Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Testament
WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Hermann Uhde, Astrid Varnay, Ludwig Weber, Rudolf Lustig, Josef Traxel; Bayreuth Festival/Joseph Keilberth
It’s good to have this classic live


performance back, even if it’s less

of a rarity than Joseph Keilberth’s

contemporary Ring. For some weird

reason Teldec released this on CD in

mono; Testament thankfully restores

Decca’s stereo tapes, capturing the

special Bayreuth acoustic.

Performed in its one-Act version,

it centres on two exceptional leading

performances. The great singing

actor Hermann Uhde embodies

the Dutchman almost perfectly

with his darkly powerful baritone

and anguished characterisation,

consumed with bitterness and

agonising hope. If the late Astrid

Varnay’s distinctively shaded tones

don’t quite suggest the idealistic

young girl, her passion and power are

no less compelling, and their rapport

in the great duet is moving.

Lustig’s fine-voiced Erik

inevitably sounds lower voltage

by comparison. The great Ludwig

Weber is a characterful but rather

leathery-sounding Daland, Josef

Traxel a mellifluous Steersman; and

the Bayreuth chorus is in fine voice,

even banished off-stage in Act I.

What disagreement there has been

centres on Keilberth’s conducting,

but I doubt anyone would now be

disappointed with this spacious and

exciting reading. If he throttles back

a little in the great setpiece solos,

that only strengthens the singers,

and he builds up the big ensembles

powerfully, with a positively

incandescent finale.

In its combination of cast and

conductor this outclasses worthy

Bayreuth rivals under Nelsson,

Böhm and Sawallisch. Alongside

Klemperer’s searing three-Act

studio recording and Steinberg’s

spirited bargain set, it ranks as a

prime recommendation.


Michael Scott Rohan