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Briefly Noted: Wagner and Dietsch

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Wagner, Der fliegende Holländer (excerpts) / P.-L. Dietsch, Le vaisseau fantôme, ou le maudit des mers, Les Musiciens du Louvre--Grenoble, Eesti Filarmoonia Kammerkoor, M. Minkowski

(released on November 19, 2013)
Naïve V 5349 | 4 CDs
Wagner's Flying Dutchman was rejected by the Paris Opéra on the basis of its first few pages. Not impressed, then-director Léon Pillet did accept the story from the libretto, which the impecunious Wagner gladly sold for 500 francs. He sent it on to librettists who made Le vaisseau fantôme ou le maudit des mers, with music by Pierre-Louis Dietsch (1808-1865), who was the chorus master and conductor at the Paris Opéra. It was Dietsch who conducted the 1861 premiere of Wagner's Tannhäuser -- both were relatively short works, meant to be performed before a complete ballet (the fortitude, or inattention, of the Paris audience was legendary). Jens already wrote about the Vienna performances of both the Paris version of Der fliegende Holländer and Dietsch's mostly unknown Le vaisseau fantôme, brought together by Marc Minkowski and his ensemble Les Musiciens du Louvre Grenoble. Naïve has since released a recording of the two works, made at the Grenoble performances, a set which is worth acquiring for any Wagner fan.

The original Paris version of Der fliegende Holländer, from 1841 and in one act, is preserved in the so-called Meudon score, named for the suburb of Paris where Wagner wrote this first version. It has been recorded before and is a valuable document in terms of understanding how Wagner became Wagner. Evgeny Nikitin is a fine Dutchman, at the top of a generally fine cast. Alexander Dratwicki (of the Bru Zane Foundation) has made a new edition of the score of Le vaisseau fantôme, published in conjunction with the Wagner anniversary and used here. Musically, it does not hold a candle to Wagner's version of the story, either the first draft or the later revision, but it has some interesting moments, like the harps in the orchestra in the music for the doomed sailor's redemption. The story is also quite different, with Dietsch's Minna pledged in marriage by her father, a merchant named Barlow in Shetland, to the cursed seaman, Troile, because he owes him his life. Her childhood sweetheart, Magnus, pledges himself to the priesthood instead, even offering to officiate at Minna's marriage, but he recognizes Troile for who he really is, the murderer of his father. Troile calls demonic forces to help him escape, but Minna sacrifices herself for him, guiding him before God's throne in the final scene.

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