Best CDs of 2008
'The Reginald Goodall production of Wagner's Mastersingers at Sadler's Wells in 1968 led to a landmark Ring and the blossoming of British talent on international stages, including Bayreuth. That remarkable Mastersingers is at last available on CD and it's just as one remembers it: spacious but lyrical, allowing the textures to be revealed in glorious detail.'
Recorded in Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue Theatre
10 February 1968
Music drama in three acts
Libretto by the composer
English translation by Frederick Jameson
revised by Norman Feasey and Gordon Kember
Norman Bailey, bass-baritone - Hans Sachs
Noel Mangin, bass - Veit Pognerv
Derek Hammond-Stroud, baritone - Sixtus Beckmesser
David Kane, tenor - Kunz Vogelgesang
Julian Moyle, bass - Konrad Nachtigall
David Bowman, baritone - Fritz Kothner
John Brecknock, tenor - Balthasar Zorn
Dino Pardi, tenor - Augustin Moser
James Singelton, bass - Herman Ortel
Gerwyn Morgan, bass - Hans Schwarz
Eric Stannard, bass - Hans Foltz
Alberto Remedios tenor - Walther von Stolzing
Gregory Dempsey tenor - David
Margaret Curphey soprano - Eva
Ann Robson mezzo-soprano - Magdalene
Stafford Dean bass - Nightwatchman
Sadlers Wells Chorus
Sadlers Wells Opera Orchestra
Reginald Goodall - conductor
‘Why does Rodney Milnes write in Opera:
'At last, the famous BBC broadcast of 16 February 1968, long sought after, finally tracked down, and issued on Chandos... this was the first show I wrote about in my first column, but I had already bought seats for later in the run - in fact for this broadcast night - and so saw it twice... any readers who attended any of those performances, will be happy to have it confirmed that on the evidence of the recording this was, indeed, a pretty earth-shattering event.'
He believes that it was due to one man, Goodall:
'You feel that not a single phrase has been taken for granted: everything emerges as freshly thought about, lovingly shaped. Goodall’s famously spacious tempos were chosen, surely, in the interests of musical values: every vocal and orchestral line (the strings especially) is pure gold. The variety of dynamic is another plus - there was no need for Goodall's famous 'don't scream at me, dear', since nobody does, and there is masses of beautifully poised soft singing.'
'All together now, "At last!" The famous Goodall Mastersingers makes it on to CD. Yes, it's in English, which may put some off, but the burnished tone and deep sensitivity of Alberto Remedios, the endless understanding of Norman Bailey's Sachs and Goodall's wise, expansive conducting make this a prize issue.
Recorded live on February 10, 1968
Masterly performance of a masterwork: the stuff of legend is finally heard
Reginald Goodall’s 1968 Sadler's Wells performance - legendary at least in British memory - has finally reached an official release on Chandos in Sir Peter Moores's Opera in English series. Here is one legend which hits the light of a 2008 day as brightly as it shone 40 years ago. Goodall's understanding of what every beat of this score means, and his successful communication of that to his personally trained cast, is a thing of wonder. Climaxes are immense; timers may tell us it's slow, but the pulse never flags.
Goodall's Walther, Alberto Remedios delivers the prize song with a dream mixture of Italianate tone and line and German lyrical weight. OK, it's in English, and a rather quaint English - but it has to be heard. So does Norman Bailey's Sachs. He is a noble humanist, free of petty concerns and stirred as opposed merely to being moody in yielding Evchen to Walther. And, together with Goodall, Margaret Curphey makes Eva's predicaments and love always real rather than simply coy.
The plentiful laughter that can be heard is due to both the sharp theatrical pointing of Goodall's conducting and the Eric Morecambe-like ability of Derek Hammond-Stroud's Beckmesser to be genuinely funny just by appearing. Hammond Stroud's is a masterly comic performance.
I can understand non-Anglophone readers smiling whimsically but this Chandos release genuinely becomes one of the miracles of the current Wagner discography.'
‘Compelling, joyous, often magnificent, Goodall displays a great sense for overall dramatic architecture and a spaciousness that highlights detail. The excellent ensemble cast includes transportive performances from Alberto Remedios as Walther, Margaret Curphy as the auctioned-off Eva and Norman Bailey, moving as the hero Hans Sachs.’
‘Reginald Goodall's English-language performances in 1968 marked the start of a 15-year-long Wagnerian golden age, as far as Sadler's Wells (later English National) Opera was concerned... Goodall never lets us forget that Meistersinger is a parable of poetic creativity, and there is an overriding sense of metaphysical resonance and elation in his interpretation. Bailey's nobly introverted Sachs has claim to being the most beautiful on disc, and few Walthers have ever matched Remedios in poetic fervour.’
The Sunday Times
‘The issue of this 1968 BBC recording is not merely an exercise in nostalgia. Goodall’s triumphant Mastersingers for Sadler’s Wells was the springboard for the move of the English-singing company — later English National Opera — to the London Coliseum, and for Goodall’s landmark SWO/ENO Ring. The seeds of the conductor’s later Wagner style — grand, weighty, delighting in rich string sonorities and “singing” melodic lines in the orchestra, with an uncommon attention to instrumental detail — and ENO’s mostly home-grown Wagner ensemble were sown here. The performance is greater than the sum of its parts: individual roles may have been more lustrously sung on disc, but it is hard to think of a more satisfying team than Norman Bailey (a noble Sachs, earthy and poetic), Alberto Remedios (a liquidly sung, golden-toned Stolzing), Derek Hammond-Stroud (a pernickety, word-perfect Beckmesser), Margaret Curphey (occasionally lemony-tinted, but radiant on the top line of the quintet) and Gregory Dempsey (a David who really sings the notes). Goodall’s towering achievement shines through... If only ENO could muster Wagner (and English diction) of this quality now.’