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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Dating from December 1950, the Naxos historical version offers a radio recording of a searingly dramatic performance under Fritz Reiner with a cast as starry as one could imagine. Reiner’s conducting is urgent and intense from start to finish, with Hans Hotter in his prime as the Dutchman, uniquely characterful and fresher and more cleanly focused vocally than he became later. His towering performance is matched by the masterly singing of Astrid Varnay as Senta, with the great ballad bringing pinging attack and precision over the widest intervals. She, too, was in her prime, with her voice pure and clear only occasionally acquiring as edge on top, largely thanks to the recording. Svanholm with his clear heroic tenor makes a powerful, warmly expressive Erik, and Sven Nilsson is a strong, firm Daland. Although the solo voices are balanced closer, the chorus and orchestra add to the power of the performance, despite the limitations of the original recording on 7 ½ -inch tape, taken off the air.

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