MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre [217:00]
Siegmund - Jon Vickers (tenor)
Sieglinde - Leonie Rysanek (soprano)
Hunding - Karl Ridderbusch (bass)
Wotan - Thomas Stewart (bass-baritone)
Brünnhilde - Birgit Nilsson (soprano)
Fricka - Christa Ludwig (mezzo)
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Berislav Klobucar
rec. originally broadcast live, The Met, NY, 24 February 1968. Mono
SONY CLASSICAL 88697 853082 [3 CDs: 73:30 + 77:40 + 65:36]

Experience Classicsonline

This latest instalment of the Met’s Matinee broadcast reissues isn’t as great a success as some others in the series. Even so, it has a lot of things going for it and you may well decide that it’s worth a punt.
The Wälsung twins are both excellent though, to my ears, they take a while to heat up. The opening of Act I plods a little, perhaps in part thanks to Klobucar’s tempi, but the excitement ratchets up once Siegmund is left on his own and Vickers sings with really special energy. His cries of “Wälse” seem to go on for ever, and his address to the Spring is thrilling. Later, during the Annunciation of Death, he appears ready to take on Brünnhilde and win and he, more than any of his other colleagues, flourishes on the live-ness of the occasion, producing something special and unrepeatable. I wasn’t quite so convinced by Leonie Rysanek, however. To my ears she always had something of a hoot to her voice and that’s a fairly serious problem in the Act I love music which feels somewhat weighed down by her heavy soprano. That said, she uses this to her advantage during her scene in Act III, evoking genuine sympathy for the character, and her final cry of “O Herrstes Wunder!” is wonderful. Karl Ridderbusch’s Hunding is predictably dark and compelling, as convincing a reading of the role as you’ll find anywhere.
As for the divinities, the story is similarly mixed. Wotan was one of Thomas Stewart’s greatest achievements, something obvious to anyone who listens to the Karajan Ring. Here, as there, he summons singing of tremendous power, but his Wotan is shot through with humanity and we see much more of the vulnerable god than the authority figure. He is exuberant and buoyant at the start of Act 2, but seems to give up all hope during his long monologue, towering with rage in his orders to Brünnhilde at the end. Likewise, his long dialogue with her in Act 3 is permeated with sadness and vulnerability and the farewell is exquisite in its tenderness. His thunderous rage at the start of Act III is all the more powerful because it is the exception to his character rather than the norm. Christa Ludwig is excellent too, arch without sounding waspish and quietly confident of her victory right from the outset of their confrontation.
Nilsson’s Brünnhilde is here problematic, though. No-one can doubt that she owned the part for most of the post-war era, and all the strength and steel is there in this performance too. However, to me she sounds oddly disengaged in comparison with her other recordings. The hard edge of her voice comes to the fore to the exclusion of almost everything else. Only in the Annunciation of Death scene does her mask slip a little, but she displays no vulnerability to speak of in this performance. This is an interpretation only for those who want to hear the part scaled by a singer with such exceptional apparatus, not for someone wanting to get to know the nuances of the role.
Perhaps the heart of the problem lies with Berislav Klobucar’s conducting. His pacing is anonymous most of the time and in places it’s a downright distraction. He struggles, in particular, to coordinate the fast-paced action at the end of the second act, and there is a series of terrible timing errors in the introduction to the Ride of the Valkyries. In fact, I’m surprised that a conductor of such little renown was given the task of steering such a top-notch cast: I wonder if he was a last minute stand-in? The notes contain only a plot summary so can’t help us to find out. Either way, the playing of the orchestra is fine if unexceptional, and there is a good ensemble of Valkyries to boot.
The most obvious points of comparison for this performance are Karajan’s studio recording which also features Vickers and Stewart, and Böhm’s Bayreuth recording which features Nilsson and Rysanek in the same parts as here. Both offer different advantages which outweigh this recording. Böhm conducts the score like a man possessed, caught up in the moment of the live occasion with his foot to the accelerator more often than not. Rysanek’s vocal “issues” I found much less off-putting with Böhm, and Nilsson’s performance is more shaded too. James King’s Siegmund is one of the best, though Theo Adam’s Wotan is too gruff. However, while many disagree with me, I still find Karajan’s to be one of the finest performances of this opera. Janowitz and Vickers sound fantastic, as does Thomas Stewart, and I even liked his controversial choice of Régine Crespin as Brünnhilde. Furthermore, Karajan’s careful control of the Berlin Philharmonic allows the listener to hear new things in the score and to appreciate the grand climaxes as much as the more intimate moments.
For me this performance remains primarily a curiosity. It has undeniable weaknesses but parts of it are excellent and at this budget price you can afford to give it a go if you like the performers.
Simon Thompson

Masterwork Index: Die Walküre




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.