Critical Words: Arnold Whittall on Meistersinger

Every month the classical music magazine Gramophone does a feature comparing recordings of some great monument of classical music. This month Arnold Whittall is surveying Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg versions on disc and and DVD and is, as is his wont, perceptive, even-handed and fleet of phrase.

Here’s a bit in which he takes care of a mid-century performance by the great Wotan, Hans Hotter.

The 1956 Bayreuth performance under André Cluytens is treasurable for capturing Hans Hotter‘s Sachs at its most subtle and least wobbly, though the Walhall sound quality is poor and Wolfgang Windgassen’s ardent but soulless Walther is an acquired taste.

39 words and you know what you need to know.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 9.49.19 AM
Nürnberg possibly as it was in Hans Sachs’ day.

By the way, I heard James Morris (another great Wotan) on WQRX recalling this tidbit about Meistersinger: “I believe that Die Meistersinger is the greatest single work of art ever produced by man. It took more skill to plan and write it than it took to plan and write the whole canon of Shakespeare.” –H.L. Mencken. His trademark hyperbole, no doubt, but it is a kind of overwhelming opera to come to grips with (and is, to my mind, going for something completely different from the aims of Shakespeare).

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