Wagner: Die Walkure / Konieczny, Vermillion, Lang, Dean Smith

Release Date: 7/30/2013
Label: Pentatone
Catalog Number: PTC5186407
Composer: Richard Wagner
Conductor: Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4

Physical Format:

In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Die Walküre Marek Janowski, cond; Robert Dean Smith ( Siegmund ); Melanie Diener ( Sieglinde ); Timo Riihonen ( Hunding ); Tomasz Konieczny ( Wotan ); Petra Lang ( Brünnhilde ); Iris Vermillion ( Fricka ); Anja Fidelia Ulrich ( Gerhilde ); Fionnula McCarthy ( Ortlinde ); Heike Wessels ( Waltraute ); Kismara Pessatti ( Schwertleite ); Carola Höhn ( Helmwige ); Wilke te Brummelstroete ( Siegrune ); Nicole Piccolomini ( Grimgerde ); Renate Spingler ( Roßweiße ); Berlin RSO PENTATONE 5186407 (4 SACDs: 416:29 Text and Translation) Live: Berlin 11/24/2012

I found Janowski’s PentaTone Rheingold rather variable, so it is good to give this Walküre a stronger welcome. The superb recording quality is there again, enabling the pinpoint accuracy of the strings (in particular) to come strongly through. Try the violins, unanimously underscoring (at speed) Wotan’s evident anguish at the famous “Götternot” passage in the Second Act, or their bite in the evocation of the storm at the work’s opening. This storm shows just how strong (and tight) the bass presence is in the orchestra, also. Janowski really sets up the atmosphere, such that the timpani sounds positively primal. Janowski is capable of eliciting great beauty from his players, and in this Walküre he is able to resist reveling in it too much, retaining proper forward movement.

Act One is a remarkable slice of Wagner, often excerpted as it seems to stand so well on its own. It needs a great team of soloists. The star here is Melanie Diener, whose lush, mezzo-ish lower regions and creamy tone make for a memorable Sieglinde. Her contribution to act 2 is similarly noteworthy. The Hunding, Timo Riihonen (Fafner in Janowski’s Rheingold ), has lots of body to his voice, yet lacks that final bit of black authority. While Robert Dean Smith is very much the Wagnerian tenor du jour , he seems rather unsure here whether he wants to be heroic or lyric. He gave a middling Tannhäuser at this year’s London Proms under Donald Runnicles (his acting was terrible, though). He does manage passion around “Du bist der Lenz,” but Siegmund the hero is generally underdone here; he is most convincing in the Todesverkündigung.

Tomasz Konieczny’s Walküre Wotan is far more impressive than his Rheingold Wotan. Here, he seems to leave no stone unturned when it comes to the text. His entry in the final act is massively impressive, the very embodiment of fatherly fury. Yet he attains the heights of tenderness in the great farewell of act 3. He is joined in the second act by consistently fine singers. Iris Vermillion’s Fricka is consistently resonant and warm of voice, yet her scenes with Wotan carry real intensity. Janowski’s attentive work with the orchestra ensures that no one is liable to call this Walküre second act overlong. Petra Lang is wonderful as Brünnhilde, particularly in the later stages (I think particularly of the opening of the fourth scene of act 2, “Siegmund! Sieh auf mich!”). Her levels of radiance seem to grow through the final act. “War es so schmählich?” is delivered with crushing intensity, and illuminated by Janowski’s laser conducting; the final pages are massively exciting.

The Walkürenritt is spectacularly done here, as is the dramatic underpinning of Brünnhilde’s fear of her father as she begs for safety from him. Janowski shapes the final act extremely well. His sometimes headlong stance (try the Valkyries’ outcry just before act 3 scene 4) can be decidedly invigorating. The fact he can do this, linger at other times and yet not interrupt the music’s structure is testament to his Wagnerian abilities.

So, the flicker of light I referred to in my Rheingold review, then dimming, is once more aflame. This is a remarkably enjoyable performance, excellently performed and recorded. Most importantly, it seems to be perfectly attuned to Wagner’s world. The speeds are swift, in general, but there is never a feeling of rush, more of a feeling of impetuosity, enabling Wagner’s magnificent score to come to life. Presentation is, as always from this source, exemplary. Full text and (English only) translation included. Recommended, despite the odd caveat about the Siegmund.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
1. Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer: Melanie Diener (Soprano), Tomasz Konieczny (Bass), Robert Dean Smith (Tenor), Timo Riihonen (Bass), Iris Vermillion (Mezzo Soprano), Petra Lang (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Marek Janowski
Orchestra/Ensemble: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1856 ; Germany
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