How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineup?

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How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineup?

Post by Lance » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:35 pm

German born-died Wolfgang Sawallisch [1923-2013] was a consummate musician. Yet many people hardly recognize his name unless they are record collectors. He was a conductor of stature, and also a superb piano accompanist for singers and other soloists. He recorded prolifically for many major labels with much of it appearing on EMI and Philips. EMI/Warner's "Icon" series has a set of complete Beethoven and Brahms symphonies that few people I know have. Over the years he led many prominent orchestras in Europe and the USA, latterly the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Decca, through their Korean affiliate, has issued a 25-CD boxed set that is/was going for an extraordinarily high price though that price has come down considerably even through Japanese markets. That set is listed as "The Great Decca Recordings," yet I believe most of what's in this boxed set was produced on the Philips label and many have had misgivings about this incorrect nomenclature giving all credit to Decca (who does now own the Philips catalogue).

Anyway, just curious about your thoughts on Sawallisch.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by bigshot » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:42 pm

The best I can muster for him as a description is "sturdy". His Wagner is OK. His Mendelssohn symphonies (which I keep ending up with in box sets) are not. He managed to sap all the fun out of Stokowski transcriptions, even when he was playing them with the PO. I consider him a "placeholder conductor"... all right until a better version comes along.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Lance » Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:57 pm

Very nice personal thoughts on the man. His Mendelssohn five symphonies appears in the new Mendelssohn Portrait boxed set on Brilliant Classics (licensced by Decca). "Sturdy" is a great, descriptive word. I'm still trying to formulate my own opinions on the man though, I must say, I admired him very much as an assisting artist (pianist) particularly with singers. He certainly was anything but a 'showman' conductor. It was all business, kind of like Fritz Reiner, but yet Reiner brought something exceedingly special to his music-making.
bigshot wrote:The best I can muster for him as a description is "sturdy". His Wagner is OK. His Mendelssohn symphonies (which I keep ending up with in box sets) are not. He managed to sap all the fun out of Stokowski transcriptions, even when he was playing them with the PO. I consider him a "placeholder conductor"... all right until a better version comes along.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by John F » Fri Mar 13, 2015 4:20 pm

I have several of his recordings from the 1950s, in Bayreuth and for EMI (notably "Capriccio"), and the complete choral works of Schubert, but that's about it. He conducted a Philadelphia Orchestra concert here including Bruckner's 4th that I liked, but that's the only time I heard him in person.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Seán » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:19 pm

His Schumann symphony cycle is very good, however, his recordings of Brahm's four symphonies is AWFUL. It put me off Brahm's symphonic repertoire. Thank heaven for Gardiner's Brahm's cycle with the BPO, I have since learned to love these works. That's all I know of the man and his music-making. I am looking forward to learning what others make of him.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by josé echenique » Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:28 pm

He also did the Bruckner 4th here in Mexico City, one of the finest 4ths I have ever heard. gloriously played by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
I actually like Sawallisch a lot, a no nonsense conductor like Böhm. His Schumann symphonies are of course very fine, both with the Staatskapelle Dresden and the Philadelphians, and his Elektra is a favorite too. His live Ring from Munich is excellent, a sound, intelligent reading that is both dramatic and moving at the same time.
His repertoire was vast and varied, from Rossini´s Mosé to contemporary opera, you could always count on a well prepared performance.
A recording I especially love is his live version of Rossini´s Petite Messe Solennelle recorded live in a monastery in Austria with Kari Lovaas, Brigitte Fassbaender and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by premont » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:08 pm

His Beethoven set is one of my favorite Beethoven symphony sets. It is manly and warm and the playing by the Concertgebouw Orchestra is outstanding.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Modernistfan » Fri Mar 13, 2015 10:56 pm

In my lineup, he bats sixth, unless they're starting a left-hander, in which case he is dropped to seventh. Seriously, I have some of his Richard Strauss operas, but not too much more. (I do have his Schumann symphonies, though.)

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Lance » Fri Mar 13, 2015 11:14 pm

Appreciate these comments and hope they continue. Interesting to see how music lovers/collectors rate their musicians.

I am contemplating doing a month-long tribute to Sawallisch perhaps during the summer. There's THAT much material, believe it or not, especially if one gets the EMI/Warner Icon box plus the Korean 25-CD Decca set, not to mention all his pianistic collaborations.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by John F » Sat Mar 14, 2015 1:02 am

Wieland Wagner thought Sawallisch might be the conductor he was looking for, after Clemens Krauss's premature death prevented that partnership from continuing. Sawallisch favored fast tempos and was willing to accept Wieland's sometimes arbitrary performing editions, as with "Tannhäuser." But after seeing Anja Silja safely through her Bayreuth debut as Senta and then as Elisabeth and Elsa, he objected to Wieland's mistress and muse being cast in 1963 in what he considered an inappropriate role (Eva in "Die Meistersinger"), Wieland would not be persuaded, so Sawallisch quit. After Wieland Wagner's death, Wolfgang Wagner didn't invite Sawallisch to return, and after 1970 he was GMD in Munich which had its own opera festival exactly concurrent with Bayreuth, so that was that.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Mar 14, 2015 7:28 am

I am more familiar with Sawallisch's live performances than his recordings, since my Philadelphia Orchestra experience began with the second half of his tenure with that orchestra, namely, 1998 through 2003. My impressions from the concerts that he led ranged from positive to excellent. As some have already mentioned, his repertoire was wide and varied, but he had a particular affinity for the music of Richard Strauss.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:48 pm

Sawallisch is one of the under-appreciated conductors of his generation. I can only add here that he has pleased me with his recordings from Schubert masses to Wagner opera to Schumann symphonies. His tenure in Philadelphia was exemplary (as has been stated). .....And I do like his Brahms. :wink:

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Wallingford » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:31 pm

He's all right in my book, though not one of my big faves. As a teen my first Brahms symphony set was Sawallisch's (with a rapid fire Academic Festival Overture that other conductors could take a cue from).

When I was living in Seattle, he & the Philadelphians on tour played an unbeatable Brahms Fourth just a few days after 9/11. The same concert had an Enigma Variations that was almost as good. But I don't believe his achievements with that orchestra outstripped Stokowski's or Ormandy's.
Last edited by Wallingford on Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by rwetmore » Sat Mar 14, 2015 5:38 pm

Yeah, I would say my experience with Sawallisch is OK. That is, not particularly good or bad.
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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Marc » Sun Mar 15, 2015 3:27 am

Philadelphia, February 1994:

http://articles.philly.com/1994-02-13/n ... pokeswoman

I myself don't know that much about him, but I do admire his no nonsense approach, without mannerisms, towards music in general.

Here are some personal favourites:

Mozart's Die Zauberflöte live (DVD), with a great cast:

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Beethoven's Fifth and Pastorale (especially the latter), with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra:

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Songs of Richard Strauss, with Sawallisch accompanying the immortal Lucia Popp:

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by jserraglio » Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:52 am

One notable recording is the February 2, 1994 all-Wagner "Blizzard" concert in Philadelphia. Instead of cancelling when the orchestra was stranded in the suburbs, Sawallisch had the soloists walk over from their hotel and accompanied them from the keyboard. The concert was issued on a Philly Orch donor giveaway disc.

1-Tannhauser excerpts from Act 2
Dich theure Halle
O Fuerstin!
Landgraf's Sprache

2-Walkuere Act 1
Deborah Voigt (Elisabeth/Sieglinde)
Heikki Siukola (Tnnhauser/Siegmund)
Rene Pape (Landgraf/Hunding)
Brian Phipps (Wolfram von Eschenbach)

The Philadelphia Singers Chorale
Wolfgang Sawallisch, piano and commentary

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wonderful--on the vinyl issue anyway $12 (from MP Seller)

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favored recording of these works

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Korean Decca 25 discs for $119 (MP)

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Korean Decca 14 discs for $38 (MP)

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EMI Icon 8 discs for $20 (MP)

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by bigshot » Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:36 pm

When I think of the typical straightforward kappelmeister conductors... Sawallisch, Bohm, Wand... Sawallisch is a little different, because he is more no nonsense. Bohm and Wand had a little bit of a lilt to their conducting. The music danced a little more. Sawallisch is good, but the music rarely cracks a smile. That is better for some things than others.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Lance » Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:55 pm

A fine analogy amongst the conductors you name. Sawallisch, indeed, seems to be a "no-nonsense" conductor. out of the group you name, Böhm was another I enjoyed very much ... no-nonsense, but with a bit more flair, but not of the Stokowski/Bernstein variety! :D
bigshot wrote:When I think of the typical straightforward kappelmeister conductors... Sawallisch, Bohm, Wand... Sawallisch is a little different, because he is more no nonsense. Bohm and Wand had a little bit of a lilt to their conducting. The music danced a little more. Sawallisch is good, but the music rarely cracks a smile. That is better for some things than others.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by josé echenique » Mon Mar 16, 2015 6:05 pm

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This is a good example of Sawallisch at his best. Sure enough, Reiner and others could be more lovable or exciting, but Sawallisch let´s everything unfold so naturally, so right, this is still the best of all digital versions.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Lance » Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:28 am

I think, as a summer project, I will pesent a month long series of radio programs on Sawallisch. I'm using material from the Korean 25-CD Decca box as well as the EMI/Warner Icon set among several single CDs ... featuring him as the conductor with orchestra - and perhaps one program with Sawallisch the co-artist with singers. I may do that in July or August. Can anyone prompt me to follow through with this?
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by jserraglio » Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:59 pm

and a pretty good Ring.

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:28 am

Just listened to Sawallisch's Schubert Mass #6 in E-flat - my fav of all of them. It is outstanding, good tempi, wonderful balance between orchestra/chorus and excellent soloists (Donath, Springer, Schreier, Adam). Recorded with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Leipzig Radio Chorus and is a touching recorded performance. The recording was made in June of 1971.

My very favourite of this, perhaps surprisingly for some, is the one EMI/Capitol recorded with Leinsdorf, the Berlin Philharmonic and the fabulous St. Hedwig's Chorus. Soloists included Lorengar, Wunderlich, Schmitt and Allen. The latter came out on a Testament CD, licensed by EMI.

I haven't heard too many others that are as good as both of these. The Korean Decca 25-CD boxed set from Decca is beautifully put-together and also contains Schubert's Mass #5 (not to mention all of Schubert's symphonies). The English translation in the booklet could use some major editing, however.
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by THEHORN » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:49 am

The Sawallisch recordings of the Richard Strauss operas Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten , Intermezzo ,
Arabella, and Capriccio are deservedly acclaimed and must haves for anyone who loves this composer's operas .

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Re: How does the late Wolfgang Sawallisch fare in your lineu

Post by Ted Quanrud » Wed Mar 18, 2015 3:37 pm

Lance wrote:I think, as a summer project, I will pesent a month long series of radio programs on Sawallisch. I'm using material from the Korean 25-CD Decca box as well as the EMI/Warner Icon set among several single CDs ... featuring him as the conductor with orchestra - and perhaps one program with Sawallisch the co-artist with singers. I may do that in July or August. Can anyone prompt me to follow through with this?
You don't need us to prompt you, Lance; so get to work. Make sure you have excerpts from the Schubert masses and the Schumann symphonies. Sawallisch as a piano accompaniest (he was superb) would also be welcome. Rather you do it in August -- I will be camping in the Turtle Mountains in July and the internet can be dicey there. As always, looking forward to your program.

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