There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup. Hence the appeal of recording a concert performance. This CD set was edited from two such performances in Amsterdam’s famed Concertgebouw (literally: “concert building”) on December 18 and 20, 2015. The performance was semi-staged, i.e., done without costumes and sets. Some evocative lighting was employed. Characters made entrances and exits through various doors, and characters and (I gather) brass players appeared on balconies.
As a conductor, Mariss Jansons is not only versatile, but able to show different characters, depending on his purposes. In each of the three late romantic works in the two concerts he had a clear idea of how he wanted to apply the best qualities of his orchestra. None of these pieces, no matter how much they may be admired, are especially esteemed for their economy and structural clarity, but in each case, Jansons found a true, organic solution to the composer’s aims.