Neeme Järvi is back conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the third of four albums featuring Henk de Vlieger’s bold arrangements of operas by Wagner. Of the first album (CHSA 5060), Classic FM wrote: ‘Dutch composer Henk de Vlieger builds a penetrating symphonic poem that reflects the dramatic depths of The Ring.’
In Volume 3, De Vlieger turns to Wagner’s tragic-romantic opera Tristan und Isolde, which is here treated symphonically. The key themes of anticipation, longing, rapture, separation, hope, death, and transfiguration are expressed solely through orchestral forces. A particularly striking feature of the lovers’ duet, a movement entitled ‘Nachtgesang’, is the conspicuous presence of the violin and the clarinet, which pick out the sung parts of the two lovers. The movement ends on an unresolved chord followed by a compelling caesura, which symbolises the painful realisation that it will never be possible for them to fulfil their great love.
This disc also includes the overture to Wagner’s Die Feen. This was the composer’s first great romantic, although less well-known, opera. The overall style of the work, based on La donna serpente by Carlo Gozzi, owes its essentials to Beethoven, Marschner, and Weber – something that Wagner himself never hid in the least. However, the opera also displays clearly audible foreshadowings of the composer’s later works, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, in particular.
Wagner based Das Liebesverbot on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, and included on this disc is the overture to the opera. It is perhaps the most Mediterranean-sounding of the composer’s operas, something especially apparent in the brimming vitality of the overture in which the tone is set straight away by the sparkling contributions of castanets, triangle, and tambourine. Described as a ‘große komische Oper’, it was composed in 1834, and Wagner conducted the premiere at Magdeburg in 1836. The first performance poorly attended and
involving a lead singer who forgot the words and had to improvise, the opera was a resounding flop and its second performance had to be cancelled after a fist-fight broke out backstage between the prima donna’s husband and a leading tenor before the curtain had even risen. The opera was never performed again in Wagner’s lifetime.