Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller


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The singing contest of Act 2 has a glassless conservatory as set, unfussy and more than adequate. The Elisabeth of Cheryl Studer has every reason to be grateful for an architecture that is timeless and distracts nothing from Wagner's fraught eisteddfod. She is rightly glad to inspect such a property [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 15, 55:50-57:27]. The quiet innocence of Wolfgang Brendel as Wolfram and other such minstrels with their hearts in the right place stirs Tannhäuser to a passionate paean of praise to his mountain Venus [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 27, 103:20-104:28]. Of course there is general outrage, and only the stalwart defence of Elisabeth prevents the slaughter of Tannhäuser.

Outrage at Tannhäuser's paean of praise. DVD screenshot © 1990 Unitel
Outrage at Tannhäuser's paean of praise. DVD screenshot © 1990 Unitel

Tannhäuser has dragged himself in weary penitence to Rome in hope of forgiveness from a very belligerent Pope. Elisabeth has watched the pilgrims return, but Tannhäuser is not among them. She is broken-hearted and ready for death. Wolfram can now, in steady if vain devotion to Elisabeth, pour out admiration for the Evening Star, an altogether more risk free aspect of Venus [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 6, 30:20-32:13]. The Bayreuth orchestra under Sinopoli has played wonderfully throughout the work, but nothing is lovelier than this coda to Wolfram's song. The mystic abyss blends the strands of Wagner's score with a subtlety no other house can match.

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Copyright © 11 February 2007 Robert Anderson, London UK


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