Sunday, July 28, 2013

Karl Böhm conducts Wagner's Overtüren & Vorspiele

   Richard Wagner operatic and dramatic works are significant contribution into development of post-romantic orchestration and process of reshaping the symphonic orchestra. He also had played his role in German politics of 19th and early 20th century. As composer he was close to Ludwig II of Bavaria and his music was used as a forefront of German culture in its nationalistic era. From another point of view Richard Wagner was one of most important composers in German culture of the 20th century, who developed harmonic and melodic language to meet the needs of modern musical theatre. No wonder his works played the key role in the career of Karl Böhm, one of most important Austrian conductors of the 20th century.
   Since Karl Böhm was conductor specializing in opera, Richard Wagner’s works were important part of his repertoire. He debuted in Vienna in 1933 conducting Tristan und Isolde. Wagnerian repertoire was Böhm’s great success after 1957 debut in Metropolitan Opera in New York. He conducted in New York Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Walküre, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In 60’s he was also active in Bayreuth Festival – his 1962 Bayreuth debut was Tristan und Isolde again. In 1965 to 1967 he made complete Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle, which he later recorded in his critically acclaimed interpretation. The result of his Bayreuth performing experiences was also recording of Tristan und Isolde.

Karl Böhm conducts Wagner's Overtüren & Vorspiele (1981)

   Importance of Wagner’s music in Karl Böhm’s artistic biography is clear considering his discography with most valuable complete recordings of musical dramas for Philips. Wagner’s music was also significant element of modern symphonic repertoire which for Böhm was extremely important for Richard Strauss music. In his late years Karl Böhm recorded two albums of Wagner symphonic fragments, both for Deutsche Grammophon, both with Wiener Philharmoniker and both published under the same name: Overtüren & Vorspiele.  In 1979  Overtüren & Vorspiele comprised overtures and preludes from Rienzi, Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg and Parsifal. Next year, in Großer Saal of Wiener Musikverein in June 1980, Karl Böhm with Wiener Philharmoniker recorded next Overtüren & Vorspiele album. This time program had comprised Der Fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde. The recording has been published in 1981 in Karl-Böhm-Ausgabe Serie Galerie with Caspar David Friedrich’s Auf dem Segler painting illustrating the cover.
   Karl Böhm is interpreting Wagner overtures in his own way. His attitude is more dramatic than illustrative, more as if it was symphonic poem, than overtures or fragments of stage music. The one opening of this record is overture to Der Fliegende Holländer piece of so many onomatopeic sugestions it can be seen as illustrative music, but still it shows symphonic potential. More dependent of dramatic context are preludes to 1st and 3rd acts of Lohengrin. But still Vorspiel zum 3. Akt shows dramatic potential of Wagner’s orchestral narration. Second side is Prelude and Isolde’s Love Death Scene from Tristan und Isolde. These fragments have strong bounds with dramatic story of famous lovers and can serve as the hallmark of Wagner’s music. The powerful foundation of Böhm’s renditions are Wiener Philharmoniker, one of very best orchestras ever. Precision of articulation, transparency of clear and deep orchestral sound gives this performance solemn and noble taste. Even without Caspar David Friedrich’s picture reproduction this album is five star recording.

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