This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
One of the oldest of Wagner wisecracks has George Bernard Shaw looking down at his watch after an hour to find that only 15 minutes had passed. As most Wagnerites will tell you, it should really be the other way around. In the best performances, the hour-long first act of Die Walküre should ideally pass by in about 15 minutes of psychological time. (Even for the home listener, the whirr of the CD player coming to a halt should be an irritatingly regular annoyance rather than a welcome opportunity to attend to bodily urgencies.)
This is just such a performance. It has long been praised for its dramatic power, with flabbier versions given primacy of choice for their orchestral opulence. Again, this is the wrong way
around--orchestral gorgeousness on its own is not at all what this piece is about, and is certainly not enough to sustain three and a half hours of music. The ability to stop time for the listener while the drama plays itself out with unerring timing is rather more important, and that is precisely Böhm's strong point. There may be better recordings of the orchestra, but there is no more compelling Walküre currently on the market. This is without considering price--and as most rival versions currently cost about half as much again as this reissue, that consideration works very much in Böhm's favour.
Of the singers, James King is in particularly stunning form; he and Birgit Nilsson had recently recorded these roles as part of Solti's celebrated complete set, but here give much more complete characterizations and are if anything in even better voice. One of the opera's finest quarter-hours is the Act 2 confrontation in which Brünnhilde tells Siegmund of his impending death, presenting an increasingly opulent vision of Valhalla; Siegmund would rather stay with his beloved Sieglinde than taste such joys, and his fervor eventually persuades Brünnhilde to fight for him, eventually at the cost of her divinity. This is a particular moment in which wallowing in orchestral opulence would rob the drama of its power. Admittedly Böhm has less to wallow with than some, but the cumulative dramatic power of this passage (helped, of course, by being an actual performance before an audience in the very heart of Wagnerdom) keeps the listener enthralled by the battle of wills between humans and the gods rather than impatiently waiting for the Valkyries to ride by.
Theo Adam gives a complex and searching portrayal of Wotan; his Act 2 narration to Brünnhilde is rightly a glory of the set rather than a moment of dramatic slackening. Gerd Nienstedt is a powerfully malevolent Hunding--as he would have to be to have a chance against James King's Siegmund, unarmed or not. Philips' remastering has been most effective, adding considerable warmth to the original CD issue.
Some small quibbles: Nilsson and Adam are perhaps a little less vocally magnificent at the end of Act 3 than at the beginning of Act 2, and the Valkyries do not bay quite so chillingly in their "Ride" as some. (Keen-eared listeners may also detect a few sibilants from the prompter in quieter moments.) These are small considerations and should not stand in the way of anyone after a singularly compelling recording. The only recording to come close to Böhm's grip on the drama is another live Bayreuth recording, from the Boulez/Chéreau centenary production; the sets have differing strong (and not-so-strong) points, and neither unequivocally trumps the other. There also is strong competition from the bargain incarnation of Böhm's complete set. To have all four operas in a consistently excellent version for only double the price of this already reasonably-priced Walküre is a bargain indeed, although the new version is excellently remastered, with a complete (and newly printed) libretto.
--Carl Rosman, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Annelies Burmeister (Mezzo Soprano),
James King (Tenor),
Danica Mastilovic (Soprano),
Gerd Nienstedt (Bass),
Gertraud Hopf (Mezzo Soprano),
Helga Dernesch (Soprano),
Theo Adam (Bass),
Sieglinde Wagner (Alto),
Liane Synek (Soprano),
Elisabeth Schärtel (Alto),
Birgit Nilsson (Soprano),
Leonie Rysanek (Soprano),
Sona Cervena (Mezzo Soprano)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Written: 1856; Germany
Date of Recording: 08/1967
Venue: Live Bayreuth Festival, Germany
Length: 210 Minutes 39 Secs.
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