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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
CD 1

Die Walküre - Act I
Maargarete Teschemacher (soprano) – Sieglinde; Max Lorenz (tenor) – Siegmund; Kurt Böhme (bass) – Hunding; Staatskapelle Dresden/Karl Elmendorff
rec. der Staatsoper Dresden, 21 September 1944 CD 2
Die Walküre
1. Leb’ wohl, du kühnes herrliches Kind [17:42]
2. Dich teure Halle grüß ich wieder [3:44]
3. Allmächtige Jungfrau, hör mein Flehen [7:01]
Der fliegende Holländer
4. Durch Sturm und bösen Wind [9:19]
5. Wie aus der Ferne, fragment [3:00]
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
6. Was duftet doch der Flieder [5:46]
7. Auf wolkigen Höhen, fragment [3:02]
8. Blühenden Lebens labende Glut, fragment [2:41]
Marianne Schech (soprano) (2, 3); Max Lorenz (tenor) (8); Josef Herrmann (baritone) (1, 4-8); Kurt Böhme (bass) (4); Staatskapelle Dresden/Karl Elmendorff (1-3, 7); Kurt Striegler (4-6, 8)
rec. der Staatsoper Dresden, 21 September 1944 (1-3); Steinsaal des Dresdner Hygienemuseums, December 1944
HÄNSSLER PROFIL PH07048 [65:34 + 52:51] 


Experience Classicsonline

This issue is volume 23 with historic recordings by Staatskapelle Dresden from the archives of the German Radio Reichsrundfunk. The material from September 1944 was recorded on magnetic tape at 77,2 cm/sec while the December session(s) obviously was/were set down on shellac discs, maybe even on acetates. The difference is astounding. The September sound is dynamic, catching the acoustics of the Dresden Opera excellently. There is impressive clarity with rasping brass, and glowing strings – and there is very little background noise. Shortly after this session the opera house was closed down. This was in the final phase of the war and there had been sporadic bombings by the Allies for almost a year though it wasn’t until February 1945 that more than 1100 British and American bombers more or less obliterated vast areas of the city, killing around 25,000 people. The December recording was carried through in the Hygienemuseum and it seems that magnetic tape wasn’t available. This means that the sound is far inferior – actually sounding quite primitive set beside the September recording. It is also unclear if more was recorded but hasn’t survived. The scene with Daland and the Hollander is a substantial excerpt and Hans Sachs’s Fliedermonolog is complete but why was only the beginning of the Senta-Holländer duet recorded – unless of course no Senta was available. Why was Max Lorenz, who no longer belonged to the ensemble, brought in for a fragment lasting less than three minutes?

But we have to be grateful for what actually was preserved and it is good to have some of the best German singers of the period in what were signature roles. To have Karl Elmendorff in a complete act is another great thing. I don’t know exactly how much Wagner he recorded. There was a Bayreuth Tristan from 1928 and a Tannhäuser from 1930, both recorded in the empty Festspielhaus and a live Götterdämmerung from 1942. The first two are still available on Naxos. His handling of the stormy prelude to Die Walküre is almost Toscaninian in its relentless forward movement and the double basses growl ominously. But he also catches the glow of Siegmund and Sieglinde’s love and the final scene of the act is as ecstatic as one could wish.

Initially I was less bowled over by the singing. Max Lorenz is strong voiced and intense but also rather dry in tone and Margarete Teschemacher is also lacklustre, though she sings some lovely pianissimo phrases. Rarely, though, do we hear such superb enunciation of the text as from these two. Especially Lorenz is so clear that there is no need to follow a libretto – and there is none enclosed anyway. When Hunding appears in scene 2 he is as formidable as any singer of the part that I have heard – and I don’t forget Frick, Greindl, Talvela, Moll or Salminen. Kurt Böhme, then in his mid-30s, totally dominates the scene and his concluding monologue Ich weiss ein wildes Geschlecht (CD 1 tr. 8) is spine-chilling.

This thrill obviously triggered the loving couple and when Hunding has gone to sleep they are transformed. Lorenz shows his true mettle in Ein Schwert verhiess  mir der Vater (tr. 9) with steel-gleaming Heldentenor tone and an intensity second to none – and he has his moments of lyric restraint as well. In several respects he reminds me of Set Svanholm, who at the time was his most serious rival. Also Teschemacher lives up to her reputation and finds a hitherto not heard lustre in Der Männer Sippe. Indeed the dramatic temperature is near the boiling-point throughout the scene. I have heard more intrinsically beautiful singing of the roles but few so hot – and this was what Wagner aimed at.

The recording should be heard by anyone who believes that Wagner singing in Germany was merely Sprechgesang, half-spoken declamation. Don’t expect bel canto. This is in every respect a kind of singing we seldom hear today – like it or not. Many modern singers could be taught a lesson how to sing off the words. Pronouncing the consonants is no hindrance to great singing.

On the second CD we hear the fine baritone Josef Herrmann. He isn’t generously represented on record, though he was Wanderer and Gunther on Furtwängler’s live Ring from La Scala (1950) and there is a disc with him on Preiser. As Wotan he is warm and rather lyrical. It is a deeply felt inward reading of the long final monologue. Though he may lack some of the monumental power of Hotter this is still a considerable achievement. His Holländer is again up against Hotter and he is in Wie aus der Ferne even more vulnerable. He is also a marvellous Hans Sachs and few have sung Den Vogel der heut’ sang more movingly. The two fragments from Siegfried and Götterdämmerung are, sonically even worse than the rest and they don’t make much sense detached from the context. They are anyway further evidence of Herrmann’s standing as a splendid Wagnerian. Kurt Böhme is an authoritative Daland. Marianne Schech, relatively early in her career, makes a good impression in the two arias from Tannhäuser. 

The richly illustrated booklet gives a lot of valuable information on the recordings, conductors, singers – though there is a bio on Hans Hopf who isn’t singing anywhere – ‘Richard Wagner and Dresden’ and more.

To sum things up: there is some truly excellent Wagner singing here, most of it in surprisingly good sound.

Göran Forsling


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