Dresden Version 1847. Recording Supervision: Fritz Ganss. Recording Engineer: Horst Lindner. Rec. at Grunewaldkirche, Berlin, 1960-10-17 - 1960-10-21.
- Cast: Fritz Wunderlich (Walther von der Vogelweide), Gottlob Frick (Landgraf Hermann), Hans Hopf (Tannhäuser), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Wolfram von Eschenbach), Rudolf Gonszar (Biterolf), Gerhard Unger (Heinrich der Schreiber), Reiner Süß (Reinmar von Zweter), Elisabeth Grümmer (Elisabeth), Marianne Schech (Venus), Lisa Otto (Ein junger Hirt), Manfred Koop, Arnold Schremm, Michael Wein, Karl-Heinz Voortmann (Edelknaben), Chor der Staatsoper Berlin (Chorus Master: Karl Schmidt), Staatskapelle Berlin, cond. Franz Konwitschny
- Alan Blyth in "Gramophone", 10/1990: "Listen to how Konwitschny conducts the Overture, the large ensemble in Act 2, and indeed much of the solo work and be reminded of the lost art of pacing and shaping a Wagnerian paragraph. Above all he evinces the secret of steady, forward movement in Wagner; he unerringly feels the pulse of this score. He's helped by having an orchestra fully versed in this opera's tradition and by having perhaps the best chorus, Bayreuth's excepted (on the Sawallisch set for Philips), ever to have recorded the piece. Add to that an ideal balance on the engineers' part between all these elements and you have a formidable argument in this version's favour. Indeed some slight tape noise apart, you would hardly guess that this set was recorded all of 30 years ago - or perhaps, given the unsatisfactory nature of so many recent sets, from the point of view of recording, you might indeed well guess that this wasn't a recent attempt. And at this stage I would like to offer something of an apology to Decca. My ears must have been deceiving me when I preferred the sound on the DG/Sinopoli version to that on the Solti when reviewing the DG set. After several rehearings and comparisons here, it seems to me now that the sound on the Decca is the only one to have the presence and clear balance found on this EMI version, though the Bayreuth set captures the unique acoustics of that theatre.
Where the soloists are concerned, in all but one crucial respect, those on this reissue are second to none. Indeed, as is the case with the Berlin orchestra, Grümmer as Elisabeth, Frick as the Landgrave (for once no bore) and Fischer-Dieskau as Wolfram, display quite unreservedly the advantage of long acquaintance with a particular idiom. If you doubt my word try the exchange in Act 2 between Elisabeth and the Landgrave (disc 2, track 4), where Grümmer and Frick provide a marriage between line and expression that's little short of ideal. The same is true of all Fischer-Dieskau's confidently and sensitively managed solos. It's true that Grümmer's tone has some threads in it during 'Dich, teure Halle' but thereafter her sincerity, as when she puts herself on the line in Act 2 and in the Prayer in Act 3, is unrivalled, as is her unerring instinct for the shape of a phrase. Wunderlich and Unger both contribute positively to the ensemble in the Hall of Song.
The exception I referred to earlier is Hopf's clumsy account of Tannhauser's music. He has little problem with the role's cruel tessitura, indeed often makes a pleasanter sound than Kollo (Decca) or Windgassen (Philips), but his aspirating of runs and turns, and his generally heavy-handed delivery, are at times hard to take, especially in the earlier acts. He makes some amends by his intense utterance in the Rome Narration, and throughout he always attempts to find his way to the heart of the role, even when fluent execution fails him. Schech isn't the most glamorous of Venuses; no match for Solti's Ludwig, or indeed for Haitink's Meier (EMI), but her contribution is never less then secure.
All in all, if it's the Dresden version you are looking for, you could do worse than choose this mid-price reissue in front of the more recent and less convincing Haitink version, though my enthusiasm expressed three years ago for the Philips reissue of the Bayreuth version remains undiminished - that offers a Wagner-approved conflation of the Dresden and Paris versions and is a truthful record of a dedicated evening at Bayreuth in 1962, much enhanced by Sawallisch's conducting, which has many of Konwitschny's qualities, if not quite the older conductor's overview of the piece. Silja, Windgassen and Wächter are also singers in the class of those on the Konwitschny. For the Paris version my new comparisons this time leant me away from Sinopoli towards Solti, though I would be loath to sacrifice Domingo's splendid Tannhauser."
- Scott Grunow, review in "Wagner on the Web": "This set of the Dresden version is frustrating. Despite what looks on paper like a dream cast and with sound in bright, somewhat shallow at times early stereo, the performance veers wildly between two extremes: the exquisitely sensitive singing of Elisabeth Grümmer as Elisabeth, a famous interpretation preserved for the studio, and the burly, coarse singing of Hans Hopf in the title role.
Konwitschny, normally a sensitive Wagner conductor, gives us a stodgy, pedestrian reading of the overture, with little fluidity or notable detail. I must admit that at times in Tannhäuser some of the orchestral harmonies and vocal ensembles do tend toward stodginess and a lack of Wagner's later development toward a more fluid, rich orchestral writing, but I have heard much better versions of the overture (I am thinking particularly of Munch's version, which is the Paris one, or of Stokowski as well, what wonderful colors, but again, the Paris version) which does have its own grandeur and intensity. The scene in Venusberg offers us Schech's colorless, unseductive Venus, notable only for brilliant top notes which do tend toward shrillness. The lower and middle registers sound breathy and unsupported. Thank goodness the Dresden Venus doesn't have as many of the voluptuous passages in the middle register that the Paris Venus has. Hopf's invocation is clumsily executed and coarsely rendered.
When we emerge from Venusberg and later hear Fritz Wunderlich (what luxury casting in the part of Walter, which makes one lament the fact that he never sang Walter in Die Meistersinger), we do feel that Mai kommen, as sung by the Shepherd, here a bright-toned, fresh Lisa Otto, notable for her soubrette roles. Fischer-Dieskau's Wolfram is a bit overemphatic; he improves later. Elisabeth Grümmer's Dich teure halle at the opening of Act II is sensitive, with a lovely softening of tone on Geliebter raum, though she sounds uncomfortable on the high B. One wishes Wunderlich was singing the duet with her upon hearing Hopf's clumsy singing. Frick is sensitive and his short scene with Elisabeth seems to dance; the two really speak to each other in the most subtle of ways. Konwitschny's conducting finally seems to gain some vigor, if not the ultimate in detail, in the ensuing scenes and the choral singing is sure and generally controlled. Grümmer's voice is radiant but does not soar above the ensemble with her usual ease, though her plea for Tannhauser is most affecting.
Act III is actually the best part of the recording. Konwitschny brings out the dark, autumnal colors in the Prelude and supports Fischer-Dieskau's smooth, sensitive singing sensitively in the Song to the Evening Star. Here he can just let out the basic lyric beauty of his voice and not have to put any added weight on it.
Fischer-Dieskau interacts wonderfully with Grümmer here in their mutual sadness. Grümmer makes the sometimes dreary prayer sound both heartbreaking and radiant at the same time. Even Hopf's Rome Narrative succeeds if nothing else but the desperation he conveys, and Schech in her brief appearance at the end uses her brilliant top effectively."
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|EMI CMS 7 63214 2 Studio (3 CD)
|Electrola SME 91 087 (4 LP)
|Electrola 1C 153-00683/86 Y (4 LP)
|EMI (France) 1306833 (4 LP)
|HMV 1081-4 HQS (4 LP)
|Angel 35 685 (4 LP)
|Angel SDL 3620 (4 LP)
|Eterna 8 25 235
|Eterna 8 20 235 (Mono)
Fritz Wunderlich Discography