Classical Reissue Reviews
WAGNER: Fantasies for 8 Horns = 8 Bayreuther Festspiel-Hornisten (Gerd Seifert/ Klaus Markowski/ Jan Schroeder/ Manfred Klier/ Siegfried Machata/ Barry Garbage/ Klaus Schneider/Günter Fritzsche) – Acanta
Published on December 30, 2013
WAGNER: Fantasies for 8 Horns = 8 Bayreuther Festspiel-Hornisten (Gerd Seifert/ Klaus Markowski/ Jan Schroeder/ Manfred Klier/ Siegfried Machata/ Barry Garbage/ Klaus Schneider/Günter Fritzsche) – Acanta 233597, 64:23 [11/13/12] [Distr. by Naxos] ***:
Recorded in 1983, this quartet of fantasies for eight French horns created by Karl Stiegler and Manfred Klier on a quartet of iconic Wagner operas – Lohengrin, Rheingold, Siegfried and Tristan und Isolde – epitomized the weirder aspects of the long defunct Acanta label.
The result is alternatively radiant, beautiful and sublime alternating with occasionally unsettling martial shots across the bow – nothing that’s not in the music, of course; the 20-minute Rheingold fantasy, for example, starts with the Rhine maidens and ends with more than seven minutes of the rainbow bridge (although the eight horn players avoid dealing with the anvil strike for which I have docked them one star).
There is no doubt that the horn players of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra were a splendid lot; 30 years ago they were being led by Gerd Seiffert longtime principal under Karajan in Berlin. They played at the memorial concert given each year at Wagner’s grave to mark the opening of the Festival. In fact, they fancied themselves a romantic ensemble with widespread crossover appeal like the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; but while all-cello bands continue to flourish, the Bayreuth boys seem to have disappeared.
The sound takes a lot of volume and would be great for trying out a new system; recorded in an unnamed place, it sounds remarkably natural and magnificent when it is not being entirely silly.