Der fliegende Holländer
Studio recording in stereo
February & March, 1968
Conductor: Otto Klemperer
DalandMartti Talvela
SentaAnja Silja
ErikErnst Kozub
MaryAnnelies Burmeister
SteuermannGerhard Unger
HolländerTheo Adam
(New) Philharmonia Orchestra
BBC Chorus
EMI, CDS 5 55179 2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Constantijn Blondel

I have mixed feelings about this recording. This mixedness mainly consists of the conducting and the orchestral playing. But I'll start with the excellent soloists.

The cast is qua principals of a very high standard. Martti Talvela sings a sympathetic Daland with his heart in the right place, which is to me a refreshment after all those Dalands that seem to try to portray the evils of capitalism and such blah blah in an essentially one-dimensional character.

Senta is sung by one of my favorite sopranos of all time, Anja Silja. She is in top voice here and she renders the role with an intense mix of blonde-ness and psychopathism (I think Senta is definitely a shrink case) and besides succeeds in singing very convincing. She hammers out the top notes with a power that sometimes reminds one of Birgit Nilsson and in the softer parts she just lets her voice do all the work and make for the beauty both she herself and the character posess.

Theo Adam is the Holländer. As always he can be accused of being wobbly, and as always, it doesn't disturb me in the least. His first aria is powerful and he makes the listener feel the pain and the frustration of the man. I like it also very much that Adam possesses a lot of power.

Though I can appreciate van Dam's singing for Karajan, I prefer it if a bass-baritone can thunder like the storm that rages in his blood. The ones like Adam and of course George London for Dorati can do this. Theo Adam sings the role like a real Dutchman: loud and clear - a splendid performance.

The rest of the cast and the chorus is above adequate.

Then the other side of my medal: I'll admit at once that I'm not a fan of the heavy/slow/old style of Wagner conducting. I like to hear what music Wagner wrote and not what sounds the instruments can make. Still, though I can appreciate for instance Furtwängler or even Knappertsbusch (if it's not too long), I have difficulties with this conducting by Klemperer. He seems to go 'just slow', neither taking anything away from the music, nor adding a special quality to it. It reminds me a bit of the counterpart in some period instrument performances, where some conductors seem to think that just quick tempi and period instruments will get them everything thrice as fast and you'll win ovations. But IMHO it doesn't work this way, neither with quick, nor with slow tempi. IMHO Klemperer does not succeed in maintaining the tension through his slow tempi, and that makes me sometimes call this recording "the most beautiful piece of boring music I ever heard".

The orchestra plays well...I'm not a fan of English orchestral playing, but there's no discussion about the Philharmonia playing technically perfect. Pity that it was recorded in a dry shoebox (Abbey Road studios), though it is sufficiently transparent. If you like great singing combined with a transparent though dry recording this set can be recommended. If not, then try Dorati/Bohm or Naxos' recording.

Incidentally, this EMI set uses the original Dresden version, that is with every act ending without through-compostition and with Senta jumping of the cliff-auch-dead, without the transfiguration.