OP0056. DIE MEISTERSINGER, Live Performance, 1967, München, w.Kubelik Cond. Bayerischen Rundfunks Ensemble; Thomas Stewart, Sándor Kónya, Thomas Hemsley, Franz Crass, Gerhard Unger, Gundula Janowitz, Brigitte Fassbänder, etc.; Völker, Melchior & Kipnis: DIE MEISTERSINGER – Excerpts, recorded 1923-31. (Croatia) 4-Myto Stereo 925.69. Superlative sound quality! Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! Superlative sound quality! - 8014399000697
“The most unusual recent Wagner release is a MEISTERSINGER taped live from a Bavarian Radio broadcast in 1967. From a sonic standpoint, the recording is of commercial quality; it was apparently intended for release at the time until record-company politics got in the way. (Other singers wanted to record the same parts.) Anyhow, here it is, and it immediately stakes a claim as the best of all MEISTERSINGER recordings.
To start with, Thomas Stewart is a wonderful Hans Sachs. The American baritone's voice was a little light for Wotan but perfect for Sachs, and he brings his superb command of German and of Wagnerian declamation to the task here…. Sándor Kónya’s tearful vocal tricks and thick Hungarian accent blunted the impact of his otherwise superb ‘youthful heroic’ tenor voice. Still, the role of Walther, which has not been well cast on records, lay perfectly for him, and the confidence and tonal beauty he brought to this music have to be heard. The rest of the cast, with Gundula Janowitz (cool-toned but appealing as Eva), Franz Crass, Gerhard Unger and Thomas Hemsley, is always reliable and sometimes better, and Rafael Kubelik conducts with a warmth and a relaxed propulsiveness that admirably suit this glowing score.”
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 31 Oct., 1993
“The version DG recorded and then suppressed, with Thomas Stewart unsurpassable as Sachs, the young Brigitte Fassbänder, Gundula Janowitz, Thomas Hemsley and a conductor who does not labour the jokes, is perhaps the best MEISTERSINGER recording of all time; this is a ’must’ for all MEISTERSINGER lovers.
- Norman Lebrecht, Wagneropera.net
"Thomas Stewart, was an American baritone who was renowned for his portrayals of Wotan, Amfortas and other central Wagnerian roles and who was heard frequently at Bayreuth and the Metropolitan Opera....his commanding quality came less from the size or mettle of his voice, which was surprisingly lyrical for a Wagner baritone, but from his imaginative approach to his roles. He gave his characters a measure of warmth and expressivity that made them seem complex and surprising."
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Sept., 2006
“There could be no more fitting memorial to Kubelík than the appearance of this, probably the most all-round satisfying MEISTERSINGER in the era of stereo. It was recorded in 1967 by Bavarian Radio to mark the work’s centenary the following year. Kubelík conducts an unforced, loving interpretation, showing a gratifying grasp of overall structure. As a whole, the reading has an unobtrusive cohesion achieved within flexible tempi and dynamics. Everything proceeds at an even, well-judged pace with just the right surge of emotion at the climaxes. All this is conveyed unerringly to his own Bavarian Radio forces.
Stewart’s Sachs is certainly his most successful performance on disc. He offers a finely moulded, deeply considered reading that relies on firm, evenly produced, mostly warm tone to create a darkish, philosophical poet-cobbler. Kónya is simply the most winning Walther on any set, superseding Sawallisch’s excellent Heppner by virtue of a greater ardour in his delivery. Kónya pours out consistently warm, clear tone, his tenor hovering ideally between the lyric and the heroic. Nor are there many better Evas than the young Janowitz, certainly none with a lovelier voice. Franz Crass, a less pompous Pogner than some, sings his part effortlessly, with noble feeling. Hemsley, though singing his first Beckmesser, evinces a close affinity with the Town Clerk’s mean-mindedness, and his German is faultless. Unger is a paragon among Davids, so eager in his responses and finding just the right timbre for the role. His Magdalene, again perfect casting, is the young Fassbänder. With a characterful Kothner in Engen, the requirements for a near-ideal MEISTERSINGER ensemble are in place. As the recording doesn’t betray its age, this would undoubtedly be the first choice among stereo versions.”
“Thomas Hemsley was one of the most versatile British singers in the second half of the 20th century. He sang a variety of operatic roles, was an accomplished lieder singer (with perfect German) and a distinguished soloist in choral works. His warm, flexible baritone had a wide range and its owner used it with consummate intelligence. He first came to prominence at 24 when he sang Aeneas to Kirsten Flagstad's Dido in the production of Purcell's opera that opened the Mermaid theatre in its first incarnation. Hemsley's fine presence made him an instant success, and a recording followed. In 1953 he was invited to Glyndebourne to sing Hercule in Gluck's ALCESTE. He returned there over the years in a number of roles, including a notable Music Master in Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. He was especially noted as Guglielmo in COSĚ FAN TUTTE and as Germont in LA TRAVIATA.
Keen to sing more in the UK, he returned to create Demetrius in Britten's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Aldeburgh in 1960. Later he recorded the part under the composer's baton. From 1968 to 1970, he was acclaimed for his Beckmesser in DIE MEISTERSINGER at the Bayreuth festival, a role that gave free play to his gift for characterisation. He recorded it just before singing at Bayreuth, under Rafael Kubelík, on one of the most recommendable sets of the opera. Everything Hemsley tackled was worth hearing because of the way that he understood a wide variety of vocal music. He never sang an unmusical note.”
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 15 April, 2013
“Kubelík is a conductor who was rather neglected on record, thus this recording is testament to his greatness. It is a huge loss to Wagnerians that this recording, made in 1967, was not released until 1994 (internal politics kept it on the shelf) - but now we can hear and revel in one of the great examples of Wagnerian conducting on record. Kubelík also has the best cast on disc. Thomas Stewart's Sachs has the weight and earthiness with something close to an ideal mixture of bass and baritone, and in terms of characterization an ideal balance among poet, cobbler and mastersinger. Gundula Janowitz as Eva has never been even remotely approached for sheer tonal beauty and radiance. She sings all of her role, especially the ‘O Sachs, mein Freund’ outburst, and the great ‘Selig wie die Sonne’ leads into the Quintet with a gleaming, warm radiance, a silvery serenity and an incandescent glory that, allied to her perfect phrasing, are incredibly moving. Walther, often the weak link, is here turned into one of the greatest strengths of the opera by Sándor Kónya, a little-recorded Hungarian tenor. He sings here with a youthful ardency that is enormously compelling, and his voice is a radiant outpouring of liquid gold, quite able to match the voice of his Eva in tonal beauty. Each time I listen to the Quintet and hear him enter with ‘Deine Liebe’, a chill runs down my spine; and his ecstatic account of the 'Preislied' is peerless. With glorious playing and singing from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, a superb supporting cast, and demonstration-quality sound, this must take its place as the top recommendation."
- CD Sullivan