WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg (Schoeffler, Gueden, VPO, Knappertsbusch) (1950-1951) (Naxos Historical: 8.111128-31)
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Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Die Meistersinger von N?â??rnberg
Comic Opera inThree ActsHans Sachs, cobbler
- Paul Schoeffler (bass-baritone)Veit Pogner, goldsmith
- Otto Edelmann (bass)Kunz Vogelgesang, furrier
- Hugo Meyer-Welfing (tenor)Konrad Nachtigall, tinsmith
- Wilhelm Felden (bass)Sixtus Beckmesser, town clerk
- Karl Donch (baritone)Fritz Kothner, baker
- Alfred Poell (baritone)Balthasar Zorn, pewterer
- Erich Majkut (tenor)Ulrich Eisslinger, grocer
- William Wergnick (tenor)Augustin Moser, tailor
- Hermann Gallos (tenor)Hermann Ortel, soapmaker
- Harald Proglhof (bass)Hans Schwarz, stocking-weaver
- Franz Bierbach (bass)Hans Foltz, coppersmith
- Ljubomir Pantscheff (bass)Walther von Stolzing, a young Franconian knight
- Gunther Treptow (tenor)David, Sachs' apprentice
- Anton Dermota (tenor)Eva, Pogner's daughter
- Hilde Gueden (soprano)Magdalena, her nurse
- Else Sch?â??rhoff (soprano)A Night Watchman
- Harald Proglhof (bass)Vienna State Opera Chorus
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Hans KnappertsbuschRecorded 2-9 September, 1950 (Act 2)
and 11-22 September, 1951 (Acts 1 and 3) in the Musikvereinsaal, ViennaFirst issued on Decca LXT 2646/7 (Act 1), 2560/1 (Act 2) and2648/9 (Act 3)
Reissue Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn--- Die Meistersinger von N?â??rnberg
embraces the daily life, the bustle,the humanity and diverse characters of the medieval city of Nuremberg in thesixteenth century. Some of the characters Wagner chose were in fact based onreal people: Hans Sachs (1494-1576) and Konrad Nachtigall. The Guild movementhad developed during earlier centuries through various craftsmen's organizations.
They would continue until the late 19th century, by which time they hadvirtually disappeared and new labour organizations in the form of trades unionswould supplant the original Guilds. Although Gyrowetz and Lortzing had bothcomposed earlier versions of a similar story that featured the hero Hans Sachsin 1834 and 1840, Wagner was undaunted by this fact. He depicts accurately therigidity and pedantic rules that governed the weekly Sunday meetings of theGuilds, held after morning church services. Competitions took place and prizeswere awarded with members promoted into various classes. In a letter toMathilde Wesendonk dated 3 February 1862, Wagner remarked: "even thetitles of the mastersongs and their melodies are, with the exception of a fewinvented by me, genuine: on the whole I am amazed by what I am able to makefrom just a few notes". This was to be the only occasion on which the composerused so directly an historical source, in this case, Johann Christoph Wagenseil'sBuch von der Meistersinger holdseligen Kunst.
Wagner used the names ofthe 12 old Nuremberg Masters, the titles of the songs, the strict rules forsong composition, the exhaustive list of mistakes, penalties and the technical expressions.
The libretto, by the composer himself, even makes use of historical texts. Itis some aspects of the final text that would come to taint Wagner and his posthumousreputation by the highjacking via the National Socialist party for their idealsof a greater freer Germany.
In the case of the music, Wagner also attempted to create alanguage that fitted in with 16th-century Nuremberg, but brought it forward twocenturies: the composer described his style as 'applied Bach'. For example: theprocession across the meadow is replete with dotted rhythms recalling the styleof a French overture. Then if there is the feel of the old in the chorale inAct I Scene 1 'Das zu dir der Heiland kam
', it is Wagner looking backbut using his own musical language. The inclusion of a passacaglia in the concludingpages of the opening Prelude can be observed, as the formal nature of theopening of the Quintet in Act III Scene 4.
The plot is inspired by the life of Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet,who is also a significant member of the Mastersingers' Guild. Then there is theknight Walther von Stolzing who desires to marry Eva, and her goldsmith fatherVeit Pogner. The latter has decided to give her hand to the winner of a songcompetition who must also learn the complex rules of the craft guild. Waltheris helped by Sachs, and is declared the eventual winner, despite the absurdantics of the Town Clerk, Beckmesser.
The score remains one of the greatest achievements in Wagner'scomposing career, incorporating an allegory of his own struggle for hisindividuality and ongoing radical ideas within a very human comedy: it could besaid to reconcile tradition with innovation. That opening 'great' C major chordof the opening Prelude and development of the principal themes are handled withremarkable skill and show that reconciliation is the true overriding theme ofthe whole opera. It is a composition that displays Wagner's beauty ofworkmanship and texture together with an almost inexhaustible variety ofsymphonic invention. Little wonder therefore the opera continues to remain inthe standard repertory.
It was in 1845 that Wagner first sketched a scenario, tenyears after he had visited Nuremberg with his brother-in-law at the age of 22.
The work occupied Wagner with many interruptions until 1867. The premi?â?¿re ofthe complete opera eventually took place at the Munich Court Opera on 21 June1868.
With the introduction of tape-recording in early 1950, theDecca Record Company had begun recording complete operas in Vienna in June thatyear, beginning with Die Entf?â??hrung aus dem Serail
under Josef Krips. Thenext opera, Die Meistersinger von N?â??rnberg
, was planned for Septemberthat same year. In fact only Act II was initially planned, and, if successful,Acts I and III would be made the following year. It was to be the first completestudio recording of the opera. (Back in 1938, EMI's German affiliate Electrolahad recorded Act III in Dresden, and, but for the outbreak of World War II, hadplanned to record the other two acts the following year but this neverhappened.).
In the years following the return to peace in Europe, Decca's classical recording director Maurice Rosengarten, who was based in Z?â??rich,had slowly signed up an impressive roster of artists. These included HansKnappertsbuch, Paul Schoeffler, Hilde Gueden, Gunther Treptow and, the prize ofall, the Vienna Philharmonic, which hitherto had been the exclusive property ofEMI. Thus plans were put in place to record the Wagner opera in Vienna with many of these contracted artists. As the producer of this recording, VictorOlof, wrote some years later; "This was indeed a massive undertakinginvolving an orchestra of 95 musicians, a stage band, a chorus of a hundred ormore voices and a cast of 17 singers of the State Opera. This was a veritablearmy for a producer to control single-handedly, and our modest [recording] equipmentof four channels was put to the limit of its power".
During the original sessions, which took place in theGrosser Saal of the Musikverein, Paul Schoeffler became ill. It was out of thequestion to cancel the recording, so Olof was obliged to carry on and edit in thesoloist's part when he had recovered and was free to sing. In those early yearsof fairly primitive tape editing such an undertaking was no mean feat.
The conductor chosen for this enterprise was Hans Knappertsbusch,who started recording for Decca in 1947, h