Neeme Järvi / Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Wagner: Two Symphonies

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For this 2012 SACD, Neeme Järvi and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra present mostly unfamiliar pieces by Richard Wagner that have languished in obscurity, usually for good reasons. While the Overture to Rienzi is a rousing, tuneful piece that still gets programmed regularly, none of the other selections will register with a general audience: this is terra incognita for most listeners. The Symphony in C major of 1831 is Wagner's youthful attempt to imitate Beethoven, though it lacks the master's skill with the orchestra or his imaginative developments of fertile ideas. Wagner plainly strove after his hero's dynamism and force, but the underdeveloped music is bombastic, hollow, and false. The two-movement Symphony in E major is a reconstruction from unpromising sketches that were abandoned in 1834, only to be completed and orchestrated decades later by Felix Mottl at Cosima Wagner's request. The occasional pieces, Huldigungsmarsch and Kaisermarsch, are from 1864 and 1871, respectively, and must be viewed as products of Wagner's maturity. Yet they have never been popular with modern audiences, perhaps because of their forced martial air and peculiar deficiency of memorable tunes. Yet even though these are lackluster efforts, they are still important to document, and because Järvi and this orchestra have been invested in presenting Wagner's orchestral music in several previous releases, it makes sense to include them in their super audio recordings for Chandos. Because the performances are enjoyable and the state-of-the-art sound is extraordinary, the album deserves a better than average rating, even though the music itself is of limited interest to Wagner specialists.

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