Mike Ashman, in his booklet note, traces the history
of these magnificent recordings as a taster for a planned
Legge Ring. Leopold Ludwig was no great conductor
and, whatever the strengths of the singers involved - and,
with names like Nilsson and Hotter, they are bound to be
many - when it comes to Wagner one needs a great conductor – especially
when one is engaged in Wagnerian circumcision – or “bleeding
chunks”, as they are more usually known. On the present
occasion, one is left agape at the talents of Flagstad
and Hotter, but the Philharmonia can seemingly manage little
enthusiasm for Ludwig.
is in commanding form for her “Dich, teure Halle”. “Commanding” not
just in term of imposing vocal delivery, but also as in,
in total command of all aspects of dynamic and register.
The choral-accompanied prayer-like sections are just as
magical in their way as the authoritative statements. Senta’s
serves to highlight the mismatch between great
singer and mediocre conductor. The Philharmonia’s contribution
is perfectly acceptable, and indeed contains moments of
great and admirable beauty. But never does it match the
characterisation heard in every syllable of Nilsson’s delivery
- her diction is astonishing. Incidentally, the chorus
used here is nowhere credited. One assumes the Philharmonia
Chorus, but it would have been nice to have been told.
We move from there to the largest single chunk on the disc “Wie
aus der Ferne”. Hotter begins this with a floated tone
that conveys ultimate mysteries. It is Hotter at his most
riveting and beautiful; the duet (“Wie aus der Ferne”)
reveals some of the most delicious Wagner singing I have
ever come across. The two singers are so attuned to each
other that the dialogue becomes remarkably involving. Nilsson,
in addition, sings with razor-like precision in terms of
excellence of the more tender moments of “Dich teure Halle” is
expounded upon in her rapt version of Elsa’s Dream
But it is when the two singers combine in the heartrending
final scene of Walküre
that we really hear them
at the top of their game. Brünnhilde’s eloquent plea to
her father (“Was es so schmählich”) is given an utterly
personal slant and sets the tone for one of the finest
performances of this father-daughter farewell I have encountered.
Wotan’s famous cries of “Leb’ wohl” and the passage immediately
preceding them find Hotter taking his voice to the limits
in both dynamic and emotional terms – and what an impact
it makes. A pity Ludwig cannot match his Wotan’s intensity
in the important extended orchestra-only passage between “… der
freier als ich, der Gott” and “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar”.
It is left to Hotter to pick up the energy he generated
earlier, which he does with consummate ease. His commanding
invocation of Loge is unforgettable.
as if one great farewell was not enough, we have Nilsson’s “Mild
und leise”. Imperious and noble in her sorrow, this Isolde
just needs a conductor like the Böhm of the famous DG Tristan
her sails to seal the deal. But this is magnificent singing
and simply must be heard by all self-respecting Wagnerites.
of this material appeared on an Archipel disc (ARPCD0334)
this site by Göran
Forsling in May
2006. I have not heard that transfer, but this GROC
is near-faultless in its sonic delivery. Oh, by the way,
just look at the playing time!
EMI Great Recordings of the Century page