WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman – Overture; Venusberg Music from Tannhauser; Siegfried Idyll – Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jascha Horenstein – HDTT DSD 256 (39:23) [www.highdeftapetransfers.ca] ***:
While it always proves gratifying to see the recorded legacy of Ukrainian-born maestro Jascha Horenstein (1898-1973) extended, especially in the improved sound the HDTT label offers, this release, taped September 29-30,1962 at the Walthamstow Town Hall, London, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s former ensemble, suffers the major drawback of its brevity. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra obviously responds well to Horenstein’s leadership, especially in the horn section as led by Barry Tuckwell. So, the 1843 Overture to The Flying Dutchman resonates with turmoil, physical and psychical, as the D Minor strife depicts the Dutchman’s quest for redemptive love. The “Senta” motif, given by the English horn, and the agonized, long line of the string section and harp communicate the promise that the potent force of the sea has met an equally virile counterpart in the human need for personal fulfillment. In one of Nietzsche’s many, witty diatribes on the subject of Richard Wagner, he used to label this music “obvious Sentamentality!”
The ‘Venusberg Music” from Tannhauser, the expanded version of Act I for a Paris production of 1861, has remained a vivid curio in the history of musical drama, since Wagner had little patience with French taste. The voluptuousness Venus embodies represents the sensibility the minstrel Tannhauser must reject, although the poet Baudelaire admired what he called “an unbridled love, immense, chaotic, elevated to the height of a counter-religion, a satanic religion.” Horenstein moves his forces briskly, the gallop of the hazy opening swirling its way to the castanets and evocations of amorous frenzy. When the sensuous energies abate, Wagner’s Graces summon the sleeping Cupids, who engage the revelers in a militant battle for virtue. The (unnamed) chorus of sirens call, “Draw near the shore! Approach the land, where, in the arms of glowing love, let blissful warmth content your desires!” Given the level of playing of the Royal Philharmonic, the chromatic and kaleidoscopic harmonies from Wanger have rarely had such pungent realization. In one of Nietzsche’s many, witty diatribes on the subject of Richard Wagner, he would characterize this music as “blatant Sentamentality!”
Wagner’s gentle score from 1870, a fond memory Wagner’s Lucerne home at Triebschen, the symphonic poem Siegfried Idyll, remains among his most immediately attractive scores. Wagner’s opera Siegfried provides such elements as the opening horn motif, the forest bird, and the love music, all meant as a birthday present to Cosima Wagner on Christmas Day. The original orchestration called for a modest band of 13 players. Horenstein again does not dally with his tempos, although his relatively quick pace never detracts from the bucolic intimacy of the occasion. As in the Tannhauser excerpt, the rounded intonations of the string, wind, and horn choirs prove exemplary. Horenstein has bequeathed us a softly lulling reading, without drag or undue bathos, that stands well against those glowing renditions from his illustrious contemporaries Bruno Walter, Hans Knappertsbusch, and Wilhelm Furtwaengler. One could only ask for more music on this disc!