July 25. It should have been the opening night of this year’s Bayreuth Festival. It was not to be. Indeed, the whole season was “silent”. Instead the conductor and selected instrumentalists decanted to Haus Wahnfried – once the Wagners’ villa and now a museum devoted to the composer.
Siegfried Idyll, Richard’s Christmas Day 1870 present to his wife Cosima, first played at their Swiss villa, Tribschen, receives a lovingly turned and expressive account under Christian Thielemann’s discreet direction, played with sensitivity, the thirteen members of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra spread widely in a blossoming acoustic. It’s balm to the ears and to the senses.
The remainder of this thirty-nine-minute release is the Wesendonck-Lieder with soprano Camilla Nylund – not performed in the usual scoring by Felix Mottl (Wagner’s accompaniment is a piano, although he did orchestrate ‘Träume’), or in Hans Werner Henze’s version, but in an Idyll-like arrangement by Andreas N. Tarkmann, which works very well. Nylund, although part of the ensemble and recorded as such by Bavarian Radio, doesn’t stint on the intensity of these five settings, Tristan waiting in the wings, to create an absorbing listen though shapely phrasing, vivid word-painting and beauty of tone.
Texts and translations are included in the booklet for DG 483 9590, an exemplar of quality before quantity.