Carl Leonhardt
Chor und Orchester des Reichssenders Stuttgart
24 October 1937
Senderaum Stuttgart
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
HermannSven Nilsson
TannhäuserFritz Krauss
Wolfram von EschenbachKarl Schmitt-Walter
Walther von der VogelweideRudolf Dittrich
BiterolfRichard Bitterauf
Heinrich der SchreiberMax Osswald
Reinmar von ZweterAlexander Welitsch
ElisabethTrude Eipperle
VenusInger Karén
Ein junger HirtRegensburger Domspatz
Amazon customer review

Incredible!!! That’s all I can say!

I have at last count well nearly three dozen CD recordings of the Dresden Tannhauser. Despite my love, admiration and respect for Wagner’s later works, I have a special personal fondness for every aspect of this remarkable and significant work and I will wholeheartedly admit that most recordings are loaded with strong points. But this recording, which, much to my shame, I’d not known of until recently, EASILY leads the whole pack.

1. Despite its age the sound is surprisingly good and clear and should not be an issue for anyone who loves this opera.

2. The conductor is a complete and total genius who understands the score perfectly and makes point after point that most others ignore, choose to ignore or don’t even notice.

3. One could quibble over vocal preferences here and there, but overall the singers range from extremely good and solid to golden age calibre. By today’s standards, they’re all straight from Wagner Heaven!! Epperle and Krauss sing and act their parts as if they were the REAL Tannhauser and Elizabeth. I have never heard their scene together after “Dich, teure Halle” done with such dramatic realism and believable emotional feeling. Both voices have very wide dynamic and expressive palettes which they use to full effect. Krauss’ treatment of his mocking comments to the other song contestants is better than I have ever heard. All the other lead roles are beautifully cast and bewilderingly handled. Although women are used in the chorus throughout, though a boy soprano sings the shepherd boy part…very rare for 1937.

4. It’s virtually uncut…VERY rare for recordings of this vintage. The traditional cuts in use well into the 1960’s (Act II Tann/Eliz duet including Wolfram’s important and minor key line, a whole repertoire of cuts trimming down the great final ensemble after the Landgraf’s rebuke and offer of the Rome pilgrimage) are all restored. The back-up ensemble writing to “Zum Heil dem Sundiger zu fuhren” is cut, but that’s true of even many present day recordings (e.g. Domingo/Sinipoli). The dozen measures shortly before the entrance of the young pilgrims at the end of the second act] is also missing, but that music is restored only on the Barenboim recording. Thielemann restored it in a recent Bayreuth production. To my knowledge, these measures appear only in the Peters vocal score, but with cut indications. I have never seen this music in any orchestral score.

5. Another important attribute of this recording is that even the thickest ensembles emerge with a Mozart-like clarity that I’ve never heard on any other recording or live performance for that matter. Also, the harp line accompanying the singers during the song contest is CLEARLY audible.

6. Finally, the conductor allows for a great deal of string portamento throughout the opera…a lost art.

It still amazes me that this work was composed at virtually the same time (1843-1845) as Verdi’s Ernani, Due Foscari, and Giovanna d’Arco…three wall-paper operas stuffed into the same time period. I can understand someone liking Verdi to some extent for either nostalgic, personal, or some extramusical reason, but still cannot and never will comprehend how anyone with anything over a shoe size IQ could conceivably prefer him to Wagner! It’s simply no contest whatsoever. By HIS OWN ADMISSION, Verdi was a good practical opera composer however Wagner was the consummate musical and dramatic genius of not just the romantic period but of the entire Western music tradition.

Anyone who loves Tannhauser should snatch up this recording immediately if not sooner.

I guarantee it will be the wisest $30 you’ll ever spend!!

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Preiser, Gramofono 2000, Line, OOA
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Technical Specifications
486 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 614 MByte (flac)