Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner – Der fliegende Holländer
WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Terje Stensvold, Franz-Josef Selig, Astrid Weber, Jörg Dürmüller, Simone Schröder, Kobie van Rensburg, Cologne WDR Radio Chorus, Prague Chamber Choir, Cappella Coloniensis/Bruno Weil
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 64071 2
Talk about sailing under false colours!

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This purports to be the first recording

of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman in its

‘original Paris version’. But there’s no

such thing. What there is is a score

that Wagner began in Paris in 1841

and premiered in Dresden in 1843

but continually revised before and

after that date. Musically, what we get

here is effectively the 1843 Dresden

version but with Senta’s ballad in the

original higher key and with the nowcustomary

cuts imposed to reduce the

work to the one-act form that Wagner

initially conceived but never actually

composed. The twist is that, in this

‘version’, the opera is set in Scotland

– like the Heine tale that inspired it

– rather than the familiar Norway to

which Wagner relocated it shortly

before its premiere. But since this

merely involves two name-changes

in the cast and just two other wordchanges

in the text itself, it’s really

neither here nor there.

Whatever the merits (or otherwise)

of the edition, this is an excitingly

conducted and finely detailed live

concert recording of the composer’s

breakthrough work, brilliantly played

on period instruments (albeit at

modern pitch), with natural horns

and trumpets evocatively deployed

alongside their valved cousins to

distinguish the Dutchman’s elemental

spirit world from modern mundane

reality, and deliciously rippling

woodwind to stir the sails and rigging.

It’s only a pity the opportunity

wasn’t in fact taken to match this

mellower, more delicate soundscape

with consistently lighter, Weber-type

voices. Despite her name, Astrid

Weber as Senta has an unashamedly

heavyweight Wagnerian voice. Yet,

on her own terms, after an initially

squally, ill-pitched assault on her

ballad, she also boasts a reckless daring

that increasingly pays dividends –

unlike Terje Stensvold, her (ironically

Norwegian) Dutchman, who, despite

his impressively well-focused tone

and clear diction, ultimately lacks the

character’s essential air of mystery and

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fascination. Mark Pappenheim