Wagner Overtures

0 of 5 stars

König Enzio
Das Liebesverbot
Die Feen
Christoph Columbus
Eine Faust-Ouvertüre

Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra
Alexander Rahbari

Recorded April 2002 in Teatro Cervantes, Malaga, Spain

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: October 2004
CD No: NAXOS 8.557055
Duration: 59 minutes

It took a second look at the CD cover to register that this release is attractively devoid of the Wagner overtures, preludes and ‘bleeding chunks’ that have been recorded ad nauseam. Although nothing here is essayed for the first time, only Rienzi and Faust have any claim to being staples of the gramophone and then, in terms of units, fall way short of Lohengrin, Mastersingers, Tannhäuser and The Flying Dutchman.

Not unreasonably, I suppose, prospective purchasers of this CD will wonder if the Malaga Philharmonic is up to the task. It is, and while the playing is not the most refined, there is an enthusiasm that sustains Alexander Rahbari’s vibrant and non-indulgent conducting; he likes picking out details, creating dynamic contrasts, and is not shy in forwarding colour and dramatic impetus.

Rienzi, well known, the epic opera itself being something of a rarity, is warmly phrased in Rienzi’s Hymn while the March theme is suitably upbeat. König Enzio is an overture to a play and was written by Wagner in 1832 (he had just entered his ‘twenties); it displays little or no traits of the composer to be, but it has its attractions. As, indeed, do the overtures to ‘The Ban on Love’ and ‘The Fairies’ (which both predate Rienzi) – tuneful and well crafted, as is Christopher Columbus, another musical prologue to a play; as a scene-setter it works well enough. In some respects, these performances’ vividness is ideal Wagner’s precocious scores.

Faust is more tone poem than overture, although Wagner himself termed it Eine Faust-Ouvertüre (Naxos simply terms it Faust), the latest music here (as revised) and which stands apart in sheer quality and individuality. Rahbari invests quite a lot of theatricality into this rendition, and while this tends to devalue the music’s idealistic qualities, the conductor’s dramatic spirit offers compensation.

The recording, made in a warm but rather too resonant acoustic, tends to blur edges in fortissimos but detail is clear at other times; the Malaga Philharmonic has a personable woodwind section. Ultimately, this collection is a good idea and persuasively carried out.

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