Wagner: Symphony in C; Tristan und Isolde; Siegfried Idyll

Edo de Waart / Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra

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Wagner: Symphony in C; Tristan und Isolde; Siegfried Idyll Review

by Blair Sanderson

Apart from the overtures and orchestral excerpts he and his followers adapted from his music dramas, Richard Wagner composed little concert music. This 2014 Challenge Classics release by Edo de Waart and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra presents two of the most substantial works Wagner specifically wrote for orchestra and which stand on their own. The Symphony in C major is a youthful essay, composed in 1832 when Wagner was not yet 20, and it shows the overwhelming influence of Beethoven and Weber. The Siegfried Idyll is a piece for chamber orchestra that Wagner composed as a birthday gift for his second wife, Cosima, and it was premiered on Christmas morning, 1870. Between these works, de Waart has programmed the Nachtgesang and the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde in an orchestral arrangement by Henk de Vlieger, who has made similar symphonic syntheses of Wagner's operatic music. This album gives a sense of Wagner's beginning as a composer eager to impress, and examples of his mature masterpieces, but there is almost no connection to be drawn between them. While these sympathetic and polished performances are certainly worth hearing, the Symphony in C major might have been better served on a program with comparable early works, and not contrasted so sharply with de Vlieger's Tristan arrangement and the Siegfried Idyll, which outshine it.

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