Born in 1859, Karl Muck was one of the best of the second generation of Wagner conductors, plus he had the unmatched advantage of being the only one to leave recordings preserving his interpretations. Made between 1927 and 1928 with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra for Electrola and for RCA Victor, this disc of overtures, preludes, and orchestral excerpts reveals not just a great Wagner conductor, but a wholly different kind of Wagner conductor. For later listeners accustomed to a more reverential tone and a more stately tempo, Muck's intense tone and fluid tempo may at first seem idiosyncratic and even eccentric. But Muck's cleanly articulated lines, clearly expressed emotions, concentration on the dramatic flow, and complete control of every technical aspect of the score quickly compels first respect, then admiration, and finally belief. His 1927 Meistersinger Prelude is crisp, light, and emotionally exalted. His 1928 Der fliegende Holländer Overture is swift, strong, and emotionally devastating. His 1928 Tristan Prelude is pellucid, passionate, and emotionally cathartic. His 1927 excerpts from Götterdämmerung are cool, direct, and emotionally draining. And, best of all, his 1927 Parsifal Prelude is light, luminous, and emotionally numinous. Of course, the sound is ancient, but for those with ears to hear, more than acceptable. Anyone who loves Wagner who has never heard Muck, should check out this disc.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), opera, WWV 63|
|Tristan und Isolde, opera, WWV 90|
|Die Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), opera, WWV 86d|
|Parsifal, opera, WWV 111|
|Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, opera, WWV 96|