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Wagner: Arias / Kirsten Flagstad

Wagner / San Francisco Opera Orch / Mcarthur
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Newton Classics   Catalog #: 8802090  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten FlagstadLauritz Melchior
Conductor:  Edwin McArthurEugene OrmandyHans Lange
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera OrchestraPhiladelphia OrchestraRCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Mono 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



WAGNER Tristan und Isolde: Liebestod 3,6. Lohengrin: Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen 4. Parsifal: Ich sah’ das Kind 1,2,3,7. Die Walküre: Du bist der Lenz; 4 Ho-yo-to-ho! 5 Götterdämmerung: Zu neuen Read more Taten; 1,3,6 Starke Scheite shichtet mir dort 3,6 Kirsten Flagstad (s); 1 Lauritz Melchior (t); 2 Gordon Dilworth (bar); 3 Edwin McArthur, 4 Eugene Ormandy, 5 Hans Lange, cond; 6 San Francisco Op O; 4 Philadelphia O; 7 Victor SO NEWTON 8802090, mono (73:02)


These famous recordings have been around the block a few times over the past 70 years. This CD is a reissue of an old RCA-BMG disc from 1990, and is presented here without further enhancements. It does not, of course, represent Kirsten Flagstad’s full 78-rpm output for RCA Victor, which included an “Abscheulischer!” from Fidelio; Lieder by Beethoven, Strauss, and Grieg; Beethoven’s Ah, Perfido!; and Weber’s “Ozean, zu ungeheuer” from Oberon . All of these are available on a three-CD set, Simax 1821. Nor are these even all her Wagner recordings for the label. These included “Elsa’s Dream” from Tannhäuser and the love duet from Tristan und Isolde, rather rushed to fit the 78-rpm sides but also, interestingly enough, featuring Flagstad as the voice of Brangäne. Another duet with Melchior omitted here is the Bridal Chamber scene from Lohengrin . (If you live in Europe, all three studio-recorded duets with Melchior are on Naxos 8110723.) What is presented here, however, is sung with varying stages of involvement and uneven sound quality.


The worst sound of all is the extremely boxy “Ho-yo-to-ho” of 1935. In addition to the claustrophobic sound, Flagstad does not sing the trills as she did in her 1950 performance at La Scala under Furtwängler (though, oddly, she does sing one of her trills in the 1940 Parsifal recording). Almost as bad in sound quality are the November 1939 recordings (the Tristan and Götterdämmerung excerpts) conducted by Edwin McArthur, and to be honest I am less than happy with the string portamento in the former performance. Flagstad doesn’t sound terribly involved in any of this music; not only her “Liebestod,” but her entire performance as Isolde, are far more vividly and realistically captured in the 1936 Covent Garden performance of the opera under the baton of Fritz Reiner.


Where this disc really shines, and where we can (fortunately) hear the early voice of Flagstad and the mid-career voice of Melchior in all its glory, are the excerpts from Lohengrin, Parsifal, and the “Du bist der Lenz” from Die Walküre. The Lohengrin and Walküre tracks benefit from being recorded at the Academy of Music, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where the natural resonance of the hall restores the overtones to her voice that are sadly missing in the boxier recordings. Not being a Flagstad fanatic, I honestly don’t know what venue was used to record the long Parsifal duet (it runs more than 33 minutes), but the sound is nearly as good. Because of this, and the relaxed pace that was allowed for the session, this is about as close as we’re going to get, in excellent sound quality, to a Flagstad-Melchior Met Wagner performance on disc. I’m far from being a great admirer of Parsifal, but I followed this performance closely with the libretto (although the track is titled “Ich sah’ das Kind,” it actually starts much further back, with Parsifal’s lines beginning “Nie sah ich, nie träumte mir”), and their combined voices, Flagstad’s initially cool but later emotionally powerful interpretation of Kundry, and Melchior’s impassioned reading of all of his words, make this for me a benchmark performance of this portion of the score (and yes, this does take the Vickers-Knappertsbusch live performance into account—Vickers is better than Melchior, but the tempos and phrasing are better here).


For those who don’t have the Lohengrin and Parsifal recordings elsewhere, this is still a valuable CD to have in one’s collection. Recommended with reservations.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Tristan und Isolde: Mild und leise "Liebestod" by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edwin McArthur
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1939 
Length: 7 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Language: German 
2.
Lohengrin: Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1937 
Length: 3 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Language: German 
3.
Parsifal: Act 2 scene 3 by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Lauritz Melchior (Tenor)
Conductor:  Edwin McArthur
Orchestra/Ensemble:  RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1882; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1940 
Language: German 
4.
Die Walküre: Du bist der Lenz by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Eugene Ormandy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philadelphia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1937 
Length: 2 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: German 
5.
Götterdämmerung: Zu neuen Thaten, theurer Helde! by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Lauritz Melchior (Tenor)
Conductor:  Edwin McArthur
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1939 
Length: 8 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: German 
6.
Götterdämmerung: Immolation by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edwin McArthur
Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1939 
Length: 16 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: German 
7.
Die Walküre: Ho-jo-to-ho! by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano)
Conductor:  Hans Lange
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1935 
Length: 2 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Language: German 

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