Klassik  Sinfonische Musik
James Levine & Münchner Philharmoniker Vol. 8 / Beethoven, Wagner OC 508 2 CD
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Format2 Audio CD
Ordering NumberOC 508
Release date15/10/2004
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Beethoven, Ludwig van
  • Wagner, Richard

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      Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 Richard Wagner: “Siegfried”, 3rd Act Münchner Philharmoniker · James Levine, conductor
      Linda Watson / Ben Heppner / Brigitta Svendén / James Morris

      For the long-term Bayreuth conductor Levine, Wagner’s works have always been central, which is demonstrated by this recording of “Siegfried” with world-class soloists. Wagner, an ardent admirer of Beethoven, described Beethoven’s 7th Symphony as an “Apotheosis of Dance”.

      Linda Watson, Brünnhilde
      Soprano Linda Watson rapidly achieved international recognition as one of this generation’s most important Wagner singers.

      Her debut as Kundry in Parsifal at the 1998 Bayreuth Festspiele under Giuseppe Sinopoli was followed by invitations throughout the world to debut at major venues. As Kundry, Isolde and Brunnhilde, Linda Watson can be heard on the most important opera stages of the world. As Isolde, she performed with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich as well as on their Japan tour, under the direction of the opera’s music director Zubin Mehta, who also conducted her in the same role at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence. She debuted with the Munich Philharmonic in June 2000 in James Levine’s concertante performance of the third act of Siegfried, singing with Ben Heppner. She has worked with many leading conductors, including James Levine, Zubin Mehta, Valery Gergiev, Christian Thielemann, Antonio Pappano and Edo de Waart.

      Linda Watson was born in San Francisco. After completing her studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, she was awarded numerous fellowships, including a Fulbright, which enabled her to finish her studies in the Vienna Conservatory with a diploma.

      Linda Watson’s career began in Aachen. In 1995, she joined the Leipzig opera. As many major Wagner sopranos in the past, she began as a mezzosoprano and was heard in roles such as Venus in Tannhäuser and Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde. She debuted at the Vienna State Opera in 1997 as Venus.

      Her first soprano role was as Sieglinde in Walküre, which she sang in a new production at the Essen Opera. Following this, she began working in the ensemble of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein as a leading dramatic soprano. This gave her the opportunity to expand her repertoire, adding Kundry, Isolde, Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio and the title role in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. She also appeared as Marschallin in Strauss’s Rosenkavalier in Amsterdam under Edo de Waart and in Prague under Jirfií Kout.

      Ben Heppner, Siegfried
      A native of British Columbia, Ben Heppner began his musical studies at the University of British Columbia School of Music. He first gained national attention in 1979 as the winner of the Canadian Broadcasting Company Talent Festival. Today he is recognized world-wide as the finest dramatic tenor before the public. He is acclaimed in music capitals around the world for his beautiful voice, intelligent musicianship, and sparkling dramatic sense. His performances on the opera stage, in concert with orchestra, in recital, and on recordings have set new standards in his demanding repertoire.

      He excels in the most challenging roles, from Wagner’s Tristan and Lohengrin to Verdi’s Otello and Berlioz’ Aeneas. Ben Heppner performs frequently with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Vienna State Opera, Opéra National de Paris, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. He appears with all of the world’s leading orchestras and in the most prestigious recital venues. Mr. Heppner’s large orchestral repertoire includes Das Lied von der Erde, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Kodaly’s Psalmus Hungaricus, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Britten’s War Requiem, and the Verdi Requiem. Ben Heppner is an exclusive recording artist of Deutsche Grammophon GmbH.

      Birgitta Svendén, Erda
      Birgitta Svendén trained at the Stockholm Opera School before joining the Royal Opera Company in Stockholm. Her first international engagement was at the Bayreuth Festival in 1983, as a Rheintochter in the Ring production directed by Sir George Solti and Sir Peter Hall. She subsequently appeared at the Bayreuth Festival between 1983 and 1998, principally in the roles of Erda and Magdalena.

      In the 1988/89 season, Ms Svendén sang the roles of Erda and Magdalena, at the Met, in New York. Where she has returned many times, adding Pauline, Olga, Magdalena and Mary (Der fliegende Holländer) to her New York repertoire. Ms Svendén’s international operatic career expanded substantially in the following years, with debuts at the San Francisco Opera (Erda and 1st Norn); Covent Garden (Erda); Bavarian State Opera (Erda); Buenos Aires (Fricka); Chatelet Paris (Anna/ Les Troyens); Chicago (Margret/Wozzeck) and Berlin State Opera (Erda).

      Ms Svendén’s experience as a concert singer, at festivals and in the world’s famous concert halls, is considerable: Mahler II in Vienna and Birmingham; Mahler III in Ravinia, Milan, Paris, Tokyo, Cologne and Budapest; Mahler VIII in London and Strasbourg; Alt- Rhapsodie in Berlin; Missa Solemnis in Cologne and Amsterdam; Elijah in Paris; Erda in Dortmund; Das Lied von der Erde in Amsterdam and Stockholm; Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen in Stockholm, to mention but a sample of her concert engagements. She has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.

      James Morris, Wanderer
      James Morris was born and educated in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied with Rosa Ponselle, and made his debut with the Baltimore Opera as Crespel (Les Contes d’Hoffmann). He continued his studies at the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts with Nicola Moscona, and then an audition for the Metropolitan Opera led to his becoming the youngest male on contract with the company at the age of 23.

      In 1975, a last minute cancellation led to his singing the title role in Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera, a role he has since sung regularly with the Company. He is now one of the Met’s leading artists, his wide repertoire including Philip (Don Carlos), Claggart (Billy Budd), Raimondo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Padre Guardiano (La Forza del Destino), Mefistofele (Faust), Scarpia (Tosca), Jago (Otello), the title role in Der Fliegende Holländer, the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro and all four villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

      In recent years, James Morris has immersed himself in the role of Wotan. His performances in the San Francisco Opera production of Der Ring des Nibelungen caused a sensation, and he is now hailed as one of the definitive Wotans of our day. He has sung the role with the Vienna State Opera, in Berlin, in Munich under Sawallisch, at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden under Haitink, and at the Metropolitan Opera, New York with Levine, and this latter production has been filmed.

      James Morris has appeared at the festivals of Ravinia, Salzburg, Florence, Edinburgh and Glyndebourne, and now appears with the world leading conductors in the great opera houses. He is a regular guest in Vienna and Munich, where his repertoire includes Don Giovanni, Scarpia, Philip, Wotan and the Dutchman. It was as the Dutchman that he made his debut at La Scala, Milan under Muti. Most recently he performed Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger both in San Francisco and at the Met to great critical acclaim.

      In addition to his recordings of The Ring for DG and EMI, James Morris’ extensive discography includes, I Vespri Siciliani, The Beggar’s Opera, Parsifal, Cosi fan Tutte, Maria Stuarda, Aida.

      Apotheosis of the Dance – or Music for the Madhouse?
      After its premiere on December 8, 1813 in Vienna, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 utterly divided the music world for years. The first critics found particularly the last movement to be utterly wild and untamed. Carl Maria von Weber christened it “music for the madhouse”. In 1849, fervid Beethoven admirer Richard Wagner came up with the often-cited phrase “apotheosis of the dance” and praised the work as “a most blessed act embodying idealistic bodily movement in tones” (!). Romain Rolland saw it as an “orgy of rhythm”, Hermann Kretzschmar, on the other hand, dubbed it the “height of humor”, Paul Bekker diagnosed an “immense surging of temperament”…

      In any event, the premiere of the Symphony No. 7 was much more successful than that of the 5th and 6th Symphonies at their doublepremiere five years before – although the unhappy interpretation of the latter two may have played a role. The success of the 7th might also been due to the fact that it was performed in the aula of the (old) University of Vienna for the benefit of invalids of the Napoleonic wars, and over and above this, on the December 8th Festival of the Virgin Mary, a particularly patriotic and religious day. After Wellington’s victory at Vittoria, the end of a long era of aggression was in the air. Whole populations began to breathe more easily; a new Europe was to be negotiated at the Vienna Congress just one year later. Was this a reason for the wild jubilation that Beethoven expressed in his Symphony No. 7, and that was understood by the audience?

      Or was the audience at this premiere simply relieved – after the infernal volume of Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory, likewise premiered at this concert, with its incredible use of every size of drum, numerous tympani and trumpets and deafening percussion meant to imitate gunfire – to simply hear “normal” sounds again? Certainly, the success of the performance had also to do with the numerous illustrious musicians in the academy orchestra who wouldn’t have dreamed of staying away: court kapellmeisters Salieri and Weigl, composers Hummel, Spohr and Meyerbeer, and virtuosi Schuppanzigh, Romberg and Moscheles were all there. If not all of them played in the Symphony No. 7 (Wellington’s Victory needed much larger forces!) they were still all at the premiere. Beethoven, by this time, was already renowned as the first composer of the city – if not of all Europe. In any event, the second movement had to be repeated immediately – eloquent testimony for the good taste of the audience.

      Goethe left us with the wonderful sentence “Everyone is a Greek in his own manner”, calling the Symphony No. 7 Greek because it so well fuses the Apollonian with the Dionysian. Beethoven, who wanted to “spark the human spirit”, drives the possibilities for contrast in the symphonic form to their extremes. After the first movement – with its slow introduction, then floating, dancing six-eight rhythm which becomes ever more rousing, dizzying, and then finally, a dance-orgy – the second movement follows with its rather introverted, dreamy, melancholy atmosphere; the dance rhythm becomes a funeral march of sorts, an elegy, haunted by a Schubertian melancholy (Schubert will write a similar slow movement in his Great C Major Symphony). The third movement presto chases itself like a ghostly midnight dance, but is interrupted by a chorale- like theme (supposedly an old Austrian pilgrims’ song) – which is formally interesting because Beethoven repeats the presto theme not only in the reprise, but an additional time as well. When the chorale tries to break in unexpectedly during the coda, in order to sound yet a third time, a few heavy blows brusquely end the movement. In the Finale, Beethoven pulls all the stops. A bacchanalia of wild, orgiastic dance madness tears everything along with it as if in a flood; victorious fanfares sound inside a rhythmic tornado, all form is thrown overboard. In the development, Beethoven’s bold ideas seem to be incapable of any further intensification – but the ecstasy still increases; the music can be held back no longer, lives only for the moment – thus giving it its so compelling, almost erotic effect. Neither before nor after did Beethoven again achieve such an enraptured feeling for life.

      The Symphony No. 7 was repeated again during the Vienna Congress – on November 29th and December 2, 1814 – in front of an illustrious audience. Beethoven was made an honorary citizen of Vienna, a high honor then as now. The symphony was heard again in Leipzig in 1816 and in London in 1817. In Paris, its second movement was smuggled into a performance of the Symphony No. 2 (!) in the place of the original Larghetto. The complete Paris premiere of the work did not take place until 1829.

      In 1829, the young secondary school student Richard Wagner heard Fidelio for the first time, which was an absolutely overpowering experience for him. Shortly thereafter, he heard the Symphony No. 7 – and from then on placed Beethoven next to Shakespeare in his gallery of heroes. “I met both of them in ecstatic dreams, I saw and spoke to them; when I awoke, I was wet with tears…” The Symphony No. 7 had a key position in Wagner’s later music-philosophical thinking. According to him, as the “apotheosis of the dance”, this work led the symphony as a genre away from “absolute music”; in his Symphony No. 9, Beethoven further freed instrumental music from its strictures by integrating the sung word – thus paving the way for the new musical drama as the “art-form of the future”. Wagner’s high esteem for Beethoven’s overtures, piano sonatas, late string quartets, Fidelio and last three symphonies lasted his entire life. Heinrich Dorn, music director of the Leipzig court theater, doubted “that there was ever any young composer at any time who knew Beethoven’s works better than the 18-year-old Wagner. [Wagner] owned the master’s overtures and larger instrumental works for the most part in scores he had hand-copied himself. He went to bed with the sonatas and woke up with the quartets.”

      When political fugitive Richard Wagner finally found asylum in Zurich after all the confusion of the 1848/49 revolution – in which he had taken an active part – he had his wife Minna, dog Peps and parrot Papo leave Dresden to join him. The latter apparently whistled themes from Beethoven symphonies incessantly, although Wagner had since composed his early operas Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot as well as Rienzi, Der Fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. Wagner was now 36 years old and writing all sorts of theoretical essays full of radical political theses (Die Kunst und die Revolution, Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft) as well as the prose concept Die Nibelungensage (Mythus) which already contained the entire plot of the tetralogy. In November 1849, he completed the poetry for Siegfrieds Tod. The old Germanic sagas and myths had been among his favorite objects of study since 1842 – along with the social-utopian and revolutionary writings of Bakunin, Proudhon or Feuerbach. In 1850, he wrote the verse to a second drama, Der junge Siegfried; it had been long clear to him that he could not write about Siegfried’s death without the corresponding prehistory…

      Wagner’s work on the Ring spanned a period of 30 years. By the end of 1852, the entire text for the four-part work was complete. From September 1853 to January 1, 1854, Wagner composed Rheingold, followed immediately by Walküre, which was done in March 1856. He then began rewriting the text of the last part of the tetralogy (Brunnhilde’s final song) and changed the title Siegfried’s Tod to Götterdämmerung. In September of the same year, he finished the first act of Siegfried, interrupting himself in the middle of the second act, however. The project was to remain suspended for 12 years (!) – an absolutely unique situation in the entire history of western music. It had become clear to him that no opera house in the world would perform his Ring – and besides, he was more involved in another project.

      In 1854, Wagner had read Schopenhauer’s main work Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, and a burning relationship with 26-year-old Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of his friend and patron, had inspired him to develop the concept for Tristan. Instead of fire-breathing dragons, goings-on in the forest and the “awakening” of Brunnhilde to new life, Wagner now immersed himself in the dark night of destructive love and the longing for death. He wrote to Franz Liszt that he had taken Siegfried into the deep dark forest, left him “under the linden tree and bidden him farewell with heartfelt tears.” In 1859, the year after he split up with Mathilde Wesendonck, he completed Tristan, the “classic opus metaphysicum of art” (Thomas Mann). But he still didn’t return to Siegfried yet. He was suddenly moved to write a completely different, somewhat strange opera, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, beginning this work in 1861 – although he didn’t finish it until 1867. In 1864/65 he had only completed the second act of Siegfried. Tristan premiered in Munich in 1865, Meistersinger in 1865, likewise in Munich. In November, Cosima – his mistress of five years and mother of two common, out-of-wedlock children, finally joined him in Tribschen near Lucerne. In March 1869, he fi- nally took up work on the third act of Siegfried. The unauthorized premieres of Rheingold and Walküre by King Ludwig II in 1869 and 1870 in Munich delayed completion of Siegfried once again. (In 1870, he wrote an essay Beethoven und die deutsche Nation on occasion of the Beethoven anniversary.) He didn’t finish the finale of Siegfried until February 1871. (Three years later he finished the entire Ring score, completing Götterdämmerung on November 21, 1874 in Haus Wahnfried in Bayreuth.) While long passages in the first and second acts of Siegfried were consciously written with a modicum of burlesque and comedy in order to contrast with the tragic end of Götterdämmerung, their stylistic break with the music of the third act, its dark pathos and concentrated motivic density, is highly evident. The twelve-year interruption – above all, the Tristan interlude – left unquestionable traces. Wagner’s linkage of all leitmotivs used since Rheingold is grandiose, his musical description of natural events is poetry at its best, and the orchestra once again becomes the psychological executor of the plot, almost the real hero. In the almost 30-minute-long closing duet between Siegfried and Brunnhilde, Wagner develops an erotic ecstasy which seems to resume that other ecstasy from the Finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, but with other means.

      Andrea Seebohm
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      Fotos: Stefan Rakus

      Tracklist hide

      hide CD 1
      • 1.Applause .00:15
      • Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) Symphony No. 7 in A major op. 92
        • 2.1. Poco sostenuto – Vivace11:39
        • 3.2. Allegretto08:42
        • 4.3. Presto – Assai meno presto07:23
        • 5.4. Allegro con brio06:49
        • 6.Applause00:32
      • Richard Wagner (1813–1883) “Der Ring des Nibelungen” A stage festival for three days and one preceding evening 2nd Day: “Siegfried” (3rd Act) 1st Scene
        • 7.Prelude02:11
        • 8.“Wache, Wala…”02:03
        • 9.“Stark ruft das Lied…”10:00
      • Total:49:34
      more CD 2
      • 2nd Scene
        • 2.“Dort seh’ ich Siegfried nahn.”00:50
        • 3.“Mein Vöglein schwebte mir fort…”05:53
        • 4.“Kenntest du mi05:50
        • 5.Orchesterzwischenspiel02:42
      • 3rd Scene
        • 6.Prelude02:33
        • 7.“Selige Öde auf sonniger Höh’…”04:30
        • 8.“Das ist kein Mann…”10:06
        • 9.“Heil dir, Sonne…”03:58
        • 10.“O Siegfried! Siegfried! Seliger Held…”06:54
        • 11.“Dort seh’ ich Grane…”08:57
        • 12.“Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich…”12:18
        • 13.Applause00:57
      • Total:01:09:37