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WAGNER: Siegfried
Lauritz Melchior (Siegfried). Kirsten Flagstad (Brünnhilde). Friedrich Schorr (Wanderer). Karl Lauftkötter (Mime). Eduard Habich (Alberich). Kerstin Thorborg (Erda). Emanuel List (Fafner). Stella Andreva (Waldvogel). Metropolitan Opera Orchestra / Arthur Bodanzky, cond.
PRISTINE AUDIO PACO 139 (2 jewel boxes, 3 disks. TT: 3 hr.25:51

HAYDN: Symphony No. 10l` in D "The Clock." LALO: Symphony in G minor. DEBUSSY: Cortège et Air de Danse from L'enfant prodigue.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Thomas Beeham, cond.

MENDELSSOHN: The Fair Melusina Overture. GHEDINI: Musica da Concerto for Viola and Strings. DVORÁK: Symphony No 8 in G, Op. 88.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Thomas Beecham, cond.

It isn't very often that one can say a performance is definitive, but this Siegfried surely is as good as it gets. It is a performance from the Metropolitan Opera January 30, 1937. The cast is perfection, particularly the presence of Danish tenor Lauritz Malchior in the title role. He had studied the role with Wagner's son, Siegfried, and his widow, Cosima. Malchior has the power and stamina to perform this most demanding of all tenor roles, yet he has the necessary sensitivity for the tender moments in the final scene. Kirsten Flagstad also was at the height of her career, assured and convincing, although it seems odd that at the end of the love duet she takes the lower option for the final note. The entire cast is magnificent, and it all is held together by conductor Arthur Bodanzky (1877 - 1939), highly regarded by Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini. Under his taut direction, the Met Orchestra is quite amazing. This Siegfried performance is included in Sony's important Wagner at the Met set, praised on this site (REVIEW). That set also includes Bodanzky performances of Götterdämmerung and Tristan nd and Isolde. However, there is no question that Andrew Rose's restoration and remastering brings new clarity and impact to what basically was a very acceptable recording for its time. If you want this definitive Siegfried in best possible audio, the Pristine is the one to own.

Here are two more compilations of live concerts conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham recorded at Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic, an orchestra he founded in 1946. The first CD features Haydn's Clock Symphony and Lalo's Symphony in G minor both from a concert October 25, 1959, and a brief excerpt from Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue from a concert November 8, 1959. Disk 2 offers Mendelssohn's Fair Melusina Overture and Ghedini's work for viola and strings, both from the November concert, and Dvorák's Symphony No. 8, from the October concert. Beecham favored Lalo's symphony although it is a rather nondescript work. He already had recorded it for EMI with the French National Orchestra. He surely does what can be done for it, with a delightful sparkling scherzo.

Italian composer Giorgio Frederick Ghedini (1892 - 1965) was perhaps better known as a teacher, his pupils including Claudio Abbado, Luciano Berio amd Guido Cantell. He composed prolifically, his works including nine operas. His love of early music is reflected in his many works for small chamber groups featuring one or two soloists. One of these is the Musica da Concerto for Viola and String Orchestra written in 1963 heard here with Frederick Riddle as soloist. It is a charming if inconsequential work that ends quietly ,an interesting addition to the Beecham catalog. The Dvorák is sensational, rather like Beecham on steroids. Not a dull moment here, and it is a tribute to the Royal Philharmonic that they can execute his fierce tempi. This is the most exciting performance I've heard of this symphony. All of these have been beautifully restored and enhanced by Andrew Rose's technical expertise.

R.E.B. (June 2017)