R. Wagner, Die Meistersinger, Wolfgang Sawallisch
There is no perfect recording of Die Meistersinger–and there probably never will be, either–too taxing is this cheery 4½ hour Singspiel that Wagner thought to be his light and undemanding Opera. This and the supressed Kubelik recording (worth a story in its own right) come as close to it as possible. Conceived while taking a break from the Ring, it’s the only mature Wagner-work that doesn’t end with a heap of dead bodies. Its emotional range is none the smaller for it and while its length might be prohibitive to newcomers, its some of the most delightful Wagner on record. Sawallisch is one of the most astute and no-nonsense Wagnerians and he reigns over a superlative cast. Weikl, Heppner, Studer and Moll can’t be topped in these days–and a young René Pape as the Nachtwächter is pure luxury. The sound is superb, the presentation without fault. The price is steep – but the only rivals (Kubelik, Jochum, Solti-2) are too. Listen ten times and it costs 2 cents per minute.