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MusicWeb International
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Seen & Heard
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Jonathan Woolf
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Preiser Records



Walther Kirchhoff (1879-1951)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Das Rheingold (1869) - Immer ist Undank Loges Lohn [4:04]
Das Rheingold (1869) – Über Stock und Stein zu Tal [4:03]
Lohengrin (1850) – Nun sei bedankt [2:33]
Lohengrin (1850) – Atmest du nicht mit mir die süssen Düfte [2:53]
Lohengrin (1850) – Höchstes Vertrau’n [3:47]
Lohengrin (1850) – In fernen Land [3:59]
Lohengrin (1850) – Mein lieber Schwan [4:01]
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868) – Fanget an! [3:20]
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868) – Morgenlich leuchtend [3:37]
Rienzi (1840) – Allmächt’ger Vater, blick herab! [3:22]
Die Walküre (1870) – Winterstüwichen dem Wonnemond [2:56]
Siegfried (1876) – Dass der mein Vater nicht is [7:25]
Siegfried (1876) – Freundliches Vöglein, dich frage ich [4:16] ¹
Götterdämmerung (1869-74) – Zu neuen Taten, teurer Helde [11:04] ²
Götterdämmerung (1869-74) – Helle Wehr
[3:12] ² ³

Götterdämmerung (1869-74) – Brünnhilde! Heilige Braut [3:31]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un ballo in maschera (1859) – O sag’ wenn ich fahr’ [3:03]
Walther Kirchhoff (tenor)
Olga Schramm-Tschörner ¹
Margarete Bäumer ²
Alfred Göbel ³
Unidentified accompanists
rec. 1914-32
PREISER 89686 [72:25]


The Bayreuth heldentenor Walter Kirschhoff was wedded to Wagner singing – “the only reason for becoming a singer” as he put it. He studied in Milan and Berlin and made his debut in 1906 at the age of twenty-seven in Faust at the Hofoper. Though he flirted with roles outside the central German repertoire he was determined to utilise every technical advantage to attain his Wagnerian ambitions. By 1911 he was a leading Berlin Wagnerian and in the same year the call came from Bayreuth. One can date his years of celebrity from this time, and though the war interrupted his progress he resumed his career without any diminution of technique or any loss of prestige. In the early 1920s he embarked on his international career and from 1926-31 he sang at the Met in Wagner performances alongside Melchior and Laubenthal. His prominent career trailed off after 1933 by which time he was in his mid fifties. He was in any case a Freemason and thus “politically unreliable” to the Nazis. Kirschhoff died in Wiesbaden in 1951.

With one exception this is, justly, an Wagner disc. All the sides were recorded between 1914 and 1932.  The majority are 1914-15 Grammophons (twelve of seventeen) but there are also four 1929 Pathé sides and three 1932 Parlophones. Kirchhoff has divided critical posterity. Some tend to find him plummy, others rather bleaty. Listening without prejudice one hears in the 1915 Lohengrin Nun sei bedankt a singer of considerable gifts. The copy used is a little rough but fortunately the voice is very forward; we can hear a finely modulated voice, subtly coloured, that darkens and hardens dramatically to inflect the text and one that brings reserves of characterisation to bear. He employs mezza voce with adroit musicality. It’s singing of a thoroughly masculine and convincing kind. The imploring tone he employs for Mein lieber Schwan is not only apt but also finely controlled. In Mastersingers we find him ardent and very plausibly youthful with just a touch of nasality in his tone.

What he possesses is real variety in attack and in tonal resources. His tone broadens, expands and contracts in response to the dictates of theatrical realism – one can sense that this is a stage animal and that his technical resources are harnessed for optimum expressive projection and effect. It’s true that one may find some of his singing occasionally disappointing; though he’s a stylist of skill he can sometimes come across as a touch leaden. But in the main he impresses by virtue of his powers of characterisation.

The transfers are pretty good; a few rough starts soon settle down. The biographical notes, to which I’m indebted, are succinct and helpful.

Jonathan Woolf


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