Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Eugen Jochum
Gesamtchor der Bayerischen Staatsoper
Orchester des Prinzregenten-Theaters München
Date/Location
10 December 1949
Prinzregententheater München
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Cast
Hans SachsHans Hotter
Veit PognerMax Proebstl
Kunz VogelgesangFranz Klarwein
Konrad NachtigallKarl Hoppe
Sixtus BeckmesserBenno Kusche
Fritz KothnerEgmont Koch
Balthasar ZornKarl Mücke
Ulrich EißlingerHans Kern
Augustin MoserKarl Mösch
Hermann OrtelFritz Richard Bender
Hans SchwartzWalter Bracht
Hans FoltzRudolf Wünzer
Walther von StolzingGünther Treptow
DavidPaul Kuën
EvaAnnelies Kupper
MagdaleneRuth Michaelis
Ein NachtwächterFritz Richard Bender
Gallery
Reviews
Opera Today

Recorded at a December, 1949, performance, this Meistersinger has just about everything going for it. The sound is quite good for its provenance–better, in fact, than the 1956 Bayreuth Meistersinger. I mention the latter because it also preserves Hans Hotter’s Hans Sachs complete. He’s in far better voice here, though. The role’s intimate, interior moments particularly illustrate Hotter’s unusual care with words. The opera’s pair of lovers is also strong. Meistersinger buffs will recall Gunther Treptow’s ringing Walther from Decca’s 1949/50 Knappertsbusch version, or Benno Kusche’s dark-toned, scheming Beckmesser from Kempe’s classic EMI recording. But what a difference it makes to put these singers in front of an audience–and the differences are revealing. One can say the same for Eugen Jochum, who led a very fine studio Meistersinger in 1975. Yet his younger counterpart brings added warmth to the complex orchestral strands, in addition to perfect tempo choices and flowing, unpressured phrasing all around. The filler, a 1944 “Wotan’s Farewell” from Die Walküre (with Heinrich Hollreiser leading the Bavarian Radio Orchestra), captures Hotter at his youthful best. No texts or translations are included.

Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 5

Jed Distler

OperaCast.com

In 1949, in a broadcast performance available only on specialty labels, we have, from Munich, one of the liveliest readings of all, conducted by Jochum in peak form. (This is distinct from Jochum’s studio-made recording made many years later for DG in the ’70s.) Hans Hotter leads the cast. His Sachs may be the most insightful of all, but while vocally assured elsewhere, he becomes uneven in the last scene, showing evident fatigue. Treptow is heard in his absolute prime, and I must say I enjoy his usually musical and well-interpreted Walther. No question his is not the bright easy kind of tenor best heard in this role. But I rarely find him off-putting here (the way I do Suthaus). Kupper’s Eva, though, I do — find off-putting, that is. An entirely unsympathetic vocal “face”, registering far too much effort in one of the most deftly written roles Wagner ever conceived. What a shame. Jochum’s reading is delightful and deserves an article in itself! Nothing is missed in a brilliant traversal. The vivid goings-on in every scene have the effect of animated conversation throughout, precisely what the earliest conductors who learned this opera from Wagner himself were consistently praised for. This conversational quality is the touchstone of the very greatest Meistersinger conductors, and Jochum has it for days! What a revelation. If not for his Eva…………

Geoffrey Riggs

Musicweb-International.com

Hotter is surely the greatest Wagnerian bass-baritone to have been preserved in the recording era. His Wotan and Gurnemanz set the standard that others aspire to, and his Kurwenal and Marke reveal new depths of character and insight. Hans Sachs is a role that was oddly missing from his core repertoire, however, something that this release’s liner notes explain was due to an acute vocal crisis in 1950 that was so bad that it led to him being left out of the cast list for the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951. That led to a reconsidering of which roles he took on, and Sachs seems to have been one that fell away in consequence. He did sing it at Bayreuth in 1956, but he was so unhappy with his performance that he convinced Wieland Wagner to wipe the master tape of the recording, and the only preservation of it we now have is of an off-air tape.

That lends this 1949 performance special value, as it’s almost the only record we have of him in this role. True, it doesn’t sound like a natural fit for him, and I was left wondering how he would have developed into the part if he had given himself more time and space with it. However, he still sounds totally at ease in it, lending colour to the ensembles and already owning the setpieces. The Fliedermonolog is delightful, for example – relaxed, broad, unhurriedly contemplative – while the Wahnmonolog shows masterly depths of insight. His subsequent dialogue with Walther is full of insight and comradeship as he takes Walther into his confidence during the explanation of the Masters’ art. He also sounds marvellous after the chorus of Wach auf, deeply moved by the recognition they give him. True, he does sound rather worn out by the final monologue, regularly breaking the line to snatch a breath, but he’s still remarkably humane and full of sympathy.

The other major point of interest in this release is Jochum’s conducting, which is really very different to that of his 1976 studio recording for DG. Here it’s much more of-a-piece, controlling the opera in one great span as it unfurls. Broadly his tempi are slower, most obviously in the Act 3 Prelude, but he is already a master of the score’s unfolding mysteries. True, he loses control of the overall structure in Act 3, with some unnecessary speeding up and broadening out, but overall his is a sound interpretation, and it’s fascinating to compare it with his later version.

The rest of the cast are perfectly fine, if unremarkable in the light of the competition. Günther Treptow’s Walther is heroic, though rather intrusively so, and it’s a performance that is fine in places but overall inconsistent. He turns up the lyricism for the Prizesong, for example, but then barks out its final iteration rather unappealingly. Next to him Annelies Kupper’s Eva is sweet and conducive, while Benno Kusche’s Beckmesser is straightforwardly fine, if a little stereotypical.

The recorded sound is up to Pristine’s usual very high standard. It’s a really successful remastering, cleaning up the original so that the voices sound pretty clear against the backdrop of the instruments. Often, indeed, you could fool yourself into thinking that you were hearing some (admittedly very primitive) early stereo, which is a testament to the skills of remasterer Andrew Rose and his team. Unavoidably, the crowd scenes sound rather cluttered, and it’s very irritating that they cheer endlessly over the entry of masters in Act 3, but there’s nothing that anybody can do about that.

This is a curiosity, therefore, but if you care about Hotter’s Sachs then it’s indispensable: a tantalising memento of what might have been.

Simon Thompson | November 2018

Rating
(8/10)
User Rating
(4.9/5)
Media Type/Label
Melodram
Myto, Walhall Eternity, OOA, Line, OD, Pristine
Technical Specifications
355 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 650 MByte (flac)
Remarks