WAGNER Tristan and Isolde (arr. Henk de Vlieger)
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic/Edo de Waart, cond.

"An Orchestral Passion." That is the description given by BMG/RCA for this 64-minute CD of excerpts from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Even in this era of Marketing über Alles, does the company really believe that Erwin Olaf's grotesque cover photo of a Jabba-the-Huttish Wagnerian soprano, nude except for strategically-placed heart emblems, will stampede buyers? It does indeed attract attention, but what kind and to what end? Music is to listen to, ja? Edo de Waart leads the fine Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in a cool performance (rather than "passionate" as promotion insists) of the usual Tristan excerpts, minus voices of course, in admirable "arrangements" by Henk de Vlieger, the orchestra's principal percussionist. BMG simultaneously issued his "arrangements" of gobbets from Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal (44784 and 44786). According to liner notes, Vlieger has also "arranged" Lohengrin; if the first three CDs are successful, doubtless Lohengrin will follow. Although recorded in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in April 1995—shortly after the same forces recorded all of Mahler's symphonies in the same venue—the engineers have captured little of that hall's distinctive sound, which is very evident on the Mahler set. Whereas multiple Mahler was issued at mid-price, Wagner CDs are full-price. Justification? There isn't any!

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)