This is another welcome Decca re-issue in the newly refurbished 'Classic Opera' series. Throughout his long career, Solti was justly famous for his Wagner interpretations and his pioneering first studio recording of the 'Ring Cycle' also for Decca, has acquired cult status. This opera, as Solti himself confessed, was always close to his heart and it is the only Wagnerian work that he recorded twice.
The version under review is the first published in 1967 when Sir Georg was at the height of his powers and fame, in fact he managed to engage an array of stars worthy of the greatest occasion. In this first foray of 'Die Meistersinger', Solti is definitely more carefree, treating the music with a youthful freshness that is rather infectious and clothing it with a certain wit and humour that completely engages the listener, making him forget, albeit for a short while, that life has also its clouded skies.
The opera requires seven top class performers, and as earmarked earlier, Solti left no stone unturned to get some of the best then available for this recording. Bailey, Kollo, Bode, Hamari, Weikl, Moll and Dallapozza all sing with great heart and conviction. The Vienna Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra interpret this mammoth but sunny masterpiece flawlessly. The music is in their blood and the impression one gets is that they have lived with it since time immemorial
Although Sir Georg's second interpretation is more scholarly and controlled (he recorded it late in his career), this version is most welcome as it gives a very limpid picture of Wagner's inexhaustible genius. My only reservation is the booklet which contains only a short synopsis and the text, at least with translation. Some historic information would not have been amiss.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech