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Reviews for Die Walkure Met 1937 IPCD 1046-3

Reviews for IPCD 1046-3



Wagner DIE WALKÜRE


Artur Bodanzky, cond; Kirsten Flagstad (Sieglinde); Marjorie Lawrence (Brünnhilde); Kirstin Thorborg (Fricka); Lauritz Melchior (Siegmund); Friedrich Schorr (Wotan); Emanuel List (Hunding); Metropolitan Opera O & Ch. IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1046-3 monaural (3 CDs: 220:08) Live recording: Metropolitan Opera, New York, 12/18/1937 and other performances.


Wagner: DIE WALKÜRE: Act I, Scene 3 excerpts (Leinsdorf/Melchior/Lawrence)


Henry Fogel
FANFARE magazine
November/December 2014


This is another of Immortal Performances’s conflations. While the base for the performance is the December 18, 1937 Met broadcast of Die Walküre, in order to get the “dream” cast of Melchior, Flagstad, Lawrence, Schorr, List, and Thorborg producer Richard Caniell had to make replacements from other performances, mostly from the Met in 1935, 1940, and 1946. There have been a number of releases of a 1935 Met broadcast of the first act with Flagstad and the barely adequate Paul Althouse. She did not sing Sieglinde that frequently; in January of 1937 Lehmann sang it. In December of 1937 Flagstad did sing it, and with Lawrence’s Brünnhilde. Caniell explains what he did in an excellent essay in the booklet, indicating that some three quarters of what we hear is conducted by Bodanzky, and the remainder by Leinsdorf (1940 Met) or Paul Breisach (1946 Met). In addition, he relied on portions of the December 18, 1937 broadcast recorded by a collector who focused only on Flagstad in the second and third acts. Does the performance flow? Yes, it does. Are all of the joins seamless? No, they cannot be, because the sonic differences are too great between sources. For one example, the switch after “Der Männer sippe” before “Winterstürme” is audible because the orchestral color changes. The sound after the first act gets progressively better, and in much of Acts II and III is actually quite good, and far superior to any prior versions. The voices and the orchestra really come to life in this transfer, again particularly in the second and third acts.


Is the fact that some of the joins are noticeable a reason to avoid this? Absolutely not. For me, the specific idea of making a complete Walküre with Flagstad’s Sieglinde and Lawrence’s Brünnhilde is justification for this project, even before you add in Melchior and Schorr. Given the almost knee-jerk reaction to Flagstad among critics as “matronly,” many will be surprised at the femininity of her Sieglinde. Her voice positively glows, and she and Melchior are a thrilling pair, not necessarily better than Melchior and Lehmann on the classic studio recording, but equally wonderful. It is true that Flagstad lacks the ability or willingness to inflect with the kind of specificity that was a Lehmann specialty. But this Sieglinde makes her impact through, as Caniell himself puts it, floods of glorious tone. What makes this set truly important, though, is Lawrence. Annotator Dewey Faulkner admits in his candid and insightful notes that there are moments of insecure pitch or breathing technique in Lawrence’s performance. But he also points out the thrilling singing she does in the opening war cries, and in so much else of her singing. She had both the low and high notes required by the role, a voice of glowing beauty, and a keen dramatic sense as well. Her Brünnhilde is somewhat more human and more vulnerable than many we have encountered, and it is a complex and convincing portrayal. Another strength is her strong, clear diction.


Schorr was the Wotan of his day for a reason, and it is demonstrated here by both his ability to characterize with tone color and his ability to sing the music both beautifully and forcefully at the same time. The interchanges between Schorr and Lawrence never feel like merely great Wagnerian singing, but actually engage us as real music drama.


The conducting, mostly by Bodanzky with much of the rest by Leinsdorf (whose style was very similar) is on the quick side, but dramatic and incisive. Neither conductor lingered much, and the momentum is infectious, though one misses some of the long line and grandeur that others find in this music. This is no substitute for a single, unified performance of Die Walküre , and there are many from which to choose. But this “compiled” performance, if you are willing to enter its world, will provide some very special rewards not to be found elsewhere.


The bonus excerpts from the 1940 Met broadcast with Lawrence as Sieglinde and Melchior as Siegmund, and Leinsdorf conducting, is a perfect extra. Immortal Performances includes some commentary by Milton Cross, which of course re-creates the atmosphere of the way so many of us heard these broadcasts; it is, however, separately tracked so you can easily avoid it if you would prefer to. The usual lavish booklet, with superb essays and photographs, accompanies the discs.




Wagner DIE WALKÜRE


Artur Bodanzky, cond; Kirsten Flagstad (Sieglinde); Marjorie Lawrence (Brünnhilde); Kirstin Thorborg (Fricka); Lauritz Melchior (Siegmund); Friedrich Schorr (Wotan); Emanuel List (Hunding); Metropolitan Opera O & Ch. IMMORTAL PERFORMANCES IPCD 1046-3 monaural (3 CDs: 220:08) Live recording: Metropolitan Opera, New York, 12/18/1937 and other performances.


Wagner: DIE WALKÜRE: Act I, Scene 3 excerpts (Leinsdorf/Melchior/Lawrence)


Colin Clarke
FANFARE magazine
January/February 2015


One has to wonder if there is any end to the enthusiasm of those folks over at Immortal Performances. The idea of the composite performance to showcase singers famed in roles, a concept which works so much better in practice than it does in theory, seems to result in an endless stream of fascinating Wagner releases. Here is a performance that reconstructs that on December 18, 1937 with inserts from performances of years as divergent as 1935 and 1946 (in fact, Flagstad’s debut as Sieglinde at the Met was in February 1935). Mostly, though, this is Bodanzky’s show (Leinsdorf, a conductor who could be similarly brisk, is also featured, as is Paul Breisach), and the directness one associates with Bodanzky is certainly here. So it is that there is quite some electricity at the opening of the second act, bringing tremendous urgency. Schorr can be rather backwardly placed, but these are the cuts and thrusts of recorded performances of this age. He remains magnificent throughout, vocally, and his “Des Augen leuchtendes Paar” here is one of the finest, most lyrical deliveries the present reviewer has heard. It is important to realize that it is easy to be drawn into the urgency of this performance. This is what one feels this as, a performance: The various substitutions never interrupt Wagner’s trajectory.


Indeed, it is to the singers that we must direct our ears in this instance. Emanuel List has never been top of my list of singers, but his Hunding is a fine assumption. Instead of Hans Hotter-black, List makes the lines almost spoken at times, his decidedly human portrayal resulting in a Hunding who is perhaps not as one-sided as reputation has it. One can hear his anger, but frankly I for one am not particularly cowed by him. Melchior, though, is in tremendous form, ringing yet baritonal. Melchior’s “Wälse” cry is so powerful and yet, despite the dynamic, it is the still-contained power one feels, as if there is yet more to give. Flagstad’s Sieglinde gives Melchior a good run for his money in terms of letting rip, but she has a tendency to swoop between notes on this occasion. The impetuosity of her character is believable, though. The ensemble, as the first acts zooms towards its conclusion, is that of an excitable live performance, shall we say. Orchestra and singers can appear to be in two related but not absolutely equal time zones, but the atmosphere is such that it matters not much, one is indeed so involved. Just don’t have this as your only, “library” Walküre.


It is perhaps Marjorie Lawrence’s Brünnhilde that triumphs. Her second act “Siegmund! Sieh auf mich!” is heart-stopping, and in the final act she is positively mesmerizing at the crucial “Hier bin ich, Vater” and, slightly later, at “War es so schmählich.” (It is good that the orchestral detail in this passage and following is so tellingly maintained.)


The technical expertise in Immortal Performances’ reproduction is generally astounding. The opening of the music drama has terrific urgency. The gritty, lower strings have amazing presence, given the provenance, although some might find them dry. Distortion does occur, but it is by far the exception rather than the rule. What is important is the level of orchestral detail audible. Not all is seamless: try track 4 on CD 2 at 0:13 for a real “thunk,” and some other splices are audible in terms of acoustic change. None of this is a reason not to hear this important set.


It seems the perfect “bonus” to add Marjorie Lawrence as Sieglinde with Melchior (in decidedly parlando, clipped mood), and so it is (with Leinsdorf, 1940). Her Sieglinde is solid and believable. We begin at “Schläfst du, Gast?” leading to an intense “Der Männer Sippe.” Lawrence’s lines have a thread of steel through them, yet the sheer cantabile at “Du bist der Lenz” is a miracle, and neither singer holds back at the “naming ceremony” (around “Siegmund heiss ich”). A shame Leinsdorf rushes the naming of the sword; further on there is something of the same headlong rush to the end of the act as we heard in the main performance (although less pronounced).


IEverything we have come to expect from Immortal Performances is here: the sterling, enthusiastic documentation, the commitment to excellence, and the fact that a bonus track is never just a bonus track.


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