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 Recording of the Week  Wagner’s Flying Dutchman starts PentaTone’s 10th anniversary celebrations

Normally when a record label reaches an anniversary they have small party or they release a specially priced series or box set celebrating some of their great recordings. When I asked Giel Bessels of PentaTone what he was planning to do to mark his label’s 10th anniversary this year he looked at me, and (with a straight face) said “We are planning to record all ten major operas of Richard Wagner for the first time using the same orchestra, choir and conductor and in SACD”. Wow! That is some undertaking, and he wasn’t joking!

Albert Dohmen and Ricarda Merbeth
Albert Dohmen and Ricarda Merbeth

The project has been made possible as the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin under its Music Director Marek Janowski decided to programme all ten operas in concert performances over three seasons leading up to the composer’s bicentenary in 2013. Janowski, who made the first all-digital recording of the Ring cycle with the Dresden Staatskapelle back in the early 1980s, needs no introduction to Wagner enthusiasts. That cycle still competes with the finest on disc, with great singers supported by superb orchestral playing and supremely well thought-out reading from Janowski.

Today sees the release of the first of those ten operas – Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) taken from a live performance last November. This will be followed by Die Meistersinger before Christmas, and Parsifal in the new year, with the remainder to follow before the end of 2013. I’ve been enjoying Der fliegende Holländer very much. Matti Salminen (who made a formidable Hagen in Janowski’s early Ring recording) is now in his sixties but still excels as a first-rate Daland, while Albert Dohmen’s rich baritone gives a convincing and anguished Dutchman. I didn’t really warm to Ricarda Merbeth’s Senta but it is still a commanding performance.

Where this set really scores highly though is in the orchestral playing and choral singing. The balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra is ideal, as is the instrumental balance within the orchestra itself. Janowski pays great attention to detail and you hear all the inner lines, yet it never sounds academic and from the opening storm scene in the overture it is clear that this will be a performance full of orchestral sweep and dramatic power, and it doesn’t disappoint.

This is a great start then to what looks set to become a notable addition to the Wagner discographies, and as usual you can listen to sound samples via the links below.

As an additional way to mark the 10 year anniversary, PentaTone are also releasing a box set of ‘The first 10 years’. Taking a recording from each year of PentaTone’s existence, it includes some really noteworthy recordings such as the Julia Fischer Russian Violin Concertos disc, and the Janowski Bruckner 7.

The whole label is of course entirely committed to SACD (Super Audio CD) which, if you have the equipment to play them, allows you to benefit from both surround sound and a higher quality audio. It is a notable improvement on what normal CD offers, but rest assured all PentaTone discs also work as normal (stereo) CDs as well.

We’re thrilled to be offering 20% off the whole label at the moment, and with other recent successes including an ongoing Tchaikovsky Symphony cycle from the Russian National Orchestra and Mikhail Pletnev and a Bruckner 7 from Janowski, it is a good time to explore the label in more depth.


Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Albert Dohmen (Der Holländer), Ricarda Merbeth (Senta), Matti Salminen (Daland), Robert Dean Smith (Erik), Silvia Hablowetz (Mary), Steve Davislim (Steuermann), Rundfunkchor Berlin & Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Marek Janowski

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Pentatone: The First Ten Years

is is a box with 10 SACDs to celebrate PentaTone's 10th anniversary. From each year of PentaTone's existence we have taken one SA-CD. Not necessarily the best sellers and award winners, but a fine selection presenting as much as possible all the artists PentaTone is/has been working with.

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC