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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 2002

"Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser" is unique, his only work that is available in as many editions as a typical Bruckner symphony. There are four scores: first Dresden, second Dresden, first Paris, and second Paris (though maybe we should call that one Vienna). Factor in the Chinese menu choices of conductors (choose one number from version A and one from version B), and you end up with an opera that is different in almost every recording - and there have been many recordings. So many, in fact, that recent issues allow comparison of recordings that were made literally a lifetime apart.

The Naxos date of 1930 advertises this as the oldest recording of "Tannhauser." With the approval of Wagner's son Siegfried, Columbia undertook a nearly complete recording of the Paris version from that year's festival cast.

The total length of the recording is 152:24 - about 80 percent of your typical "Tannhauser," and a real achievement considering that this recording was issued on dozens of 78s.

On the negative side, there is often a high surface noise component because of a purist-minded transcription of the 78-rpm material. However, the set is invaluable for its insight into the history of Wagnerian performance.

Elmendorff uses quick tempi for the performance that lends an unusually modern sound for recordings from this era. Maria Muller gives a fine performance as Elizabeth, while Herbert Janssen is an exemplary Wolfram. The Venus of Ruth Jost-Arden is a bit pallid by modern standards, while Sigismund Pilinszky croons and has some diction problems in the title role.

The hidden gem in this recording is the finely crafted dark tone of Ivar Andresen as the Landgraf. His untimely death in 1940 eliminated the chance for what might have been a fine postwar career.

No doubt, performance practice in grand opera will continue to evolve, but with a lifetime of recorded history available to the listener, every effort now must stand in comparison to all those who have gone before."

T. Hashimoto
San Francisco Examiner, April 2002

"Remastered by Ward Marston, the sound on this 1930 recording is not bad, and Maria Meuller sings the best "Dich, teure Halle" of the three ladies I've reviewed. Herbert Janssen is a first rate Wolfram... Mueller is very good in ensembles and in the Prayer, but it is Hungarian tenor Sigismund Pilinszky who makes this album worthwhile. He is a real tenor, rare in Wagner, with a ping on top and heroic presence... He holds it together in the Narration in a manner I've never heard on stage."

Kurt Moses
American Record Guide, April 2002

"This is the first recording of Tannhauser; although it is abridged, it is an important historical document... Ward Marston remastered it for Naxos... suffice it to say that the sound is good enough for the performance to be enjoyed by any opera lover... This is a beautiful, lyrical performance; it's well-paced and free of conductorial quirks... the orchestra plays with spit and polish and fierce commitment... In particular, the horns sound bronzen and beautiful, and the strings are bright and silken... But what, finally, makes this release commendable are several of the soloists, whose singing and interpretation are unexcelled and have rarely been equalled since. Pride of place goes to Maria Muller and Herbert Janssen... Muller's pure, ample, yet beautifully lyrical soprano and her expressive identification with the heroine's woes are deeply moving. I know of no other singer who combined her vocal splendor with such deep insight... Wolfram was Janssen's best role, his smooth and natural yet affecting delivery of his arias with its firm legato set a standard... Ruth Jost-Arden, a relatively unknown singer, is vocally a seductive Venus; her role is uncut... Pilinszky... sings firmly and securely and is quite effective in the 'Rome Narrative'..."

Turok’s Choice, April 2002

"It is an exciting, beautifully-sung and magnificently-played performance."

Alain Steffen
Pizzicato, January 2002

"Without doubt, the spirit of Toscanini can be felt here in every measure and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra plays with such perfection and concentration, as if the Maestro himself were standing on the podium... Ruth Jost-Arden is perhaps the best recorded Venus, who in addition to radiating great eroticism has at her disposal a large and flexible, technically sensational voice. Maria Muller as Elisabeth is a Wagner legend, about whom no words need be wasted. Herbert Janssen shines as Wolfram von Eschenbach and Ivar Andresen is a vocally superb Landgrave ... despite the cuts this 'Tannhauser' is one of the greatest opera recordings of the 20th century and holds great documentary value for the collector."

SUPERSONIC ("Extraordinarily masterful performance. A must!")

MusicWeb International, November 2001

"The orchestral music in particular is superbly caught, being well balanced with the voices; the whole in a forward clear acoustic that in many ways belies its age. Elmendorff, without undue haste, allows the music to unfold with full dramatic impact; long phrases encompassed with elegance and no lack of vitality."

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