Guild continues to thrill all serious historical collectors with their stunningly produced resurrections from the vast and unique library of the Metropolitan Opera. After having given us a complete ‘Dream Ring’, they now turn their attentions to a magnificent 1936 broadcast of the monumental ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ with Friedrich Schorr at the absolute peak of his prime.
The usual glitches apart, this set can confidently be recommended as the finest ‘Meistersinger’ ever recorded. As far as I can discover, it is complete from first note to last and the array of singers assembled here almost beggars belief. Friedrich Schorr is absolutely unimpeachable as Hans Sachs, he is a cajoling, pleading, authoritative gentleman with a titanic voice that almost bursts through the crackly radio sound.
But Schorr is not alone in greatness. The opera is conducted by the much underrated Arthur Bodanzky, a great conductor in all departments and there is also Elisabeth Rethberg. By all accounts, this is an Eva for all time and the combination of all three artists is absolutely beyond reproach. Habich’s Beckmesser is also unforgettable as are the other smaller roles taken by Maison, Branzell and List’s delightful Pogner.
I grew up with Karajan’s 1971 Dresden version and find his 1951 Bayreuth recording much overrated. Solti’s recordings are slightly flawed and Kempe’s genial 1958 version with the BPO remains my firm favourite. However, this new version will win pride of place amongst my growing Wagnerian collection for its unique sense of occasion and its sense of a live recording that is quite remarkable.