Chandos celebrates the great Sir Reginald Goodall in his legendary 1968 performance of Wagner’s The Mastersingers, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time performed by the Gould Piano Trio, and Australian pianist Tonya Lemoh plays the works of Joseph Marx
- 31 July, 2008
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For the first time ever, the legendary centenary production of Wagner’s The Mastersingers, conducted by Reginald Goodall, is released as a four-CD set on Chandos’ acclaimed Opera in English series. Over the years, music lovers have contacted Chandos to request its release on Opera in English, and Sir Peter Moores was determined to make it happen.
Broadcast live on BBC from Sadler’s Wells Theatre on February 10, 1968, Goodall conducted a cast of luminaries including Alberto Remedios, Norman Bailey, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Gregory Dempsey, Margaret Curphey (the first of many Wagner roles she would perform under Goodall), and Ann Robson. Following the live broadcast, the recording sadly disappeared into the archives and has since become one of the most talked-about ‘lost’ performances. This four-CD set has been re-mastered from a BBC Radio live broadcast, and the sound quality reflects the fact it is a 1968 live recording. But while some deterioration is evident, it does not detract from the recording’s undeniable performance value.
A popular comic opera, The Mastersingers is also an ensemble opera in a way Wagner’s other operas are not. Yet, despite its comic opera standing, it is in fact a deeply spiritual work. Wagner wrote “It is impossible that you should not have sensed, under the opera’s quaint superficies of popular humor, the profound melancholy, the lament, the cry of distress of poetry in chains, and its reincarnation, its new birth, its irresistible magic power achieving mastery over the common and the base.” Nicholas Payne writes of Goodall’s Mastersingers: “The rise and fall of Goodall’s orchestra is drenched in tears which encompass both supreme joy and unrequited sorrow. Goodall sensed that the generosity of spirit which inhabited Sadler’s Wells and its company in the final years at that theatre would never be recaptured.”
Sir Peter Moores comments on this release: “The resounding success of Reginald Goodall’s Mastersingers led to his conducting an ‘English’ Ring at the London Coliseum in the 1970s. That Ring started me recording opera in English so I am thrilled that we have been able to add The Mastersingers to our Opera in English catalogue – alongside Goodall’s Ring.”
The idea of recording opera in English developed from Peter Moores’s determination that Reginald Goodall’s ‘English’ Ring cycle at the London Coliseum in the early 1970s should not be a secret for audiences in London or become a thing of the past-but should be recorded live for posterity. The Goodall Ring and many of the other famous English language recordings, funded by the Foundation in the 1970s and 1980s, are now part of the Opera in English label, launched in 1995 with Chandos Records. Since then, new studio recordings of mainstream operas, together with re-issued titles, form the largest collection of opera recorded in English translation.
Described by The Independent as “master musicians,” The Gould Piano Trio, one of the most exciting ensembles to emerge in recent years, is joined by clarinetist Robert Plane for this recording to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of France’s greatest composers, Olivier Messiaen.
Messiaen’s wartime masterpiece, the outstanding Quartet for the End of Time, was composed during the darkest days when he was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. The particular instrumentation-piano, violin, cello and clarinet-was determined by these circumstances. The result is Messiaen’s most significant contribution to chamber music. Its premiere was one of the legendary premieres of the 20th century, taking place in the camp theatre before 5000 other prisoners. “Never have I been listened to with such attention and such understanding,” Messiaen later recalled. The works also received a review in the camp newsletter: “The last note was followed by a moment of silence which established the sovereign mastery of the work.”
Quartet for the End of Time is coupled with the shorter Theme and Variations for Violin and Piano and the premiere recording of the piano transcription of Les Offrandes oubliées. Theme and Variations was composed as a wedding gift from Messiaen to his wife, whom he married in 1932. Like her husband, Claire was a devout Catholic and a composer, as well as an accomplished violinist. The violin writing testifies to Claire’s passionate musicality and her technical skill, and as so often with Messiaen’s shorter works, it has a power and presence that belie its modest proportions. Les Offrandes oubliées, subtitled ‘méditation symphonique,’ was composed in the summer of 1930, shortly after Messiaen completed his studies at the Paris Conservatoire. The work forms a stepping stone between the miniature world of the piano Préludes and the tumultuous virtuosity of his later piano music.
Joseph Marx can be described as a ‘Romantic Impressionist’, and the compositions performed here clearly demonstrate this late Romantic style, reminiscent of Richard Strauss, Korngold, and Reger. Mostly known for his beautifully crafted songs (he already had written 120 by the time he was 30), Marx enjoyed great success throughout his life but has since been unjustly neglected-in part due to the radical compositional style of his peers, Webern and Berg. In addition to his work as a composer, Marx was a teacher and a music critic.
Of the works performed here, four of the pieces (Herbst-Legende, Carneval, Canzone, and Die Flur der Engel) have never before been published or commercially recorded. To date, only one recording has been made of the other six pieces, which is no longer commercially available.
Australian pianist Tonya Lemoh has won numerous international prizes and awards, including first prize in the International Competition of Young Performers, Denmark 2003, and a Diplom d’Honneur at the 2002 International Grieg Piano Competition, Norway. She makes her debut on Chandos with this disc.