OP0032. DAS LIEBESVERBOT (Wagner), Live Performance, 9 July, 1983, Munich, w.Sawallisch Cond.Bayerischen Staatsoper & Bayerisches Staatsorchester; Hermann Prey, Sabine Hass, Pamela Coburn, Robert Schunk, Keith Engen, etc. (Austria) 3-Orfeo C345 953D. - 4011790345321
“Wagner’s mature operas have created an image of him as the high priest of a cult based on a severe sort of German aesthetic mysticism. But DAS LIEBESVERBOT (The Ban on Love), from 1836, provides rare insight into a period when he was a young man searching for both style and substance.
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s MEASURE FOR MEASURE, LIEBESVERBOT reveals a Wagner only slightly more than the sum of his influences. It mixes elements of the Italian bel canto and French opera styles, with touches of Mozart, Beethoven and Weber. Yet despite those copious borrowings and an antic tone never again encountered in his work, LIEBESVERBOT unquestionably contains traces of the mature Wagner in embryonic form: in breathless string shimmers anticipating those of TANNHÄUSER and LOHENGRIN; in the simple melodic figure in the overture that serves as a leitmotif; and in the vocal heft of the principal female role. Portentousness lingers even in ribald scenes, auguring the grandiosity to come.
Wagner took up Shakespeare’s ban on love as a way to condemn German stuffiness and prudery. In writing his own libretto, he cast off Shakespeare’s itinerant duke, focusing instead on Angelo, the deputy left behind to rule in the duke’s absence. He moved the action from Vienna to Sicily but pointedly turned Angelo into Friedrich, a transplanted German. His comeuppance is eventually dealt by Isabella, a novice who leaves the convent to free Claudio, her brother, sentenced to death for the crime of impregnating his fiancée.”
- Steve Smith, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Aug., 2008
“Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the last of the old-school German conductors, who led the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly a decade and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for two decades before that, embodied the German type of the ‘Kapellmeister’ in the best sense: a man steeped in music, who knew every note of every score he conducted (often from memory), who was a supportive accompanist as well as an informed interpreter and who understood how to train, develop and lead an orchestra. Never flashy, even somewhat understated, he was, at his best, insightful and illuminating.
While Mr. Sawallisch was renowned throughout Europe, he might have remained little known to American audiences had the Philadelphia Orchestra not tapped him to take over as music director in 1993. When he arrived at age 70, he underwent a veritable renaissance, evidently enjoying a new freedom, both artistic and political — far from the political squabbling that had increasingly overshadowed his last years in Munich. ‘The last 10 years, with the Philadelphia Orchestra’, he said in 2006, ‘were really the top years of my symphonic life’. His time in Philadelphia was therefore a particularly happy ending to his career. Against some expectations, the reserved, intensely private German thrived in America, and the orchestra responded warmly to him.”
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Feb., 2013
"Though Mr. Prey's voice was a mellow, lyric baritone, he sang with such focused sound and robust projection that he enjoyed an active career in opera. He avoided the heavier Verdi roles, but excelled at Mozart, Gluck, Rossini, and lighter Strauss and Wagner roles. One of his great achievements was Beckmesser in Wagner's MEISTERSINGER, which he sang at the Met in 1993. To his characterization of a town clerk in medieval Nuremberg, typically portrayed as a scheming buffoon, Mr. Prey brought an emotional complexity and light-on-the-feet comic grace that made Beckmesser endearing.
Mr. Prey's voice was ideally suited to lieder, and he left a large and important discography, including songs by Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, Mahler, and Carl Loewe, a neglected 19th-century composer whom Mr. Prey championed. Commenting on Mr. Prey's 1985 recording of Schubert's WINTERREISE with the pianist Philippe Bianconi, The New York Times critic Bernard Holland wrote: ‘This is Schubert singing that does not twist sound for pictorial or dramatic effect but instead creates, with unusual musical clarity and purity of tone, a narrative voice which, though concerned and moved, tells the story first and lives it only indirectly’."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 July, 1998