OP0158. TANNHÄUSER, Live Performance, 19 Dec., 1942, w. Szell Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Lauritz Melchior, Helen Traubel, Alexander Kipnis, Herbert Janssen, Kerstin Thorborg, etc. (Italy) 3-AS Disc 1101/03. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy!
“This matinee performance of TANNHÄUSER (Paris version, 1861, but with cuts) is everything one might expect from Szell....A surprise to modern ears is the wide vibrato on the horns in the opening chorale; less surprising is the discipline of the orchestra, a Szell specialty….Tempo changes in the Overture are impeccably managed; the Bacchanale borders on the frenetic yet stays within the confines of the supernaturally charged. Thorborg and Melchior’s Venusberg duet is fairly driven, but there is no mistaking the lusty nature of Melchior’s trumpet-like tenor. Thorborg is on good, sometimes verging on great, form as Venus, but she is not entirely consistent; nevertheless it is the heroic, uniformly stellar Melchior that leaves such a mark. His vocal definition at speed (‘Stets soll nun dir’, and with Szell at the helm) is utterly remarkable; so much so that he does not sound in the least bit rushed, merely impassioned….Melchior is impeccable in a reading that moves from near-Sprechstimme (the cry of ‘Hör an, Wolfram!’ prior to ‘Inbrunst im Herzen’) to the highest romanticism, not to mention the frenzy of impassioned outpouring that is the Rome Narration.
Helen Traubel’s Elisabeth is magnificent. Imperious, with cutting soprano tone, she matches Szell’s intensity in ‘Dich teure Halle’, while her Prayer (‘Allmächt’ge Jungfrau’) is radiant. Szell gives her space to maneuver while maintaining his trademark intensity in the pit. Alexander Kipnis is likewise magnificent as the Landgraf (the sheer power of his ‘Gar viel und schön’ is remarkable), while Herbert Janssen’s Wolfram is beautifully expressive in ‘Blick’ ich umher’ and in ‘Wohl wüsst’ ich hier sie im Gebet zu finden’, which rises to a wonderful, and natural, climax, and particularly in ‘Wie Todesahnung’, which seems to have a Parsifal-like radiance about it….The Met Chorus is simply magnificent in the act I processional (superbly paced by Szell), as it is in every single contribution here.”
- Colin Clarke, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2015