53,454 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2

Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhäuser (1845): Act Two, Scenes One and Two [16.03]
Lohengrin (1850): Act Three, Scenes One and Two (incomplete) [25.58]
Die Walküre (1870): Act One, Scene Three [28.09]
Julia Varady (soprano: Elisabeth, Elsa, Sieglinde), Peter Seiffert (tenor: Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Siegmund), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone: Wolfram)
Bavarian Radio Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
rec. Bavarian Radio Studios, Munich, 20-25 March 1996
EMI CLASSICS RED LINE 7353032 [70.29]

On the back of this CD, EMI promote the 1996 recording as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s “farewell to the public as a vocalist” but in fact his vocal contributions to this disc are minimal. It is as a Wagnerian conductor that he is principally featured here, accompanying his wife Julia Varady in three scenes from the operas – not really ‘bleeding chunks’ in the usually understood sense of the word, since these are substantial excerpts - although one is sadly truncated.
Fischer-Dieskau is a very good Wagnerian conductor, too. As a great singer he fully understands the lyrical nature of Wagner’s orchestral lines, and he encourages his players to realise these to the full even if sometimes forward momentum may suffer. Listen to the oboe counterpoint to Siegmund in Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater (track 12, 3.47) after he has seen the sword, to take one example.
Neither Julia Varady nor Peter Seiffert are Wagnerian singers in the heroic mould; but they are lyrical vocalists with the natural strength and intelligence to ride over the Wagnerian orchestra without any sense of strain. This is Wagnerian bel canto singing at its best, and they blend well in the few passages of duet they have to sing together. Fischer-Dieskau joins in the background of the Tannhäuser duet - presumably his voice was dubbed in afterwards - and he sounds really fresh and sympathetic too.
The action of the scenes recorded here does not call for much in the way of dramatic ‘production’, but the chorus in Lohengrin is properly distanced at the beginning, and approach and withdraw in the prescribed manner. Fischer-Dieskau’s entrance in Tannhäuser is correctly at the rear of the sound-stage. That said, something very odd happens at the end of the Lohengrin excerpt. We have had the whole of the opening Prelude (vigorously conducted) and Bridal Chorus but immediately after Lohengrin’s Hochstes Vertraun the music suddenly comes to a halt. That happens just before Elsa has the chance to pop her fatal question in the dramatic crux to which the whole duet has been leading. Presumably this was done to ensure that the recording fitted onto the CD, but there would have been room for the end of the scene and this sudden halt is most disconcerting.
EMI provide no texts, translations or indeed any notes whatsoever. Black mark. Under the circumstances it is unfortunate that this can only be recommended as a disc of considerable interest to those wishing to hear these particular singers, or to encounter Fischer-Dieskau’s considerable conducting skills. Seiffert has recorded all these roles in complete sets elsewhere, but only Varady’s Sieglinde is otherwise available as part of the live recording of The Ring under Wolfgang Sawallisch. Both Varady and Seiffert are in fine voice throughout, and Seiffert demonstrates just how well a lyrical tenor can cope with Wagner if he has the right sort of voice. One would have loved to hear Varady in complete sets of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin; she did record extracts from Tristan and Götterdämmerung - again with her husband conducting - but obviously she could never have tackled these heavyweight roles in their entirety.
Paul Corfield Godfrey