Live recording in mono from
Wiener Staatsoper
January 8, 1963
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Landgraf Hermann Gottlob Frick
Tannhäuser Hans Beirer
Wolfram Eberhard Wächter
Walther Waldemar Kmentt
Biterolf Ludwig Walter
Heinrich Kurt Equiluz
Reinmar Tugomir Franc
Elisabeth Gré Brouwenstijn
Venus Christa Ludwig
Ein junger Hirt Gundula Janowitz
Chor und Orchester der
Wiener Staatsoper
Deutsche Grammophon, 457 682-2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Brian Wilkinson

This recording is nothing short of a revelation for me. I have been searching high and low for this recording for some time, and finally located it at A&B Sound in Canada, with the help of a Web Board contributor.

Up until now, my favorite Tannhäuser has been Solti's. First I should say that I greatly prefer the Paris version over the Dresden. Some people complain of the clash between the earlier metered style and the post-Tristan chromaticism. I don't agree; the two styles reflect the difference between the sensual world of the Venusburg and the conventional world of Wartburg. Wagner used this contrast in Der Flieglende Holländer with the Dutchman's monologue moving along freely composed as opposed to Senta's father and his world.

What we have here is a Paris edition with a bit of the Dresden (the three soloists at the song contest, a great choice). It is a glorious mono recording from 1963 of Karajan's only Tannhäuser, performed by the Wiener Staatsoper. The sound is full and balanced, and audience intrusion is almost non-existent.

The first thing I was struck with upon first listen was how much of the music I had never before heard. One hears woodwind and string passages that somehow got overshadowed on previously released versions. The interpretation is sensual and strong, subtle and vivid, in all the appropriate places.

Christa Ludwig performs even more sensuously than on Solti's recording. The Elisabeth by Gré Brouwentstijn is strong in voice and attractive in character. One feels how Tannhäuser could be truly torn between women and worlds in this version. In all the others I've heard, I've always said "stay in Venusburg!"

We have Gottlob Frick as the Landgraf, Eberhard Wächter as Wolfram and in a nice surprise, Gundula Janowitz as the young shepherd. I never heard Hans Beirer before, but his voice and character fit the part well; he sounds like he's been to two hells and back. Because of a little raggedness to his voice, he may be the one factor others may not like, but then again Kollo or Domingo were not everyone's favorite either.

On the Solti version the prelude and Venusberg lacked the sensuality of Karajan, and I used to play K's opening excerpt before switching to Solti's first scene. Now this version has all I look for in the introduction and goes right into the first scene without break -- a wonderful interpretation device. Only the Dresden version needs the separation between overture and 1st scene.

This is a wonderful, exciting, beautiful recording that I heartily recommend. It is mid-priced, has a wonderful book with photos but no translation. Enjoy!

This review is from the now closed Wagner on the Web and it is published without the author's consent. I haven't been able to get in touch with him. If the author reads this, please contact me as soon as possible. If you don't want it here, I'll take it of the site immediately.