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Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Der Fliegende Holländer. Excerpts
Holländer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bar); Daland, Gottlob Frick (bass); Erik, Rudolf Schock (ten); Steersman, Fritz Wunderlich (ten); Senta, Marianne Schech (sop).
Chorus and Orchestra of the Staatsoper Berlin/Franz Konwitschny
Recorded Grunewaldkirche Berlin. 1960
Bargain Price
BERLIN CLASSICS ETERNA COLLECTION 003264BC [78.16]

 

The 1960 recording from which these excerpts are derived, together with the Culshaw/Solti Rheingold of 1958, set new standards for atmospheric recording of Wagner’s operas. The original issue on EMI LPs had a wide dynamic range with the sound warm and clear. So it is on this CD with the orchestral sound vivid and vibrant and well forward as are the voices. Konwitschny is slower than Nelsson on his live Bayreuth recording (Philips), one of my favourites, but he is no slouch. His idiomatic and natural feel for this music, allowing his singers to phrase with care, is a significant contribution to the dynamism of the performance. The overture (tr.1) is well shaped and sets a highly evocative atmosphere for the whole.

In the eponymous role Fischer-Dieskau, despite not having the weight of voice for the Dutchman of one’s dreams, gives a formidable and believable portrayal. He darkens his essentially soft-grained baritone. This, allied to a smooth legato and a lieder singer’s way with words, gel to convey the moods and agony of the Dutchman’s soul. His singing of the ‘monologue’ (tr.3) is a lesson for all aspiring Wagner baritones in husbanding one’s resources to best effect. The Daland of Gottlob Frick (born 1906) is equally well characterized although by this stage in his career his tone is more lean and biting (tr.7), than sonorous and sappy in the manner of Talvela for both Klemperer and Solti. The two tenors are as good as any on disc with Wunderlich’s heady tones and plangent middle particularly noteworthy (tr.2). Could he have taken the heavier role of Erik, Senta’s lover, here sung by Rudolf Schock? Maybe, but I am happy that both parts are well sung and although Schock’s tone hardens once or twice (tr.9) he is neither as coarse nor as strained as many recorded rivals. As Senta, Marianne Schech has questionable moments but her voice is full toned with a wide dynamic and palette of colour. Her ‘ballad’ (tr.5) is well shaped and enunciated. The chorus is vibrant and idiomatic and makes a significant contribution to these recorded excerpts particularly in tr.7.

The slim booklet has a brief essay on the opera’s composition and a track-related synopsis in English and German. The synopsis splits the work into three acts although the track listing of the scenes and arias indicates this is the single act version. This is of little importance in excerpts and does not detract from a very welcome reissue of a vividly recorded and well sung version of Wagner’s most popular and accessible opera.

Robert J Farr

 



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