OP1087. DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER, Live Performance, 1955, w.Knappertsbusch Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Hermann Uhde, Wolfgang Windgassen, Ludwig Weber, Josef Traxel, Astrid Varnay, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0161. - 4035122651614
“After many years and many other performances, this one still holds up well. It is still at the top of the list….This is one of the very best Wagner performances in the catalog. There isn’t a weak link. All other recorded ‘Dutchmen’ are supplements.”
- Stephen D. Chakwin, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2010
“Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned and beloved conductors of the German Romantic repertoire in the middle twentieth century. Although he grew up playing and loving music, his parents objected to the notion of a musical career. Thus Knappertsbusch studied philosophy at Bonn University. In 1908, however, he entered the Cologne Conservatory and took conducting courses with Fritz Steinbach.
Knappertsbusch began his career as a staff conductor at the Mülheim-Ruhr Theater (1910-1912) and then as opera director in his home town of Elberfeld. Equally important to his development were his forays into the temple of Wagnerism. He spent several summers as an assistant to director Siegfried Wagner and conductor Hans Richter at the Bayreuth Festival and took part in the Netherlands Wagner Festivals in 1913 and 1914. After the end of World War I Knappertsbusch worked in Dessau and Leipzig, and in 1922 he was asked to succeed Bruno Walter as music director of the Munich Opera.
Knappertsbusch's personality was easygoing; he was notably free of the restlessness and undue ambition that often attended a rising career such as his. He was content mainly to stay in Munich, with the result that he never became as well-known as many of his colleagues. In any case, Munich fully appreciated Knappertsbusch's talents, and he was named conductor for life. However, he refused several demands made by the Nazis and was fired from his lifetime post in 1936. He conducted a memorable SALOME in Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937, and made some guest appearances elsewhere in Germany, but was content to maintain a low profile during the Nazi regime. He left Germany after the Munich debacle, settling in Vienna where he frequently conducted the Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera. Knappertsbusch's career was again affected by the Nazis when Germany took over Austria over in 1938, but he was mostly able to steer clear of trouble.
Knappertsbusch gained a reputation for broad, magisteral performances of Bruckner, and more and more seemed to emerge as the representative of the traditional style of unhurried Wagner performances. He was famous for disliking rehearsals, often cutting them short; his orchestral players maintained that this was not the result of laziness, but of complete security in his interpretation and trust of the players. His performances were therefore not rigidly preconceived, but instead had a remarkable freshness and spontaneity.
When the Bayreuth Festival reopened in 1951, Knappertsbusch worked closely with Wieland Wagner on orchestral matters (though the conductor was known to dislike the director's spare, revolutionary stage productions). Perhaps Knappertsbusch's most notable recording is his stereo account of Wagner's PARSIFAL from the Bayreuth stage.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“Hermann Uhde’s American mother was a student of the famous baritone Karl Scheidemantel. He was trained as a bass, by Philipp Kraus at the Opera School in Bremen, where he made his début as Titurel (1936). After engagements in Freiburg and Munich he appeared for the first time in baritone rôles at the Deutsches Theater im Haag in 1942. A prisoner-of-war from April 1945 to February 1946, he did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble. He gained great success in rôles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in RHEINGOLD, Telramund and Melot. He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck at the Met (sung in English!) where he regularly appeared from 1955 to 1961 and again in 1964. He sang at the Grand Opéra Paris as well as at other European opera houses. He created several rôles, including Creon in Orff’s ANTIGONAE, the baritone rôles in Britten’s THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA and Wagner-Régeny’s DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN. He died of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s FAUST III, at Copenhagen in 1965.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay (1918–2006) was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921.The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in Die Walküre with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore