Measha Brueggergosman / Franz Welser-Möst / Cleveland Orchestra

Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder; Preludes & Overtures

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The program notes for this Wagner recital by the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst claim that there is something extraordinary about the concept of Wagner actually being played in Cleveland, as if the "Ride of the Valkyries" or the Prelude to the first act of Die Meistersinger, both included here, were considered arcane repertoire in the Midwest. (In 1984, when Christoph von Dohnányi opened the first concert in his tenure with the orchestra with a performance of Ligeti's Atmosphères that morphed without pause into the Prelude to the first act of Lohengrin, well, that was Wagner in Cleveland to write home about.) Taken simply for what it is, this disc offers very fine, thoughtful, and disciplined performances of some of the greatest hits from Wagner's operas, plus an exceptionally lovely account of the Wesendonk-Lieder. Measha Brueggergosman brings a dusky, burnished tone to the Wesendonk-Lieder that suits them beautifully, and she has moments of piercing purity, particularly in "Im Triebhaus," a highlight of the album, sung and played with the intimacy and delicacy of chamber music. In "Traume," another standout, she sings with a luscious sultriness. Her approach to the songs has an emotional directness and simplicity that make them immensely compelling and immediate in their impact. Having Brueggergosman on hand and not having her perform the vocal version of the "Liebestod" from Tristan seems like a waste because it would be thrilling to hear her soar through the rapturous music. The recording is notable for both its power and the clarity of its details, which shine especially in the Meistersinger Prelude and in the "Ride of the Valkyries," which brings the album to a walloping close.

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