This video disc of orchestral excerpts from Wagner's operas recorded live in 1991 has just about but not quite everything going for it. It is beautifully played with a strong tone, subtle blend, and warm colors by the London Philharmonic. It is wonderfully filmed with a fine balance of close-ups and distance shots, and of images of the conductor with images of the orchestra. It has superb surround sound with exemplary clarity and depth. All it lacks is the vital spark necessary to enliven the conductor Klaus Tennstedt's exceedingly spacious tempos. In their aged but excellent recordings, Otto Klemperer and Wilhelm Furtwängler make the music work at these broad and capacious speeds; unfortunately, for all the manifold excellences of the playing, the filming and the sound, Tennstedt doesn't. The Overture to Tannhäuser seems to go on forever, while the Overture to Rienzi seems to go on ever longer. The Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg seems never to get out of second gear, while the "Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from Götterdämmerung never seems to get out of bed. Worst of all is the Ride of the Valkyrie from Die Walküre, which, for all its sound and fury, never seems to get off the ground. While it is wonderful to watch the late, great Tennstedt in action, it has to be acknowledged that his studio recordings of the same repertoire with the Berlin Philharmonic were much more exciting and much more typical of the East German conductor's work.
Wagner: Orchestral Highlights [DVD Video] Review
by James Leonard