Notes and Editorial Reviews
Singers, conductor, chorus, orchestra and engineers combine to make this the most successful recording of the work to date. In consequence its revolutionary character is fully realized. With the Vienna Philharmonic responding to Dohnanyi's precise and energizing beat from start to finish the sea does really seem to course through the score as Wagner intended.
Dohnanyi emphasizes the raw, even untutored sound of much of the orchestration, giving the wind and brass the prominence they deserve. Taut, springy rhythms abound from the Overture onwards. Beyond that the score responds to his welcome attention to the smallest detail: in the way, for instance, he places and brings out individual notes in Erik's description of his dream
and the sense of troubled expectation in the introduction to Senta's Ballad. These assets are seconded by an always sensible choice of tempos and a keen judgement of their relationship one to another. The chorus are superb as sailors, ghost crew and townspeople, singing with firm tone and exact attack. Nothing here is left unconsidered yet, amazingly, for the most part a real sense of the theatre is achieved throughout. For that we have to thank the Decca team. Balance, depth, perspectives all seem blessedly natural; undoctored and inevitable, so that one is able to take the sound-picture for granted.
Decca have also chosen their cast with discernment. Hale and Behrens have each recorded their roles separately, in video (Teldec Video, 11/91). As on the EMI Munich/LaserDisc version (3/93), Hale is an exemplary Dutchman and sings here with even greater depth and understanding. This is evident throughout a masterly traversal of his long monologue, where the required torment in the tone is revealed to the full. The weight of his voice, a true bass-baritone, is ideal for the part, and he uses it with immaculate musicianship throughout—in length of phrase, words keenly on the tone but not exaggerated. The solid top rides easily over Wagner's most taxing orchestration. His is certainly the most rounded interpretation of the anguished role since Uhde sang it on the old Bayreuth/Decca set (5/56) which, incidentally, calls for reissue at mid-price.
Behrens captures Senta's single-minded passion and infatuation, singing the quieter passages with refined sensitivity, the forceful ones with fearless attack. In the verses of the Ballad she begins with just the right kind of urgent desperation, then modulates to a vein of longing and sadness appropriate to the piano sections. She sustains the love duet with a growing sense of exaltation in answer to Hale's grave utterance. Only in the soaring phrases toward the work's close do her resources now seem under strain, a small price to pay for such a thought-through and intelligently executed assumption.
Satisfaction extends to the lesser roles. Protschka has the right voice, part lyrical, part heroic, for Erik. Any tenor who makes this ungrateful part seem both pleasing and amenable is to be congratulated. Now we have two on disc, since Seiffert is just as ingratiating on the recent Naxos version. Not a note or phrase sounds strained or awkward in Protschka's reading; quite an achievement. Rydl is a strong, purposeful Daland though not a particularly individual one, and his timbre is a little too similar to Hale's for them to be differentiated in their Act 1 duet. For once Mary is cast with a mezzo in her prime: Vermillion sings her few but important phrases with real panache. Heilmann starts off the opera with a most winning account of the Steuermann's little song, one on a par with Unger's in the Klemperer set, prasie enough.
Dohnanyi opts for the three-act version and the full ending. I have not seen the booklet. If there are serious problems in this set I have yet to hear them. The reading surpasses Decca's Chicago/Solti version in every respect, but it hasn't quite the epic quality of the Klemperer (now available at medium price), and the straightforward Naxos version is even cheaper, an attractive proposition with an accomplished cast but not quite the authority shown on the new Decca. The Nelsson version has many notable features, plus the advantages of the Bayreuth ambience, but is not nearly as assuredly sung. I would recommend the new issue above all these. I am sure it will stand the test of time.
-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone [4/1994]
Works on This Recording
Der fliegende Holländer by Richard Wagner
Hildegard Behrens (Soprano),
Josef Protschka (Tenor),
Kurt Rydl (Bass),
Uwe Heilmann (Tenor),
Iris Vermillion (Mezzo Soprano),
Robert Hale (Baritone)
Christoph von Dohnányi
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1841/1852; Germany
Date of Recording: 1991
Venue: Grosser Saal, Konzerthaus, Vienna
Length: 145 Minutes 7 Secs.
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