WAGNER : Die Meistersinger
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WAGNER: Die Meistersinger

spacer Gabler, Selinger; Jentzsch, Finley, Kränzle, Lehtipuu, Miles; Glyndebourne Chorus and London Philharmonic Orchestra, Jurowski. Text and translation. Glyndebourne GEOCD 021-11 (4) 

Unexpected Reverberations

Glyndebourne’s live recording of Die Meistersinger is unusually satisfying, thanks to conductor Vladimir Jurowski and the Hans Sachs of Gerald Finley.

MeistersingerCD

Gerald Finley’s Hans Sachs makes this an unusually satisfying Meistersinger. In his first Wagnerian assignment, recorded from live performances of David McVicar’s staging at Glyndebourne in 2011, the baritone masters the role with his customary insight and precision, the trademarks of this master singer of art songs. His presence has some unexpected reverberations too.

We hear more of Hans Sachs’s music than usual, starting with the sixteenth-notes on the word “Regeln” in one of his first lines in Act I  — a phrase usually blurred in live performance. Finley’s consistency supports a rich characterization. There’s enough low-register resonance in his imitation of King Marke in the Tristan quotation  to suggest maturity in attitude if not in years, along with realism and wit. And his robust top notes, with a freedom not often heard in the role, lend credibility to the romantic tensions with Eva and the hinted envy of Walther’s gifts. Resignation comes easily to the weary; but this Hans Sachs is audibly young and vital enough to have thought of remarriage. The stakes are higher for him here, and the drama’s relationships more complex.

That youthful quality affects other facets of the recording. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski (b. 1972) was music director of Glyndebourne for thirteen seasons (2001–13). The present Meistersinger,Jurowski’s second Wagner job at Glyndebourne, sounds more ebullient than the company’s 2009 revival of Tristan und Isolde, recently released on a Glyndebourne CD. Jurowski’s Tristan was marked by a brisk pace, intimacy and penetrating treatment of text. In Die Meistersinger, the music seems to overflow the textual framework in many major passages, and while Jurowski avoids dawdling (as in the lengthy roll-call in Act I ), he shows somewhat less interest now in close-order dialogue and taut control.

There’s a lyrical bias generally, starting with the rich instrumental solos that interrupt the stout hymn tune immediately after the overture . Jurowski almost seems to get carried away in the opera’s most crucial scene, in the first half of Act III — the dialogue between Walther and Sachs in which youth and age , originality and tradition meet and the prize song takes shape . In these exchanges the conductor maintains interest mostly by urgent pacing and rhapsodic orchestral flourishes, with the sense of excitement always growing. Finley’s Sachs doesn’t resort to hints of quasi-speech here as some of his famed predecessors have done for purposes of contrast and didacticism; his well-shaped legato phrases radiate the character’s artistic excitement at this birth of something new. 

In this scene and throughout, tenor Marco Jentzsch, as Walther, is rhythmically alert and uniformly brilliant and penetrating in tone, but he’s a poet who betrays little love of his own words. The developing stanzas and variations of his prize song  have the glowing precision of a virtuoso instrumental concerto; dramatic emphasis is provided mostly by the conductor’s cumulative accelerations. 

There’s special pleasure in the David sung by virtuoso Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu, who is dazzling in the ornate high phrases in Act I that are so often cut — or approximated — in opera houses. Solid projection and concern for detail mark the non-freakish Beckmesser of baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle. There’s no falsetto, no untoward exaggeration and no sense of this comic villain as a sinister Other, as he is characterized in some of Wagner’s commentaries. 

Anna Gabler’s rich-toned excitability finds her effective in Eva’s outbursts but less so in the meditative Act III quintet  and other soft passages. Barring a few slips among the brasses, the London Philharmonic plays the uncut score brilliantly, with the freshness of discovery. Glyndebourne’s chorus is especially supple and smart in a finale that demonstrates Jurowski’s taste for rational exuberance, energetic but free of bombast. spacer 

DAVID J. BAKER

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