WAGNER: Parsifal
Klaus Florian Vogt (Parsifal); Falk Struckmann (Amfortas); Robert Holl (Gurnemanz); Katarina Dalayman (Kundry); Netherlands Radio Choir; State Male Choir 'Latvija;' Netherlands Radio Choir and Philharmonic Orch/Jaap van Zweden, cond.
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72519 (4 disks + DVD) TT: 63:22 / 42:56 / 66:00 / 73:46 / DVD 81 min.

WAGNER: A Faust Overture. Columbus Overture. WAGNER-DE VLIEGER: Meistersinger - An Orchestral Tribute. Two Tragic Entracts.
Royal Scottish National Orch/Neeme Järvi, cond.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opo. 74 "Pathétique." Capriccio Italien, Op. 45.
Russian National Orch/Mikhail Pletnev, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 5186386 TT: 62:13

There are dozens of recordings of Wagner's Parsifal. Most major conductors have had a go at it and competition is high for this remarkable new releases—but it stands up well by any standards. Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden, a major figure in today's musical world, was born in Amsterdam in 1960, and became the youngest concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1979 playing with them in that position until 1996. The following year he began his conducting career and held top positions with the Hague Residency and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic orchestras. In 2008 he became music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and he also leads the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. Zweden also has appeared as guest conductor with most of the major orchestras. He has a particular interest in Wagner. In recent years he has led concert performances of Lohengrin and Die Meistersinger, and now we have this Parsifal which was recorded, during a Matinee Concert in December 2010 in the Concertgebouw. The cast is outstanding, orchestral playing is of the high standard we have come to expect in Amsterdam, and the performance has the major plus of the warm acoustics of the venue. Wagner's glorious score has never sounded richer. A plus is the 81-minute DVD that offers ten excerpts from the opera filmed at the concert. This set is beautifully produced with profuse program notes. The only debit is the libretto which is in German only and although the disks are tracked, the track information is not included in the libretto text, which would have been helpful for most listeners. Still, this is an outstanding release, and highly recommended.

Henk de Vlieger (b. 1953) Dutch percussionist composer and arranger, is known particularly for his virtuosity as a percussionist. He is a member of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and also"in general service" with the four major Dutch orchestras. Vlieger has made many arrangements including symphonic suites from operas by Wagner. Some of these were recorded with Edo de Waart (to whom they are dedicated) conducting the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic; this site mentioned the Tristan disc (REVIEW). Neemi Järvi has been recording all of these with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and this new release is the last in the series. Previously issued were The Ring (REVIEW), Tristan and Isolde (REVIEW), and Parsifal (REVIEW). Vlieger offers a 48-minute "symphonic compilation" of music from Meistersinger that includes all of the best-known music. As with the other releases, Järvi tends towards brisk tempi and, in spite of fine playing by the Scottish orchestra, there is little Wagnerian grandeur to be heard here. For most collectors, the most interest will be the overture to the early opera Columbus, and the two tragic entr'actes written in 1832 intended for the play König Enzio by Ernst Raupach. Wagner orchestrated only the beginning of the first entr'acte, but left sketches for the remainder; these were completed by Vlieger. This is minor Wagner, but of interest to all who wish to hear the composer's earliest work. The SACD ends with the more familiar A Faust Overture. Chandos' audio is of their usual standard although a bit more distant than usual.

Mikhail Pletnev (b. 1957) is a phenomenal musician. At the age of 21, he won the VI International Tchaikovsky Competition, and his pianistic career is well documented on recordings in a wide range of repertory including DVDs of exciting live performances of Tchaikovsky's works for piano and orchestra recorded in Moscow. Pletnev developed a keen interest in conducting, and in 1990, with the help of Mikhail Gorbachev, formed the Russian National Orchestra. Their first recording, Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony was lauded when first issued, and since that time Pletnev and the RNO have many highly praised recordings for DGG including most of Tchaikovsky's major works. Now Pletnev has returned to the symphonies for Pentatone; this Pathétique (the conductor's third of the work), joins the previously issued Symphony No. 4 (with Romeo and Juliet) (REVIEW), and Symphony No. 5 (with Francesca da Rimini) (REVIEW). And it is a stunning interpretation in every way. The first movement exposition has dramatic power with majestic brass punctuation, yet no lack of sensitivity for the famous principal theme. The third movement begins at a hectic pace but soon settles down, a riveting performance indeed, and there is no lack of tragedy in the finale. This surely is among the finest Pathétiques to be had, with the Capriccio a vivacious filler. All were recorded in Moscow's DZZ Studio in June 2010, and the engineering is typical of Pentatone.

R.E.B. (October 2011)