Classical CD Reviews

New classical music releases reviewed in detail by Gavin Dixon

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

WAGNER Siegfried: act III (abridged) Inkinen Lindstrom Vinke

WAGNER Siegfried: act III (abridged)
Pietari Inkinen, conductor 
Lise Lindstrom (Brünnhilde) 
Stefan Vinke (Siegfried)
Deutsche RP Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern 
SWR 19078 (59:12)

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This release should probably be treated as a sampler. It presents a cut-down version of Siegfried act III—scene 1 with the Wanderer and Erde is omitted—from 2018 concert performances in Saarbrücken. That’s not much use for building a library, but it does offer a tantalizing glimpse of two major talents on the rise: conductor Pietari Inkinen and soprano Lise Lindstrom. Since this recording was made, Inkinen has been named the conductor of the new Ring cycle at Bayreuth. He has already conducted the Ring for Opera Australia, where Lindstrom sang Brünnhilde, an important stepping stone for both Wagnerian careers. But this is the first commercial recording to feature either of them in Wagner, so expectations run high.
Inkinen proves to be a patient but insightful Wagnerian, with a good eye for detail and an ability to structure the music well around the dramatic high points. The performance—presumably a concert second half—begins with the act III prelude, performed with precision and clarity by the Saarbrucken orchestra. Tempos are moderate from the start, and while the climaxes are impressive, the music lacks the gritty intensity of Solti or Boulez. The transition to scene 2 is smooth: After the prelude, we hear the first number of act I, “Wache, Wala! Wala! Erwach’!,” but orchestra only, with the Wanderer omitted, then, immediately before Erde’s entry, we cut to scene 2, with Siegfried’s “Mit zerfocht’ner Waffe.” Unless you already know, you won’t hear the join. From here, Inkinen leads the singers well, and the unity between the orchestra and the voices is impressive, particularly the interplay between Lindstrom and the solo oboe, which seems to imitate her timbre. The orchestra is on good form throughout, and sounds well rehearsed. The strings sometimes lose focus at the climaxes, but the brass compensates with a dark, controlled tone, delivered with plenty of power. Inkinen’s tempos and rubato are generous without seeming indulgent. The Siegfried Idyll section is gorgeous, free and flowing, but I wonder if it would work as well on stage?
Lindstrom brings instant star quality to the role of Brünnhilde. Her voice clear but rich, and with plenty of character, even in the high register. Her vibrato is wide and slow, and ever-present, so there is never any sense of gradually warming long notes—it’s right there from the start. Stefan Vinke is more of a known quantity as Siegfried. He also sang the role in the Opera Australia production, but if you’ve heard the Met, Leipzig, or Covent Productions recently, you’ve probably come across him. He has also recorded the role, in the Seattle Opera production. Here, he comes across as reliable but not exceptional. In act III of Siegfried, the Brünnhilde usually has the advantage over the Siegfried of a fresh voice, but not so here. Even so, Vinke lacks color and sometimes wanders slightly below pitch. These are minor grumbles though, and are only brought into focus through comparison with Lindstrom.
SWR may be caching in here on Inkinen’s recent Bayreuth celebrity, and perhaps too on Lindstrom’s growing fan base. Both artists prove worthy of the hype, and Lindstrom fans in particular should seek out the recording. Bios of the three artists are included, in German and English, but no libretto, nor any explanation about the abridged performance.

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