Richard Wagner
Der Ring des Nibelungen — II. Die Walküre

Media Review / Comparison


2013-06-02 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-11-09 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-07-12 — Brushed up for better readability


Outline


Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883): Der Ring des Nibelungen — II. Die Walküre

This is the second part of my quick review which started with Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen — Das Rheingold.

The Recordings

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Orchestra Sinfonica della Radio Italiana

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Furtwängler, CD cover

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Orchestra Sinfonica della Radio Italiana
Recorded 1953, live, for radio broadcasting (for the soloists see below)

EMI classics 9 08161 2 (13 CDs, mono); ℗ 1972 / 1990 / © 2011

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Furtwängler, EAN-13 barcode
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Marek Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatsopernchor Dresden

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Janowski, CD cover

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Marek Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatsopernchor Dresden
Recorded 1980 – 1983, Lukaskirche, Dresden (for the soloists see below)

Sony Music / RCA 88691915482 (14 CDs, stereo); ℗ / © 2012

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Janowski, UPC-A barcode
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The Vocal Soloists

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886 – 1954) recorded “Die Walküre” on October 29th – November 6th, 1953, in Rome — this is a live recording for the Italian radio (only one act was recorded per evening). His soloists were

  • Wotan: Ferdinand Frantz
  • Fricka: Elsa Cavelti
  • Brünnhilde: Martha Mödl
  • Siegmund: Wolfgang Windgassen
  • Sieglinde: Hilde Konetzni
  • Hunding: Gottlob Frick
  • Valkyries:
    • Gerhilde: Gerda Scheyrer
    • Helmwige: Judith Hellwig
    • Waltraute: Dagmar Schmedes
    • Schwertleite: Hilde Rössl-Majdan
    • Ortlinde: Magda Gabory
    • Siegrune: Olga Benningsa
    • Grimgerde: Elsa Cavelti
    • Rossweiße: Ira Malanjuk

Marek Janowski

Marek Janowski (*1939) recorded “Die Walküre” on August 22nd – 29th, 1981, in the Lukaskirche in Dresden. His soloists were

  • Wotan: Theo Adam
  • Fricka: Yvonne Minton
  • Brünnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer
  • Siegmund: Siegfried Jerusalem
  • Sieglinde: Jessye Norman
  • Hunding: Kurt Moll
  • Valkyries:
    • Gerhilde: Eva-Maria Bundschuh
    • Helmwige: Ruth Falcon
    • Waltraute: Ortrun Wenkel
    • Schwertleite: Anne Gjevang
    • Ortlinde: Cheryl Studer
    • Siegrune: Christel Borchers
    • Grimgerde: Kathleen Kuhlmann
    • Rossweiße: Uta Priew

Comments / Quick Comparison:

For general remarks see the preceding posting Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen — Das Rheingold.

Marek Janowski

Act I:

  • Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegfried (a young and forceful voice!) and Jessye Norman as Sieglinde (dramatic, expressive, warm, excellent in volume, diction and balance) are simply excellent! I like their voices, along with Kurt Moll as Hunding (as impressive as Gottlob Frick in Furtwängler’s recording!); also considering the excellent orchestral performance and sound, this act receives top ratings throughout!
  • Rating: 5.0 / 5spacer

Act II:

  • The first two scenes again feature three voices: an excellent Jeannine Altmeyer as Brünnhilde (excellent volume and vocal balance), Theo Adam as Wotan (sadly again with his extreme, heavy vibrato, very much of a disappointment to me), and Yvonne Minton as Fricka (also this role is somewhat disappointing to me: her vibrato is very nervous, the lower range lacks volume & density, while at the upper end she sounds somewhat sharp). the remaining scenes are again excellent, with Siegmund and Sieglinde, then Brünnhilde and Hunding — only at the very end, Theo Adam again adds his heavy vibrato.
  • Rating: 4.2 / 5spacer

Act III:

  • The first scene features the nine Valkyries (including Brünnhilde) — this recording has excellent voices, and (especially compared to Furtwängler’s, see below) features very good sound, transparency, and spatial depth. Scenes 2 and 3 are again dominated by Brünnhilde and Wotan. While Brünnhilde (Jeannine Altmeyer) is again excellent, Theo Adam as Wotan for me is hard to listen to: he is not all that bad in the few, intimate piano segments, and he certainly must have been an excellent actor (he is OK when singing furious passages with lots of text), but for the most part, his vibrato is just plain awful, if not disgusting.
  • Rating:  3.7 / 5spacer

Summary:

  • I like this recording for Siegmund and Sieglinde, Hunding, as well as Brünnhilde and the other Valkyries — if there just wasn’t that much of Wotan and Fricka …
  • Total duration: 3h 40.5′
  • Overall rating: 4.3 / 5 (relative)

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Act I:

  • Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegmund is excellent and powerful (though ideally I’d prefer a slightly younger voice); Hilde Konetzni‘s voice / vibrato is a bit heavy (sounding slightly old?) — but Gottlob Frick as Hunding is very impressive, a huge voice. Still, overall, this recording hardly stands a chance against Janowski’s, even though the sound & the orchestra are very reasonable.
  • Rating: 3.7 / 5spacer

Act II:

  • An impressive Martha Mödl as Brünnhilde, a good Wotan with Ferdinand Frantz; unfortunately, Elsa Cavelti as Fricka has good volume & balance, but way too much vibrato (luckily not quite as bad as Theo Adam in the recording above). In the faster passages, the orchestra occasionally has coordination issues.
  • Rating: 3.6 / 5spacer

Act III:

  • The first scene with the nine Valkyries is suffering from the mono recording technique and the moderate orchestral sound capture: without spatial resolution and depth, the Valkyries are hardly discernible. Some of true voices are rather heavy, with an excess of vibrato. I quite like the last part of this act, with Wotan and Brünnhilde, even though the latter has some “bad habits”, in that she often starts notes slightly below the proper pitch, like with an acciaccatura — a bit tiring in the long run, once one starts noticing it… The ending is very much to Furtwängler’s liking — very romantic, dwelling on emotions, very touching!
  • Rating: 3.6 / 5spacer

Summary:

  • The most severe limitations in this recording are in the technique; overall, it is a solid performance with a well-balanced, powerful ensemble (highlights are Siegmund, Hunding, Wotan and Brünnhilde), but maybe lacking some of Janowski’s stellar voices.
  • Total duration: 3h 53′ (6% slower than Janowski, overall)
  • Overall rating: 3.7 / 5 (relative)

Conclusion

Hard to imagine a better performance than Janowski‘s in the first act — unfortunately, that recording (to me) also has severe “holes” / drawbacks in the other parts. Furtwängler‘s is more balanced overall, but unfortunately suffers from limitations in the recording technique, and it also lacks the “absolute highlights” of the other recording.

(to be continued…)



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