Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Hans Knappertsbusch
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
3 August 1952
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Hans SachsOtto Edelmann
Veit PognerKurt Böhme
Kunz VogelgesangKarl Terkal
Konrad NachtigallWalter Stoll
Sixtus BeckmesserHeinrich Pflanzl
Fritz KothnerWerner Faulhaber
Balthasar ZornJosef Janko
Ulrich EißlingerKarl Mikorey
Augustin MoserGerhard Stolze
Hermann OrtelTheo Adam
Hans SchwartzHeinz Borst
Hans FoltzMax Kohl
Walther von StolzingHans Hopf
DavidGerhard Unger
EvaLisa Della Casa
MagdaleneIra Malaniuk
Ein NachtwächterGustav Neidlinger

In 1952, we are back to a “live” performance. This time, it’s Bayreuth, and in the pit is, once more, Hans Knappertsbusch. This is an even greater reading from him than we hear in DECCA/LONDON’s recording studios! His cast is not at the same exalted level, but it’s rarely bad. Edelmann repeats his stalwart Sachs, and this recording affords a rare opportunity to sample Lisa Della Casa’s Eva: a bewitching Eva, and one of the most sympathetic available. This was, of course, the same Bayreuth production as the Karajan a year before, so we shouldn’t be surprised, though disappointed, to find Hopf repeating his wearying Walther. This recording showcases, all told, a wonderful reading of the score from Kna — possibly the finest reading from anyone on disc save Wilhelm Furtwaengler’s, which is available only with a dismal Grade-B cast, so off-putting as to preclude itemizing it in this roundup at all. There is nearly dismal and then there is somewhat flawed: Maybe this Kna set at Bayreuth does not have as fine an overall cast as Kna’s fine studio effort, but it’s still distinguished enough in various aspects additional to its inspired conducting to be somewhat flawed only. The Furtwaengler, on the other hand, has little to distinguish it aside from Furtwaengler’s unique contribution (there are also some missing sections in the only known source), making it easier to appreciate truly superb conducting in this “live” Kna reading than in the generally disappointing Furtwaengler, whose cast flirts with the purely dismal at times.

Geoffrey Riggs


Knappertsbusch’s very early Decca LP studio recording, made in Vienna, is comparatively well known and loved, not least for Paul Schoffler’s warm, congenial Sachs. Now we have two later, live performances conducted by Knappertsbusch, a 1952 version from Bayreuth and one from Munich dating from 1955, with which to compare it, plus another Bayreuth performance dating from 1956, when Wieland Wagner shocked the regulars with his abstract staging that left Nuremberg more or less out of it.

Of the two ‘Kna’ interpretations, the Bayreuth is the superior mainly because the chorus and orchestra far surpass their Munich colleagues, and because the variable conductor is on more inspired form; indeed this is the reading of his now to choose. The depth and humanity of his broad, surely paced view of the long work allow us to forgive his excessive rallentandos and other liberties he takes with the score, and while his Munich Sachs (Frantz – familiar from Kempe’s contemporaneous EMI set, 2/93) and Pogner, the unrivalled Frick, are superior to their Bayreuth counterparts, the remainder of the Bayreuth cast is preferable. Three singers appear in both renderings. Della Casa is more natural and in fresher voice, indeed appealing in every respect, at Bayreuth, a shade mannered in Munich. Pflanzl, though not ideal in either set, is in better shape as Beckmesser on the Green Hill. Hopf, too, is a more likeable and more vital Walther in 1952 than he had become by 1955. Edelmann repeats his Sachs from the 1951, Karajan-Bayreuth recording (EMI, 9/90), a friendly, warm-hearted fellow but not one gifted with enough poetic instincts. Unger, also in the Kempe set, is an incomparable David, Kuen too lean-voiced. Faulhaber, a bass who died far too young, is a splendid Kothner. On the 1956 set from Bayreuth that part is taken by no lesser artist than Fischer-Dieskau, who presents to the life the precise, fussy keeper of the seal, none better on any recording of the work. But there is hardly a poor performance from any singer. Windgassen, who rarely undertook Walther, sings the part with untiring freshness and life, phrasing with a long line and an innate musicality that make Walther’s music for once a pleasure to hear from start to finish. Brouwenstijn is his full-throated if not very individual Eva. Stolze’s David is predictably vivid, Schmitt-Walther’s pedantic, unexaggerated Beckmesser a nice change from the then-customary caricature. Greindl’s Pogner is not ideally steady but imbued with eloquent diction and feeling.

The clinching performance is Hotter’s Sachs, profoundly satisfying in its depth of feeling, its understanding of every facet of Sachs’s complex character, and he gives his two monologues a musing, interior quality that goes to the heart of the matter. Vocally, he starts a shade tired – not surprising when he was also that festival’s Wotan – but, crucially, by the start of Act 2 he strikes his best form. This set would be worth hearing for him alone.

Cluytens’s conducting is not on the Knappertsbusch level, rather matter-of-fact in the first two acts, much more inspired in Act 3 – but in any case nothing can dim the quality here of the hand-picked Bayreuth forces. Unfortunately this recording, unlike the other two, has moments of poor sound, but it is never unsatisfactory enough to mar the performance’s many assets. Both Bayreuth sets add in a positive way to the work’s recorded history.’

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Hunt, GM, Music & Arts, Archipel, Arkadia, Line, OOA
Get this Recording
Donate $5 to download flac
Technical Specifications
433 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 821 MiB (flac)
Broadcast from the Bayreuther festival
A production by Rudolf Otto Hartmann (1951)