It is of course sheer folly to attempt to pick out the 'best' version. As Ralph demonstrates very clearly nearly every version has strengths and the not quite so goods. I would be in a perpetual dither as to which version to take to that proverbial desert island.
But my short list would certainly include (along with the Kubelik and 1968 Bohm accounts) one that Ralph doesn't mention. And this puzzles me: I can't suppose for a moment that Ralph isn't familiar with it, and it does present itself to me as one deserving of being included in the shortlist.
And which one? The live Royal Opera House performance with John Tomlinson's Hans Sachs and Thomas Allen's Beckmesser and a host of largely home grown luminaries in other roles. Among many appealing features of this set is a real flesh and blood Beckmesser rather than the cardboard caricature we often get. And the performance certainly passes Ralph's 'quintet test' in ravishing glory.
So, come on Ralph, please do tell us why this Haitink set gets pushed to the side? As for me, I'm certain that had I been in the audience for this performance it would have been counted as one of the great musical events of my life.
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Len Mullenger - Founder of MusicWeb