)

"These performances may be interesting from a historical point of view, but the orchestra is very bad. They are out of tune most of the time, and the ensemble playing leaves a lot to be desired. I am well acquainted with the general standards of orchestral performance in the 1920's, and have a large collection of 78's from this period. This orchestra is third rate, even by 1920's standards. There are recordings of the London Symphony under Weingartner, Chicago under Stock, New York under Mengelberg, and Philadelphia under Stokowski from the same period that are played far better.
Muck's renditions are very objective and uneccentric. That is partly a stylistic choice, and I believe it is partly because the orchestras he had access to were just not capable of playing the music except on a very basic level. I have heard municipal youth orchestras that are better than this.
The transfers are excellent, and Mark Obert-Thorn has done a fine job of getting every scrap of sound off of those original disks.
One question to bear in mind is: if not for the historical significance of the recording, would you still want to listen to it as a performance? In other words, is there good music making on this disc that holds its own as a musical performance regardless of its historical context? The answer here, in my opinion, is "no." If you are studying early twentieth century performance practice, and your sole interest is an example of just how unromantic and technically incapable some performances of the time could be, then by all means, part with your money and buy this recording.
If you want to hear what Muck was truly capable of, given a more capable orchestra, you should listen to his recording of Parsifal with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra (Naxos Historical 8.110049-50). His style there is also very plain and direct, but on that recording there are sounds of music being made: still with some imperfections, but nothing grotesque or sub-par for the time. There is just a tad more elasticity (hardly noticeable, but just enough to tell that the musicians understand what they are playing and are capable of some kind of expression). I have nothing against objectivist Wagner performances - Klemperer's are among my favorites, I just cannot stand inept performances being reissued for no reason other than having the label of "historic.""