Overture to Das Fliegende Holländer and excerpts from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Tannhäuser, Parsifal and Die Walküre
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado
Reviewed by: Geoff Allen
Reviewed: May 2002
CD No: DG 471 348-2
I had the highest hopes for this CD before I had heard a note. Usually that is a recipe for some degree of disappointment. Triumphantly that is not the case here.
Since the days of Hans Hotter one is pushed to think of a Wagner recital such as this or, indeed, a complete opera performance by a bass-baritone that one really wanted to hear over and over again. True, there are some outstanding versions by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and José van Dam, but DF-D is a baritone and van Dam has too soft-grained a voice to encompass all aspects of this repertoire.
Terfel has previously given us his ’Die Frist ist um’ (Flying Dutchman); he is now even more intense. Quite simply I have never heard a better interpretation allied to quality of voice – and that includes Hotter and Hermann Uhde. In ’Wie Todesahnung Dämmrung deckt die Lande’ from Tannhäuser, he brings refinement and beauty of tone to Wolfram’s words. In the extracts from Parsifal, Amfortas’s agony is brought out in full. Terfel brings to Wotan’s farewell to his daughter Brünnhilde (the closing scene of Die Walküre) all of the god’s majesty, love and regret.
On occasion one can point to slight over-emphasis within a phrase but these moments are few and far between. Terfel’s voice is magnificent and, heresy of heresies, is to be preferred to the great Hans Hotter, troubled as he could be by problems arising from asthma.
Abbado’s conducting is as musical and dramatic as one would expect; he draws refined playing from the Berlin Philharmonic.
This is a landmark disc. I cannot wait to hear Terfel in a complete Wagner music-drama. A Meistersinger is to be recorded in a couple of years and one hopes that Terfel records as much Wagner as possible.