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Richard WAGNER
Die Walküre, Act 3.
Kirsten Flagstad (soprano) Brünnhilde; Otto Edelmann (bass) Wotan; Marianne Schech (soprano) Sieglinde; Ode Balsborg (soprano) Gerhilde; Ilone Steingruber (soprano) Ortlinde; Grace Hoffman (mezzo) Waltraute; Margaret Bence (contralto) Schwertleite; Claire Watson (soprano) Helmwige; Anny Delorie (contralto) Siegrune; Frieda Roesler (soprano) Grimgerde; Hetty Plümacher (contralto) Rossweise; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Georg Solti.
Decca Legends 467 124-2 [ADD] [70'57] Recorded 1957.

Originally coupled with the Todesverkündigung from Act Two, this performance provides an ideal complement to Solti's later famous Ring cycle. Certainly, there is a certain give and take if one compares the two performances. Marianne Schech's Sieglinde does not match Crespin, for example, and Edelmann is no Hans Hotter, but there is nevertheless a sense of discovery about this account that makes for compelling listening.

John Culshaw's short essay on recording Act Three is reproduced in the booklet describes how 'stage' conditions were recreated in the studio. A sense of the theatre, it is true, is high on the agenda here.

From the opening Walkürenritt, there is a sense of restless, underlying energy. The dynamo for this energy is, of course, Georg Solti, who paces the unfolding drama with a sense of inevitability (even though there are times when a little more 'give' may be appropriate). Throughout this act one is aware that monumental events are afoot. A pity, then, that the final moments lack that final measure of grandness. Otto Edelmann's Wotan is partly responsible, whose invocation of Loge could have carried more authority. However, where Edelmann consistently scores is in his diction, which is exemplary throughout. A bigger, heavier voice would seem more appropriate to represent the (ostensibly) most powerful being in the Wagnerian universe: on occasions, he is nearly drowned out by the orchestra. At Des Augen leuchtendes Paar he sounds literal, a fault only emphasised by the orchestra's wonderfully touching playing at this point. Also, he sounds less than furious at his entrance, where his outrage should be overpowering.

Flagstad's Brünnhilde is proud and determined, belying her age. There is a wealth of experience and profundity in her utterances. Her account of War es so schmächlich carries real intensity of expression, but this is but one highlight of a reading that feels so right. The Valkyries work as an infernal team (in the best sense), truly intimidating in their resolve. The detailed recording means that a wealth of orchestral detail is there to be discovered.

Any student of the Ring should here this performance for its visceral intensity. Any Wagner lover will not be disappointed.

Colin Clarke



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