Notes & Reviews:
With this set, Halle releases the live recordings of their universally acclaimed performance of Wagner's Gotterdammerung. This recording was made live at sold-out concerts, which were the showpiece of the Halle's 2009 artistic season. The atmosphere at the concerts was electric, the critics unanimous in their praise, and the audiences ecstatic. Without doubt, this was one of the most exciting musical events ever to have been staged in The Bridgewater Hall!
"Recorded "live" over two nights at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall last May, this performance serves as both culmination of, and progress report on, Sir Mark Elder's first decade with the Hallé. It gives the players, in extenso, the chance to display their current skills and to show how the Hallé has come to reacquire, under Elder, its verve in Romantic 19th- and early 20th-century scores.
Although Elder was an early student of both Georg Solti and Edward Downes, relatively quick Wagnerians, his own Wagner has more parallels in texturing and overall Klang to the 1970s ENO Ring performances under Reginald Goodall (Elder's act lengths are 122'18" / 70'48" / 90'58"; Goodall in London 1974 took 138'18" / 78'58" / 94'13", while the "fast" Clemens Krauss - at speeds more typical of today's practice - travelled in 1953 at 115'09" / 66'48" / 75'10"). There is evidence of how Elder has absorbed Goodall-like detail and patience and passed it on to his players: the wind playing throughout, the needlepoint-accurate placing and enunciation of the timpani part, or the tricky string concertato under Gutrune's final, vain attempt to denounce Brünnhilde in Act 3.
But Elder uses time to put distinct space or style into a particular scene more than to make grand, weighty effects. His Act 1 Gibich court, characterfully inhabited by experienced vocal actors Peter Coleman-Wright and Nancy Gustafson, is rather French in its instrumental cadenzas and trills - a reference Wagner surely intended. And much of Act 3's longer-than-usual playing time is used, in the hunters' feast scene that precedes Siegfried's murder, for careful observation of Wagner's pauses and tempo changes to achieve a tension not normally attained until the Funeral March proper.
The situation of a concert performance - including here the splitting of the opera over two nights - allows for greater freshness of voice and accuracy in passages like Siegfried's exit aria in Act 2 ("Munter, ihr Mannen!") or the intervals Brünnhilde has to negotiate in her Act 2 accusations. Attila Jun not only sounds like one of the blackest Hagens since the Greindl/Frick heyday but can place his bleating sheep imitations and other cadential moments spot on the note. Rhinemaidens and Norns (definitely some Wagnerians of the future here) are rich individually and together. Susan Bickley makes Waltraute's tale a tragedy of loss more than a disguised plea for the ring, and Andrew Shore returns his Alberich from Bayreuth with interest.
The whole is topped by a serious and quite dark pair from Sweden. Lars Cleveman is a thinking, tragic Siegfried, well matching his conductor's conception of the work. His Brünnhilde, Katarina Dalayman, brings a good mixture of soprano and mezzo colours to the role, by turns steely and strong, or touchingly vulnerable. Her Immolation is unusually visionary and clear-sighted.
The recording quality plays to, or has used, the hall and the performance well, accommodating the large full chorus. There is a goodly space around the orchestra, the singers and important solos never sounding artificially engineered. Off- or near-stage perspectives are convincingly realised. This release on the Halle's own label intriguingly offers the opera on either a single MP3 disc or a five-CD set, making the new performance competitive and immediately tempting as a second-option choice. In any event it's the most compelling and best-cast Götterdämmerung on disc since Barenboim's from Bayreuth." -Gramophone Awards, 2010 / Opera winner
"Recorded live in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall over two evenings in May, 2009, this concert recording of Wagner's Götterdämmerung easily stands among the work's three or four finest on disc. For starters, it is sumptuously yet naturally engineered, with voices and instruments in ideal perspective, and there's realistic depth and definition to the orchestral image no matter how texturally complex or threadbare. As with Reginald Goodall, Mark Elder's tempos are slow, but they never, ever drag because the conductor's strong inner rhythm fuels the carefully coaxed and painstakingly balanced linear strands.
This is mainly apparent in orchestral interludes. In Siegfried's Rhine Journey, for example, notice the churning string accompaniment's pronounced dynamic gradations, and the rarely heard leitmotivs that bubble to the surface. The myriad tempo changes and drawn out rests in the hunting scene leading up to and including Siegfried's dying words are taken on faith as they often are not, and the conductor plays up the gnawing half-step steerhorn dissonances in Act 2 while letting the low strings slightly drag, creating a kind of primeval sound world that couldn't be more appropriate for the moment. It also allows for the choral antiphony to build momentum and maintain full comprehensibility.
And what a cast! Lars Cleveman's multi-leveled vocal acting and musical security add up to an impressively tender, proud, and vulnerable Siegfried. Katarina Dalayman's Brünnhilde holds equal allure, and equal tonal command in all registers. In Alberich's brief scene at the start of Act 2, Bayreuth veteran Andrew Shore is a little too guttural at times, but Attila Jun's dark yet agile Hagen nearly steals the show--and that's not to take anything away from Peter Coleman-Wright's sensitive singing as Gunther. Some listeners may find Susan Bickley a more understated, less emotive Waltraute than "tradition" deems, yet her impeccable diction and legato control speak for themselves. I also should mention the Norns and the Rhinemaidens--what splendid and superbly blended vocal trios!
Although the opera could have fit onto four CDs, a five-disc deployment allows Act 2 to stand alone on one disc, and for Act 3 to be logically divided across two discs as Act 1 usually is. The fifth disc contains a full libretto and English translation as a PDF document. Even if you already own Solti (Decca), Keilberth (Testament), or Barenboim (Teldec), Elder's Götterdämmerung adds up to a most fulfilling and modestly priced dramatic and musical experience that no serious Wagnerian should miss."-classicstoday.com
"In 2009 the Hallé performed the last and arguably greatest opera in Wagner's Ring cycle. Chief conductor Mark Elder complemented his powerful and appropriately refulgent orchestra with a superlative cast. Originally performed over two nights in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, these critically acclaimed performances can now be enjoyed in one impressive installment on the Hallé's own label." -BBC Music Awards nominee, 2011Notes & Reviews:
Recording information: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (05/09/2009-05/10/2009).
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Works DetailsWagner, Richard : Götterdämmerung
- Conductor: Mark Elder
- Notes: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (05/09/2009-05/10/2009)
- Running Time: 130 min. 31 sec.
- Period Time: Romantic
- Form: Opera/Operetta
- Written: 1869-1874
Sound, Recorded : Applause
- Notes: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (05/09/2009-05/10/2009)
- Running Time: 7 min. 58 sec.
- Period Time: Medieval
Unspecified : Götterdämmerung Libretto [CD-ROM track]