After more than forty years this remains the best recording of "Tannhäuser" for a number of reasons. Good recordings have never been thick on the ground and while this one is by no means perfect, it pretty much kicks everything else into touch by virtue of the extraordinary vibrancy and erotic ambience of Solti's direction - I believe this to be his finest achievement in terms of pure conducting. I have listened to countless versions of the Overture and Bacchanale, for example, and none begins to rival his for febrile energy and propulsive drive; he is able to insinuate a kind of erotic frenzy and compulsive desperation in his sonic depiction of the orgies taking place in Venusberg. The VPO is peerless, its rich, burnished glow ideal for conveying the sound-world of this opera.
The engineering effects, such as the gradual approach and retreat from left to right of the pilgrims' chorus, are very effective and the sound remains exemplary. The cast is as good as could be assembled in 1970, from Hans Sotin's noble Landgrave, to Victor Braun's affecting Wolfram, Helga Dernesch's sensitive, womanly Elisabeth, to Christa Ludwig's powerful, sensuously sung Venus. René Kollo's rather guttural, ungainly tenor has always been open to criticism and constitutes the main weakness here, especially when he aspirates, growls throatily to emphasise passion, and fails to produce a decent legato but the voice is strong and steady, amply conveying the kind of manic, bi-polar obsessiveness which afflicts Tannhäuser when he is attempting to resist (or not) the lures of the flesh -and Wagner knew all about that....
The use of the boy sopranos of the Viennese Boys' Choir for the shepherd boy and young pilgrims was an inspired choice and the adult singers from the Vienna State Opera Chorus are also ideal.
This is a recording unlikely now ever to be surpassed.