RICHARD WAGNER: Tristan & Isolde an orchestral passion (orchestral version by Henk de Vlieger) – Philharmonisches Orchester Hagen/Antony Hermus – Acousence DVD + FLAC Hybrid High Definition Master Recording, ACO-DF 40707, 60:21 – Performance ***** Sound *** [www.acousence.de/]:
Henk de Vlieger, a well know Dutch percussionist, arranger and composer took music from Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) long music-drama Tristan und Isolde and from that he created a one-hour orchestral version. In the process de Vlieger also composed a few small connecting parts to logically lace discrete parts; in the end he succeeded in delivering a symphonic suite, or what could be called a Wagner symphony. It should be noted that this is only one of four such works which were commissioned by noted conductor Edo de Waart in the 90s; nowadays this is commonly referred as the de Vlieger-Wagner tetralogy. The present orchestral version connects central passages from the eponymous opera and follows the action with music, without words. The complete opera with all the words runs for approximately four hours and de Vlieger selected from the opera’s three long acts seven pre-eminently symphonic passages including some which are sung originally, but excluding the sung parts.
From the artistic point of view de Vlieger’s orchestral version of Tristan und Isolde more than fulfills its intended mission. His is an orchestral version of an opera, one unlike most operas we know. Operas in general have as an attachment music that is like the floor carpet one stands on, one that after a while one forgets it’s there. We remember the singing and perhaps a catchy music-driven melody, that’s the standard opera we are all used to. On the other hand Wagner’s music-dramas beginning with Tristan und Isolde and continuing with the four included in The Ring and his last Parsifal is not at all like those standard operas we normally think about. No, the music supports the action, the plot, singing, instrumental and orchestral acoustics, and visually-staggering lighting effects. One always knows the music “is” the opera…the music “bites” and won’t let go of us, and nothing would make much sense without that music.
In Wagner’s operas the music is our friend and without it one would probably understand very little – the music is the driver. It is that music or portions thereof that de Vlieger picked out from four hours of continuous melodizing. Those chosen segments are the ones that “bite” into out memory just like a great Requiem Mass, one that exerts musical tension by creating revealing emotional burst of love and passion, hate and discord, darkness and death, light and life…those are the things that bite us. Wagner was a master in creating that musical tension and here de Viegler in one hour gives us a selective view or panorama of the opera without a single word. Just as Wagner was, de Vlieger is a master of emotions and I think of his music and the other three in his tetralogy as real musical masterpieces which Wagner fans should not do without.
Now to the sound; the original recording for this work was performed on 18/19 June, 2007, with Antony Hermus conducting the very able and uncommonly expressive Philharmonisches Orchester Hagen, Germany. It should also be noted that a 24Bit/192kHz high-definition master tape was created then from which by now three different discs with also three different sound formats have been produced by the same label (Acousence). I have already reviewed the regular Red Book CD version (April 2008) which had also the distinction of being nominated by this magazine as one of the Best CDs of 2008. Presently, that original 24Bit/192kHz master recording has also been bit-mapped down to 24Bit/96kHz to produce a High-Def stereo DVD + FLAC hybrid disc.
When reviewing the first CD version I considered that to be the best orchestral CD I had ever heard. However, this time on testing with the same equipment the DVD-Audio and the FLAC-Audio version on the present disc and comparing it with the CD version I came to the conclusion that the CD version had better sound! The CD version’s sound “bites” while the hybrid DVD and the FLAC are just placid and mellow. [I had Acousence send me a separate copy, auditioned it and must agree with JN. Something must have gone wrong in the bit-mapping or mastering. We both checked to make the CD and DVD were not mislabled…Ed.]
— John Nemaric