Sir Georg Solti was known to be one of the greatest Wagnerians of all time and Decca is paying him a timely tribute with a reissue of eleven operas that make up his complete Wagner oeuvre'.
In the case of 'Mastersingers' Solti made two recordings, one in the mid-seventies with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and a later 90's version with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It is this latter version that has been selected for the Solti Wagner Edition and it also boasts a stronger cast, yet the provenance of a concert live recording somewhat reduces the appeal. However, Jose' van dam is quite superb as a virile and excellent Hans Sachs whilst Alan Opie is a Beckmesser to be proud of, although Sir Geraint Evans (Karajan/1970) is still king of the role. Rene Pape's Pogner is also very fine although there have been other fine exponents of the role in the past. Solti holds the score together very well indeed although there are some points where I do not wholly agree with his rushed pacing especially towards the end of the First Act. On the whole, however this is a fine 'Mastersingers' that holds its own amongst the best.
Decca's packaging is truly top-class all around with period paintings giving a truly medieval stance to the set. The libretto is also very fine and a model of clarity which shows that true traditional opera recordings do deserve this type of presentation.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech