First Pick: Wagner "Wesendonck" Lieder Recordings

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Lance
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First Pick: Wagner "Wesendonck" Lieder Recordings

Post by Lance » Sun Apr 27, 2008 3:30 pm

Richard Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder consists of five songs he wrote between 1857 and 1858 while having an affair with Mathila Wesendonck, herself married to the man who was Wagner's benefactor, Otto Wesendonck, a wealthy merchant. Wagner was married, at the time, to Minna, who died a few years later. The five songs were written for voice and orchestra, later adapated for piano accompaniment. The individual songs are entitled: I-Der Engel; II-Stehe still; III-Im Treibhaus; IV-Schmerzen; and V-Träume. It has been suggested with authority that the Wesendonck songs have a relationship with Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde. They could well be "exercises" or "studies" for Tristan. The songs require the same kind of dramatic soprano. Singers such as Kirsten Flagstad, Helen Traubel, and Eileen Farrell often sang the songs in recital and recorded them. Traubel was the only soprano of these three who recorded only three of the songs (with Stokowski), but if she had recorded them all, she would definitely be a top contender.

Here's a listing of CD and LP recordings I have at my disposal, and have rated my personal best preferences with four or five stars; this means that most of the rest are certainly acceptable and very fine in many cases:
  • Acanta 43.189 or Allegria 221093 - Kirsten Flagstad w/Oslo Philharmonic/Fjelstad, conductor
  • Archipel 0144 or AS Disc 422 - Kirsten Flagstad w/Bruno Walter, piano
  • Archipel 0312 or Music & Arts 263 -Kirsten Flagstad w/Edwin McArthur, conductor
  • **** Archipel 0396 or Gebhardt 0001 - Martha Modl w/Joseph Keilberth, conductor
  • ***** Philips 454.213 - Birgit Nilsson w/Colin Davis, conductor
  • *** Wigmore Hall 0022 - Christine Brewer, soprano w/Roger Vignoles, piano
  • AS Disc 360 or BBC 4190 - Kirsten Flagstad w/Sargent, conductor
  • **** BBC 2017 - Maureen Forrester w/John Newmark, piano
  • **** BBC 4086 - Janet Baker w/Goodall, conductor
  • **** Della Voce Luna 2000 - Tiana Lemnitz (2 versions) w/Raucheisen, piano
  • ***** Decca 478.0165 Marilyn Horne w/RPO, Henry Lewis, conductor
  • Forlane 16728 - Margaret Price w/G. Johnson, piano
  • Lys 469/70 - Kirsten Flagstad w/G. Sebastian, conductor
  • Music & Arts 838 - Flagstad w/Bruno Walter, piano
  • Naxos 8.550400 - Tamara Takacs w/J. Jando, piano
  • **** Philips 69256 - Jessye Norman w/I. Gage, piano
  • **** Preiser 89638 - Helen Braun w/Rosbaud, conductor
  • Preiser 89649 - Anny Konetzni w/Schönherr, conductor
  • **** Preiser 90356 - Elisabeth Höngen w/G. Moore, piano
  • Vocal Archives 1176 - Kirsten Flagstad w/G. Moore, piano
  • ***** Sony Classical 47644 - Eileen Farrell w/Bernstein, conductor
  • ***** British Decca 414.624, 440.491, or 468.486 - Kirsten Flagstad w/Knappertsbusch, conductor
  • DGG 439.865 - Cheryl Studer w/Sinopoli, conductor
  • ***** DGG 474.410 - Astrid Varnay w/L. Ludwig, conductor
  • ***** EMI 64074 - Christa Ludwig w/Klemperer, conductor
  • EMI 58031 - Regine Crespin w/Prêtre, conductor
  • ***** EMI 62957 or 63030 - Kirsten Flagstad w/G. Moore, piano
  • **** Philips 416.807 - Agnes Baltsa w/Tate, conductor
  • ***** LP RCA LM-1066 or AVM1-1413 - Eileen Farrell w/Stokowski, conductor
  • LP London STS 15113 - Maureen Forrester w/Newmark, piano
  • LP Vox 512.320 - M. Moreira w/Robert Wagner, conductor
  • LP Philips 9500.031 - Jessye Norman w/Colin Davis, conductor
  • **** LP Preiser LV 47 - Karin Branzell w/orchestra, no credits
  • LP Pelican 2009 - Lotte Lehmann w/Ulanowsky, piano
  • LP Hungaroton 11940 - Sylvia Sass w/Korodi, conductor
  • LP Columbia 37281 - Yvonne Minton w/Boulez, conductor
  • **** LP Bellaphon 680.01019 - Johanna Meier w/von Grunelius, piano
  • LP Eterna 825.469 - Hanne-Lore Kuhse w/Neumann, conductor
In actuality, any of the Flagstad performances could take four or five stars. Martha Modl also has a great voice for this repertoire as does Yvonne Minton. Some of the LP numbers issued also have compact disc counterparts, but due to cataloguing errors, they will not show.

This constitutes a lot of performances of one work, which I have collected since 1959, and there are probably others that should be here. But with this many, now I've drawn a line, more or less. Testament of England once announced they were coming forth with a CD of the Eileen Farrell/Stokowski RCA recordings. Alas, it has yet to appear and that announcement is no longer seen. But that recording represents another of the best-ever recordings ever made of this work with the incomparable Stokowski conducting the young Farrell when her voice was stunning in every respect. People speak of the legendary Lotte Lehmann, but hers is another voice I have rarely been enamoured with; her musicianship, however, is impeccable. Janet Baker, too, is outstanding in her live performance of the work. As you have probably guessed, I certainly love this work and I have always been most satisfied with dramatic soprano voices that have superb control because this is NOT just "loud" singing.

Now, I am interested in hearing about your personal "pick(s)!"

Updated to add new recordings.
Latest is the super American soprano,
Christine Brewer on Wigmore Hall Live.
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Last edited by Lance on Mon May 12, 2008 8:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Lance G. Hill
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stenka razin
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Post by stenka razin » Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:44 pm

Lance, what an impressive list. I am familiar with most of them. I prefer the Felix Mottl orchestration, rather than the piano as partner.


***** Philips 454.213 - Birgit Nilsson w/Colin Davis, conductor

***** British Decca 414.624, 440.491, or 468.486 - Kirsten Flagstad w/Knappertsbusch, conductor


***** LP RCA LM-1066 or AVM1-1413 - Eileen Farrell w/Stokowski, conductor

These are my favorites with Flagstadt and Knappertsbusch at numero uno. ****+

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Post by John F » Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:09 pm

I like the original version with piano, and the recording I listen to the most is HMV with Kirsten Flagstad and Gerald Moore. With orchestra it would be Christa Ludwig and Otto Klemperer, though I wish Janet Baker had recorded the songs with Barbirolli as she did Mahler's Rückert Lieder.
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Post by Wallingford » Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:16 pm

My copy of the Flagstad (on a Seraphim LP, #60046) does as well as any for me....especially as the same record also has the plum performance of Grieg's "Fyremaal (The Goal)." :D
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Post by Lance » Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:58 am

Hey, I'd like more input on this. I'm sure everyone here must have at least ONE recording of Wagner's Wesendonck lieder!
Lance G. Hill
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Richard Mullany
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Post by Richard Mullany » Thu May 01, 2008 1:10 am

I had the Ludwig/Klemperer LP and loved it. It is one of those "someday I'll replace that...." but which doesn't happen. My favorite soperano of the day was Irmgaard Seigfried{sp?}
She made the old Walter/NYPO recording of the Mozart requiem glow,
which is what I always play instead of the others I have.

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Post by val » Fri May 02, 2008 3:44 am

My favorite versions are:

In the original version with piano, Flagstad and Gerald Moore.

With orchestra, Astrid Varnay, the Bayerischen Rundfunks Orchestra conducted by Leopold Ludwig.

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Post by Lance » Mon May 12, 2008 8:53 pm

I'm surprised Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder hasn't garnered more attention. This must be a group of songs people love, no?

I've just added a superb version with American soprano Christine Brewer with Roger Vignoles, pianist. It's a wonderful live recital on Wigmore Hall [0022, 77:16, DDD]. How the English have taken her to their hearts! It is wonderful to see/hear. Aside from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, there are four Hugo Wolf Songs, the Cabaret Songs (4) of Benjamin Britten, the Cantata by John Carter, three encores, including the Negro spiritual "A City Called Heaven" (how often do you hear that wonderful song these days?), a Richard Strauss song (ich liebe dich), and an absolutely fabulous last encore by Bob Merrill entitled "Mira." This woman has quite a range and is a powerhouse of a singer, almost contralto on the low end to the Birgit Nilsson/Eileen Farrell dramatic soprano on the high end. She sings effortlessly and with deep conviction.
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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GK
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Post by GK » Mon May 12, 2008 11:06 pm

I have a recording with Flagstad and Walter (on piano) on the Legend label lwhich I assume is the same performance as on your two recordings with this couple. My recording is a bit scratchy, but Flagstad comes across loud and clear. I also have a recording of a live performance with Waltraud Meier and Daniel Barenboim conducting the Orchestra de Paris on the Erato label. I regard it as a fine performance. Fortunately this CD came with a booklet giving the translation which is necessary for the full enjoyment of these songs.

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Post by Chosen Barley » Tue May 13, 2008 12:57 am

I think it is spelled Seefried. But I could be wrong, too. AT least that is how the radio announcers always say it.
STRESSED? Spell it backwards for the cure.

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