With her ardor, vocal strength and verbal eagerness, Lotte Lehmann's Sieglinde is still unsurpassed.
Nobody, who wants to know how Act 1 of Die Walkiire can sound when it is performed with the skill, dedication and enthusiasm shown by all concerned on this classic 1935 recording, will want to be without this excellent CD transfer. Walter, as much as anyone before or since, knew precisely how to shape this difficult act. It is often forgotten, but Cardus reminds us in the recent reissue of his reviews, how revered Walter was as a Wagner conductor in the 1920s and early 1930s. Once out of Europe he largely forsook the opera house for the concert hall and so his Wagner interpretattions began to recede into the mists ofRead more time, but at Covent Garden it was he, even more than Beecham, who set the standards. And you can hear why in the gloriously full, rich sound he obtains from the superb VPO of his day and in the sustaining of line throughout the act. Perhaps only Knappertsbusch quite equals him in this respect.
Lehmann's Sieglinde, for its ardour, vocal strength and verbal eagerness, is still unsurpassed. 'Oh, but you should have heard Lehmann' was a cry heard at Covent Garden until recent times when other Sieglindes were praised in the intervals of this opera, and for once the recorded evidence confirms the memories of veterans of that day. It was perhaps her best role because she could realize better than anyone its warmth, sensuality and inward feeling. Melchior was her beloved partner here as on stage and again it is hard to imagine Siegmund being better performed. Little or none of those contemporary criticisms of him over note values or want of legato seems valid here as one listens to the tender yet heroic outpouring of firm and continuous tone—and it is perhaps this utter reliability of tonal emission that so sets apart both Lehmann and Melchior from most of their successors. List is a reliable but not particularly revelatory Hunding: we have heard better since.
Compact Disc, as ever, reveals a few sounds we may not want to hear from the studio and also some congestion in the recording, but comparisons with some recent LP transfers show how much clearer and cleaner the music sounds on the new medium. The reverberation in the Musikvereinsaal is notable: no echo has been added. A shame there is no text and translation.
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