Tatsuya Shimono and the Orchestre Pasdeloup herald the glory of Wagner
Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Overture; Siegfried Idyll; Tristan und Isolde, Prelude and the Death of Isolde; Der fliegende Holländer, Overture; Parsifal, Good Friday Spell; Die Walküre, Act III Prelude
Ochestre Pasdeloup, Tatsuya Shimono (conductor)
The Orchestre Pasdeloup has performed a variety of concerts this season, ranging from themed Beethoven cycles (including “l’héroïsme” and “le destin”) to the cinema music of John Williams. Notable in this wide-ranging program was Saturday’s Wagner festival, two hours of sublime interpretation of many of Richard Wagner’s overtures, preludes and other orchestral passages.
Indeed, the Wagner repertoire resonates historically with this orchestra, whose founder, Jules Pasdeloup, championed German music throughout the late 19th century with his “Société des jeunes artistes” and “Concerts populaires de musique classique.” Pasdeloup’s frequent Wagner performances were often the privileged target for Wagner detractors, but Pasdeloup, along with Edouard Colonne, Charles Lamoureux and the poet Charles Baudelaire, continued to head up the list of people responsible for promoting wagnérisme in Paris.
This historical partnership between the Orchestre Pasdeloup and Wagner’s music showed itself during the afternoon concert. Under the sensitive direction of Tatsuya Shimono, the orchestra tapped the power of Wagner’s orchestral compositions and delivered an invigorating performance.
Leading the program was a roaring account of the overture from “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” first performed in 1868. The pompous opening announces many of the major themes in Wagner’s only comic opera, and the Bach-like counterpoint is supplemented by moments of humor woven into the score. Here Shimono captured the brightness of the composition with a fleet tempo that did not in any way diminish the grandeur.
Next came a tender rendition of “Siegfried Idyll,” a work composed in 1870 when Wagner was at the height of his happiness in his marriage to Cosima, daughter of Franz Liszt. The piece was first performed by Wagner’s small orchestra on the staircase of the Wagner family home at Tribschen in Lucerne on Christmas Day, a gift for Cosima on her 33rd birthday. It showcases strings and Wagner’s perfect (if selective) mastery of melody, though it was never intended for the public ear. (Dire financial straits coerced Wagner into sending the piece to a publisher in 1877.) The Orchestre Pasdeloup conveyed all of the soulful lyricism infused in this idyllic work, exhibiting a sweet and ordered sensuality that honored Wagner’s delicate tribute.
Stepping back in time to the chromatic intricacies of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” Shimono next conducted the prelude side by side with the orchestral portion of the final scene of the opera, “Mild und leise,” which proved the highlight of the concert. Shimono extracted a perfect tempo, flawless dynamics and captivating emotion.
The overture of “Der fliegende Holländer” followed, a work that shared the concept of the Liebestod with “Tristan” but predated it by almost two decades. The overture mirrors the damnation-redemption theme of the oeuvre, and it contains all of the significant musical ideas that appear later in the opera. Here again Shimono triumphed by highlighting the stormy crescendos and coordinating a strong horn section.
After a serene rendering of the baptism scene form the third act of “Parsifal,” Shimono conducted the notorious prelude to act III of “Die Walküre” for a strong close. At the end of the encore (a second rendering of the ride of Valkyries,) Maestro Shimono beamed at his musicians and leaned back against the rails of the podium in half-mocked exhaustion. He could not have been anything but ecstatic. His expertise, coupled with the musical deftness of the orchestra, is a standing invitation to other able ensembles to interpret Wagner’s music and reawaken the genius of a composer who is too often neglected by Paris orchestras.