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CD: Crotchet

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Der Fliegende Hollšnder (Original Dresden version) (1843)
Dutchman Ė Theo Adam (bass-baritone)
Senta Ė Anja Silja (soprano)
Daland Ė Martti Talvela (baritone)
Erik Ė Ernst Kozub (tenor)
Mary Ė Annelies Burmeister (mezzo)
Steersman Ė Gerhard Unger (tenor)
BBC Chorus; New Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
rec. 1968, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
EMI CLASSICS 4 56470 2 [75:58 + 76:09]

Experience Classicsonline

Klempererís 1968 Dutchman is among the new crop of EMIís Home of Opera series. At budget price there is no booklet but you can access the PDF files via a CD-Rom which is included in the case. This famous performance comes up well in its re-mastered format: tape hiss is at a minimum, though there remains some fogginess at climaxes. There is a lot to enjoy here but for me it isnít a top choice.

The major problem of the set is that the finest vocal performances come in minor roles. The most distinguished voice is Martti Talvelaís Daland who sounds characterful and authoritative with a wonderful colour to his voice. Talvela never really got a chance to shine in the very greatest Wagner bass roles and Iíve always regretted this, all the more so when I hear him in this recording. The special timbre and refined colour of his voice is a joy and he lifts the attention every time he features. Similarly, Ernst Kozub is a marvellously interesting Erik. He sounds heroic and really quite thrilling in every phrase, making you marvel that Senta doesnít choose him! It is now well known that Kozub was John Culshawís original choice for the role of Siegfried in the Decca/Solti Ring and encountering him here makes you regret that this never came off.

The major roles are, unfortunately, more variable. Anja Siljaís commitment to the role of Senta is never less than total but her voice, to me, sounded uncomfortably shrill too often. Furthermore she never really puts this to the dramatic use of the character until the very final scene where she throws herself into the sea after the Dutchman. As for the Dutchman himself, Theo Adamís gravelly voice helps him to identify with the characterís grief and towering suffering, but he misses much of the roleís poetry. The ďangelĒ section of the opening monologue lacks the power to move and during his Act 1 duet it is Daland who sounds the more dominant and authoritative. For me Adamís voice lacked a centre, sounding rather hollow at times. Wie aus der Ferne, however, sounds fantastic, bringing out the best in both singers and the conductor.

Klempererís conducting carries predictable weight Ė just listen to the opening of the overture Ė but is not uniformly overwhelming; Sentaís theme in the overture is full of intense yearning, though her Act 2 ballad is much too slow. That said, I felt that he lacked the overall conception that drives the work and he isnít helped by the fact that he chooses the original version which divides the work into three distinct acts which, for those used to the continuous span, carries very abrupt climaxes at the end of each act. This version also omits the transcendent ending that Wagner later added, meaning that the closing bars come as something of a shock, though that by itself isnít a reason to rule it out.

The singing of the chorus is fine if a little coarse, particularly in Act 3. I found the extraneous noise of the spinning wheels and stamping sailors rather annoying, and Gerhard Ungerís Steersman isnít as lyrical as his rivals on disc.

For me, then, the singing from the two leads is too variable to make this a serious contender. Iím told by those who know that Testamentís live recording of a similar cast from the same year packs a lot more punch than the studio version, but I have heard only a few extracts so canít reliably comment. For me the finest Dutchman is still Sinopoliís star-studded recording from the Deutsche Oper on DG, but if you want that then youíll need to go full price. If you would consider the work in English then youíll be more than satisfied with John Tomlinson and Nina Stemme as a fantastic pair of leads on Chandos.

Simon Thompson



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