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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2018 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CD Review: The Goodall Mastersingers

"Open The Shrine! "

Yes, we're back after a holiday absence. Welcome to the 2009 edition of the Superconductor blog-your source for the best classical music coverage that I can find time to write about.

I know things have been dead on this page for a little while--I think every serious writer goes through "down" periods of lesser creativity where you are grinding out words but, in the words of Roger Waters, "running over the same old ground." Rather than do that (and bore the audience), I sometimes take a break from blogging. Break's over. Back to work!

I'd like to open up this year's 'Conductor (yes, it's 2009, we are closing out our second year!) by writing about one of my favorite Wagner recordings. Yeah. There's a shock. I write a lot about Wagner because I happen to KNOW a lot about it--recordings, trivia, performances and those ten (yes, it's really thirteen but the canon is ten operas) magnificent mammoth musical edifices, which never cease to amaze, fascinate and sometimes stupify audiences into submission. There's lots of interesting stuff to write about, so let's get to it shall we?

This is the first-ever Chandos issue of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, a live radio recording made in 1968 at the Sadler Wells company, and, like everything else put out by that company, sung in English. 

This is from the days long before supertitle systems. Writers would make a "singing translation", one that had the same meter and rhythm as the original words of the libretto. Wagner, with his distinctive pseudo-high-German stabreim was particularly susceptible to this practice.

Like most Goodall recordings (the British conductor also preserved his English-language Ring and a German-language Parsifal recorded in Wales, the tempos are incredibly slow, even glacial. It's ponderous, carefully thought out music making that lumbers along and demands the utmost from players forced to slow and stretch notes to fit the conductor's design. However, slow conducting can often reveal some interesting sub-textures of the musical fabric of a piece, underthemes and buried motifs that may only be apparent through perusal of a full score. 

The cast includes an excellent Alberto Remedios (who would go on to record both Siegmund and Siegfried in the Goodall Ring) and Norman Bailey, whose superb Hans Sachs is better here than on the somewhat lead-footed Solti recording from the 1970s. Yes, it's for the completist, and yes the translation of the libretto is often awkward, but this is a fascinating Meister...excuse me, Mastersingers, making a welcome arrival in the catalogue after languishing in a British vault for forty years.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.