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This recording of ‘Die Meistersinger’ was one of the first operas released on LP by Decca in January 1952. Act II was recorded in 1950 and released separately; a year later came Acts I and III. It was also the first complete studio recording of the opera to be released on LP and came early in a series of celebrated opera recording with the Vienna State Opera company. (A live recording of the 1951 Bayreuth Festival production under Karajan appeared at about the same time.)

It was no small achievement to get this, Wagner’s longest single opera, on disc and not surprisingly there were some problems, particularly – as early critics pointed out – of balance, both of orchestra with voices and between voices themselves. Yet these shortcomings are less in evidence now and pale beside the opportunity to hear the music sung by a cast drawn from one of the great post-war opera companies – including Otto Edelmann, Anton Dermota, Günther Treptow and Hilde Gueden.

But perhaps it is above all for Paul Schöffler’s Hans Sachs, however, that this set is valuable. For many, Schöffler was the great post-war Hans Sachs. Few singers have rivalled Friedrich Schorr in this role but perhaps Schöffler came closest. His was a warm bass-baritone voice with a wide range of colouring as much at home in Mozart as in darker roles such as Iago. He brought to Sachs a generous and sympathetic tone evident in the monologues, particularly those in the third act (his ‘Johannisnacht’ is exquisite) but also a feeling for the humour and humanity of the piece that many other interpreters have lacked.

Hans Knappertsbusch is the other star of this recording. He coaxes playing of great sensitivity from the Wiener Philharmoniker. Time and again he shows us aspects of the music rarely revealed, conjuring up a more magical, less hectic midsummer than is customary.

The cast centres around the nobel Hans Sachs of Paul Schoeffler in one of his very finest recordings, opposite the totally enchanting Eva of Hilde Gueden...Knappertsbusch's direction is spacious. -PENGUIN GUIDE

‘Whichever version you own or plan to acquire, this old Knappertsbusch may be the most authentic for both conducting and singing – as long as you can accept the ageing sound and disregard the less than ingratiating singing of Treptow. Most of all it is a wonderful tribute to the art of Paul Schoeffler and his deeply moving human portrayal of Hans Sachs. In that respect it is a desert-island-set.’ Musicweb International

‘While Hans Knappertsbusch often wielded a heavy hand over most things Wagnerian, here his conducting elicits lightness, fluidity, and genial inflection from the Vienna Philharmonic, even when the tempos err on the slow side (Act 3’s endless procession). By and large the singers are outstanding, relishing Wagner’s words without a hint of “speech-singing”.’ ClassicsToday

‘this Kna reading is enthralling from beginning to end … the conversational quality is truly caught. The unforced lyricism in much of the performance also achieves a naturalness that may be unique in the discography. And we have Paul Schoeffler’s superb Sachs … Gueden’s Eva is a marvel and epitomizes the gemütlich qualities of most of Kna’s principals, and, for a wonder, we even have primo tenore Anton Dermota delivering the goods with the most lilting David on disc! … this may be the most enthralling Meistersinger I’ve yet heard.’ OperaCast (‘Meistersinger on Disc – The Strongest Entries’)

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Hans Sachs – Paul Schöffler
Veit Pogner – Otto Edelmann
Kunz Vogelgesang – Hugo Meyer-Welfing
Konrad Nachtigall – Wilhelm Felden
Sixtus Beckmesser – Karl Dönch
Fritz Kothner – Alfred Poell
Balthasar Zorn – Erich Majkut
Ulrich Eisslinger – William Wernigk
Augustin Moser – Hermann Gallos
Hermann Ortel – Harald Pröglhöf
Hans Schwarz – Franz Bierbach
Hans Foltz – Ljubomir Pantscheff
Walther von Stolzing – Günther Treptow
David – Anton Dermota
Eva – Hilde Gueden
Magdalene – Else Schürhoff
Ein Nachtwächter – Harald Pröglhöf

Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wiener Philharmoniker
Hans Knappertsbusch

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