Mark Elder / Hallé Orchestra

Wagner: Siegfried

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This recording, taken from a pair of nicely recorded live performances, rounds out the Wagner Ring Cycle begun nearly a decade ago by the Hallé Orchestra and its conductor, Sir Mark Elder. It's been a deliberate set, with deep consideration of the large-scale rhythms of the music rather than relying on the charisma of star singers. This is not to say anything against the leads, led by the heroic tenor Simon O'Neill and a ravishing Brünnhilde from Rachel Nicholls. It is a uniformly strong cast, some of whom are exciting emerging British Wagnerians. However, they are all under the control of the star of the show, namely Elder. Even the characterizations seem to flow from his baton; the giant opera is listener friendly in that he structures each scene as if it were a movement in a symphony. Sample the Act II finale with O'Neill and Malin Christensson as the Forest Bird; various singers have made more vocally of this juncture, but have any been paired with the magical string work of the Hallé here? This is an orchestral Siegfried rather than a singers' version, and as such, it succeeds very well.

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