RICHARD WAGNER (1813 - 1883)
Meistersinger, an orchestral tribute
symphonic compilation by Henk de Vlieger, 2005
1. Vorspiel I
2. Versammlung der Meistersinger
3. Gesang der Lehrbuben
4. Sachsens Monolog
5. Vorspiel III
7. Züge der Zünfte
8. Tanz der Lehrbuben
9. Aufzug der Meistersinger
10. Walthers Preislied
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg holds a special position among Wagner’s music dramas. First, it is his only “comic” opera, and its subject, moreover, is not based on a myth or saga. The characters are mere common mortals and at least one of them, Hans Sachs, actually existed. The plot is set within a historical context, 16th century Nuremberg, and has clear sociological and political implications, regarding the relationship between the artist, tradition and society. The libretto, which Wagner wrote himself, as always, is in keeping with this. In contrast with his mythological and mythological historical dramas, here the verse lines are longer than in previous works, corresponding more with spoken language, and employ more traditional rhyme patterns. In many places, one could even speak of rounded-off song texts consisting of various couplets.
Musically, Die Meistersinger also deviates from Wagner’s other operas. In the preceding works, among which most of Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde, he developed a musical idiom increasingly marked by short phrases and ever more daring chromaticism. This culminated in his love drama Tristan und Isolde, in which tonality itself is stretched to the limit. In Die Meistersinger, however, Wagner returns to a predominantly diatonic idiom and its most important moments, such as Walther’s prize song, in fact the central moment, are set simply in the key of C major. Another striking musical element found throughout this score is brilliant counterpoint, the harmonious combination of two or more melodic lines.
Despite all of this, the orchestration of Die Meistersinger is relatively small, compared to his other operas. The vivid Romantic tone colours of his orchestral palette, such as the English horn and bass clarinet, are entirely lacking. Nevertheless, the opera is filled with instrumental ingenuities and the orchestration is dazzling in all its riches. Through the cunning combination of all these elements, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is a wondrous, highly original score that is moreover one of the most readily accessible of Wagner’s entire oeuvre.
Although Wagner’s music was meant for the theatre, it was conceived and executed from a symphonic concept. As in a classical symphony, Wagner introduces themes and motifs which he develops and organises in ordered structures. This makes his music, with some adaptations, very suitable for symphonic concerts. With this in mind, Dutch percussionist and arranger Henk de Vlieger has made three symphonic compilations of Wagner’s work in the 1990’s: The Ring, an orchestral adventure, Parsifal, an orchestral quest, and Tristan & Isolde, an orchestral passion. In order to do this, he selected the most important fragments of these operas and placed them in a new symphonic context. Vocal parts were left out or (when needed) replaced by instruments. In order to give the works a continuous musical argument he created new connections between these fragments, naturally preserving Wagner’s stylistic features. In 2005 he added a fourth arrangement to the three: Meistersinger, an orchestral tribute. This arrangement is made up of eleven fragments that form an orchestral suite from the opera and flow into each other without interruption. Through thematic coherence, the development of motifs and recurrence of melodies, this arrangement could very well be regarded as a large symphonic poem or even as a symphony.
Meistersinger, an orchestral tribute had its first performance in Moscow, Sept. 29, 2006, conducted by Eri Klas. The arrangement is dedicated to maestro Edo de Waart.
Orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns,
3 trumpets, 3 trombones, basstuba, timpani, percussion (4 players), harp, strings
Orchestra of the Novaya Opera Theatre, Moscow / Eri Klas
(Live recording of world premiere)
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Edo de Waart
Challenge Classics 72326
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Chandos CHSA 5092