Wagner Society Recordings Library

Posted on 10, Jun, 2015 in Uncategorized

A note from the librarian…


Welcome to the Wagner Society Recordings Library, a large collection of different recordings of all of Wagner’s operas, the Wesendonck-lieder, non-operatic orchestral pieces, and his piano music.

I try to ensure that the Library contains as many UK performances of Wagner’s operas as possible, together with numerous recordings from the Bayreuth Festival, all of whose post-war Ring cycles are represented in full or in part.  Other performances originate from the main opera houses of the world including the New York Met, Munich, Paris, La Scala, etc.  Recordings date from 1909 through to 2012.

Many items which I’d love to offer, however, remain elusive. In 1937 the Royal Opera House mounted a “Coronation” season, represented in the Library by Reiner conducting Der fliegende Hollander and Parsifal (both unfortunately incomplete), and Beecham in Tristan und Isolde.  Furtwängler’s Ring from the same season is represented only by excerpts – the complete Ring is rumoured to exist in a private collection, but sadly not ours.  Similarly, there’s no complete published Ring from the first post-war Bayreuth Festival.  We do, however, have plenty of other complete performances.

A word about the growth of the Library.  Some items are commercially released recordings, but the rest have been donated by members over the years, and I try to ensure that all UK broadcasts are added.  Until recently, collectors depended on the items offered by BBC Radio 3, or (for those with appropriate satellite equipment) some European broadcasters, particularly those based in Germany.  The advent of high-speed internet facilities means that it’s now possible to listen online to radio stations from around the globe, and some items are drawn from such sources.  Indeed, without this facility we wouldn’t have the recent Glyndebourne Festival “Meistersinger”.

Most items in the Library are on CD although older items are on tape cassette.  In addition, some more recent items are recorded on DVD (described in the listing as dvd-audio) which give uninterrupted playing-times, high quality stereo sound, and are more convenient to post.  These have no picture content and need to be played on dvd (not cd) equipment.  We do not have LPs, open-reel tapes, minidiscs, or DAT,  although if members wish to donate such items I’m happy to transcribe them onto cd.

The video Library is smaller in content but follows the same pattern of grouping and acquisition. Again, this contains all Wagner’s mature operas from a variety of sources, pre-recorded and home-made.  All the dvd items are home-made and PAL format (the UK TV standard) except where noted.  Video broadcasts on the internet are far less common and for foreign items I’m reliant on European satellite as a source – although this did provide access to the 2011 “Lohengrin” being the first-ever live televised performance from the Festival.   The video Library also includes a number of documentaries on Wagnerian themes.

Members may borrow items by paying a hiring fee of £3 per item which includes the cost of outward postage.  Cheques (payable to the Wagner Society) should be enclosed with requests.  Items can be borrowed for up to a month, and members bear the cost of posting items back.  An “item” means a particular recording or set – Keilberth`s 1953 Bayreuth Ring is one set hence one fee, whereas Knappertsbusch`s 1958 Ring is four separate sets hence four fees.

Finally, if members are interested in recordings which aren’t mentioned in the listing, I’m happy to try to find these elsewhere although I can’t promise to succeed.  I would also be interested in receiving members` ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. These are only my thoughts and views – I’d love to hear yours.


Contact me – Andrew Burton

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