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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Der fliegende Hollander: The Flying Dutchman (1843)
Act 1 Overture [9:42]
Scene 1: "Johohe! Hallojo! Hojohe! Hallojo!!", "Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer" [9:14]
Scene 2: "Die Frist ist um" ;
Scene 3:"He! Holla! Steuemann!" [10:00]
"Durch Sturm und bosen Wind verschlagen", "Mitt Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer" [10:19]
Animato"Wohl, Fremdling, hab’ ich eine schone Tochter" [4:50]
Vivace ma non troppo presto "Sudwind! Sudwind! Halloho ! Halloho!" [4 :14]
Act Two
Scene 4: "Summ und brumm, du guts Radchen" [8:10]
Allegro man non troppo – "Johohoe! Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an" [6:34]
Allegro con fuoco: "Ich sei’s, die dich durch ihre True erloset!" [2:34]
Scene 5: "Bleib, Senta! Bleib nur einen Augenblick!" [7:42]
"Auf hohem Felsen lag ich traumend, sah unter mir des Meeres Flut" [4:09]
Scene 6: "Mein Kind, du siehst mich auf der Schwelle"; "Mogst du, mein Kind, den fremnden Mann willkommen heissen!" [7:22]
"Wie aus der Ferne langst vergang’ner Zeiten" [13:12}
"Verzeiht! Mein Volk halt draussen sich nicht mehr" [2:36]
Act Three
Scene 7: "Steuermann! Lass’ die Wacht!" [12:33]
Scene 8: "Was musst’ ich horen?" [2:12]
"Willst jenes Tag’s du nicht dich mehr entsinnen"; Finale: "Verloren! Ach! Verloren!"; "Erfahre das Geschick [10:11]
Franz-Josef Selig (bass - Donald); Astrid Weber (soprano - Senta); Jorg Durmuller (tenor - Georg); Simone Schroder (contralto - Mary); Kobie van Rensburg (tenor – Donald’s steersman); Terje Stensvold (baritone – The Dutchman)
WDR Rundfunkchor and Prager Kammerchor
Cappella Coloniensis/Bruno Weil
rec. Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln, 13-15 June 2004, Philharmonie Essen, Germany DDD
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82876 64071 –21 [73:26 + 52:20]


This live recording of a production of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman sets itself apart from others in claiming to be as close as possible to the "original" performing conditions of the 1840s. While difficult to pin down exactly which particular version it is aspiring to emulate, since Wagner constantly revised the work between its completion in Paris and its premiere in Dresden in 1943, the performance here nonetheless sticks to original instruments, and to the pre-Dresden text. It is therefore set in Scotland, not Norway, and our familiar Daland is here Donald, and Erik, Georg. The musical differences include using the quieter ophicleide instead of a tuba, employing a smaller number of instruments, and deploying natural horns and trumpets which Wagner cunningly set alongside the then-new valve instruments to great and special effect. Thus when we encounter the Dutchman motif for the first time, it sounds forth in the natural trumpet, and later, in the natural horn, brilliantly creating a more ghostly, raw, natural, wild and mysterious sound, which works well. The attempt to reconstruct an original sound would mean the use of lighter and less "romantic voices", too, yet the recording has not captured this quite so successfully, as Astrid Weber, in particular, who plays Senta, has a fairly heavyweight voice, thus defeating their aims!

In the explanatory sleeve-notes and interview with the conductor Bruno Weil, Weil says of the speed that "the tempi determine themselves when playing on old instruments". The start of the disc would not appear to corroborate this. The opening few minutes of the overture seem to me to be taken at too swift a pace – certainly the fastest I’ve ever heard it - and the rushing orchestra almost fails to keep up with the conductor’s drive! It consequently lacks the majesty and sweeping grandeur of other recordings, yet the racing effect is comparatively exhilarating.

I was just very slightly disappointed with the first act, which came across as a little lack-lustre, begging for more passion, and wasn’t quite gripping or wild enough for me, possibly concentrating too much on accuracy and not enough on spirit. For instance, in the second scene, the Dutchman’s crew sing "Eternal destruction take us" in a rather matter-of-fact way rather than sounding despairing as one might well imagine that anyone uttering those words might be! However, it is undoubtedly well-conducted and excellently performed, with outstanding strings (especially in the rushing sections) and a gorgeous sound from the woodwind. Franz-Josef Selig, who plays Donald, has a nice rich tone, and the other singers are good, albeit Senta’s song (Act 2 / Scene 4) has some slightly bad intonation in places, and Terje Stensvold, the Dutchman, never manages to sound mysterious, accursed, or desperately wild enough.

It is fascinating to hear the difference that the "original" instrumentation makes. The whole work comes across as far more "classical", and has far less of that dark, heavy, thick soup of sound that we – mistakenly - tend to associate with Wagner. The Act 1 / Scene 3 Donald and Dutchman duet brings this lighter, thinner texture and less rich and romantic air out well, the girls’ song in Act 2 / Scene 4 has a nice light touch – far more so than one usually finds. In Act 2 / Scene 5, Georg seems to fit in far better with the "reconstruction" of an original sound with a much brighter, slighter voice, also lending a more classical feel to the proceedings.

Acts 2 and 3 are brilliant, with far more fervour and passion, including a deeply stirring duet between the Dutchman and Senta in Act 2 / Scene 6. Overall, this is a good performance with some exquisite playing, competent conducting, and excellent sound for a live recording. It is certainly very interesting to compare it with versions using modern instruments and generally heavier voices. So, fascinating from a historical and musicological point of view and a fine production to boot.

Em Marshall

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