Studio recording in stereo
October 3-21, 1970
|Conductor: Georg Solti|
|Landgraf Hermann|| |
|Tannhäuser|| ||René Kollo|
|Venus|| ||Christa Ludwig|
|Ein junger Hirt|| |
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
|Decca, 414 581-2
Review by John Sullivan|
Having listened to most of Sir Georg Solti's Wagner recordings, I must
say this isn't quite a contender for his best. But, considering Solti's
achievements in Wagner's operas have been magnificent, that doesn't mean
this Tannhäuser is a bad recording at all; in fact, this is an excellent
recording of Wagner's fifth opera.
It was a great idea to use the Paris (1861) version, as opposed to the
Dresden version of 1845. Some people have said that the Paris revisions
(which include the substantial lengthening of the opening Venusberg
scene) make the rest of the score pale in comparison, but I don't agree.
I think Tannhäuser becomes a much better opera when the Paris version is
used. The interesting note by the producer, Ray Minshull, explains the
choices they used under the "umbrella-title" of Paris version, including
the decision to use the continuous version of the Overture/Bacchanale.
Solti's direction of the work is superbly inspired and wonderfully
evocative, from the frenzied excitement of the Bacchanale to the majesty
of the pilgrims' choruses. He has far and away been my favorite Wagner
conductor since I first heard his Ring Cycle, and this recording did
nothing to change that view. The orchestra is the phenomenal Vienna
Philharmonic. It is probably the greatest Wagner orchestra ever, and
there is terrific work from both the Vienna State Opera and Vienna Boys'
Choruses. The vocal performances are not quite as good, though.
René Kollo in the title role is hardly ideal (though he was probably the
best Heldentenor around when this recording was made in 1970). He gives
a good interpretation of the part, but his rather dry, effortful singing
subtracts from enjoyment. He is at his best in the quieter, lyrical
portions of the score, but his shortcomings are highlighted next to the
wonderfully creamy singing of Christa Ludwig. She IS Venus, in every way.
End of discussion.
Though I think Helga Dernesch isn't quite powerful enough for Isolde and
Brünnhilde, her singing as Elisabeth is excellent. Her voice is just
about perfect for the character: slightly steely, with a slight vibrato
through her entire register, and her reading is heartfelt and sympathetic.
Hans Sotin, near the beginning of his career, is in fantastic form as the
Landgrave. His interpretation is superb and his voice is beautifully
resonant, especially in lower registers. Victor Braun is an acceptable
Wolfram, but his tight vibrato becomes somewhat annoying at the top of
The supporting cast is good to excellent, with an actual boy as the
shepherd in Act I (though he is rather rudely not credited anywhere
in the set). The minstrel/knights are particularly good.
Overall, this an excellent recording of Tannhäuser, and one that I shall
return to again and again.