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Wagner: Die Walkure / Young, Skelton, Petrenko, Struckmann, Naef

Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 926   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Stuart SkeltonYvonne NaefDeborah PolaskiFalk Struckmann,   ... 
Conductor:  Simone Young
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Philharmonic OrchestraHamburg Philharmonic Choir
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This performance, recorded live in Hamburg in October, 2008, is a wonderful surprise. Conductor Simone Young brings out the score's mood changes with great drama; you can practically see the shadow of Hunding passing behind the Twins in Act 1, and with each entrance of the tender love music--sometimes just the leitmotif itself--the listener feels a sense of joy.

Young has a particularly youthful-sounding Siegmund in tenor Stuart Skelton, a tireless, intelligent singer without the baritonal low register some prefer, and she emphasizes the brightness of the brass to play against his sound. She also takes the Brünnhilde/Wotan duet in the second act at a nicely quick conversational pace, making it less introspective than
Read more usual but also bringing it great urgency. And her final act is glorious, from a thrillingly played and sung ride (complete with trills from the Valkyries), to an ecstatic "O hehrste wonne", through a psychologically exhausting "War es so schmälich", and an exquisite, touching final scene. There isn't a dull moment in this Walküre.

Opposite Skelton's young, impetuous Siegmund we have a mezzo Sieglinde--Yvonne Naef--and rather than this being a drawback, it is a dark-hued, emotionally telling portrayal. There's the occasional strain in the upper register, including at "O hehrste wonne", which, as suggested above, is a knockout--perhaps because it does not sound easy. Mikhail Petrenko's Hunding is too mellow and carries little danger. Jeanne Piland's Fricka is second-rate.

Falk Struckmann's Wotan is brilliantly thought out, and save for a lunged-at high note or five, it's handsomely sung, with a beautiful legato and long breath. His concept of the role (or the director's, or conductor's) is as a loving father to Brünnhilde primarily--hence his rage (which abates) in the third act. He has the authority, but not the inner depth of feeling, of Thomas Stewart or Hans Hotter. Some might call it shallow and un-godlike; I found it poignant in this context.

Deborah Polaski's Brünnhilde, as she nears 60 years of age, seems more solid than ever before. A wobble rarely enters the voice, and though she seems to tire in the third act's second scene, she recovers entirely for her confrontation with Wotan. And when she sings pianissimo, as in the Announcement of Death and "War es so schmälich", she's riveting.

In short, this is a Walküre that is all of a piece, like Furtwängler's, with seamless moves from scene to scene. It isn't nearly as dark or "cosmic", but it is a beautiful reading, and the singing, despite the fact that there are no Varnays or Vickers, is quite fine.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Stuart Skelton (Tenor), Yvonne Naef (Alto), Deborah Polaski (Soprano),
Falk Struckmann (Baritone), Mikhail Petrenko (Bass), Keanne Piland (Mezzo Soprano),
Miriam Gordon-stewart (Soprano), Hellen Kwon (Soprano), Gabriele Rossmanith (Soprano),
Maria-cristina Damian (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Simone Young
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra,  Hamburg Philharmonic Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Venue:  Live Hamburg, Germany 

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