Performer: Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson
Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor: Leopold Ludwig
Composer: Richard Wagner
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (tracks)
Size: 349 MB
01. Tannhauser: Act II: Dich, Teure Halle, Gruss Ich Wieder
02. Der Fliegende Hollander: Act II: Johohoe! Johohoe!
03. Der Fliegende Hollander: Act II: Wie Aus Der Ferne
04. Lohengrin: Act I: Einsam in Truben Tagen
05. Die Walkure: Act III, Scene 3. War Es So Schmahlich
06. Act III. Scene 3: Deinen Leichten Sin Lass Dich Denn Leiten
07. Act III. Scene 3: Du Zeugtest Ein Edles Geschlecht
08. Act III. Scene 3: Leb Wohl, Du Kuhnes, Herrliches Kind!
09. Die Walkure: Act III, Scene 3. Loge, Hor! Lausche Hieher!
A prize long unavailable on CD
This CD contains a collection of Wagner recordings made in 1958 by Birgit Nilsson, to many of us the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the twentieth century, at the prime of her steely and inimitable voice. Leopold Ludwig conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Hans Hotter joins in two scenes from Der Fliegende Holländer and Die Walküre.
The first items on the disc are all worth hearing: a splendid and exuberant rendition of Elizabeth’s Greeting from Tannhaüser (Dich, teure Halle…), Senta’s Ballad and the colossal love-duet from Dutchman (Wie aus der Ferne), and Elsa’s Dream from Lohengrin (Einsam in trüben Tagen). They show off Nilsson’s versatile and accurate voice to excellent effect.
The ultimate gem of the piece, however, once available (along with the Dutchman scenes) on a Seraphim LP, but hitherto unavailable on CD, is the recording of Act III, Scene 3 of Die Walküre. It’s only a single scene, but it makes one wish that Ludwig had recorded a whole Walküre or a whole Ring.
The final scene of Die Walküre is, of course, a powerful and affecting one both dramatically and musically, if you are at all responsive to the Ring, and even a passable recording is capable of packing a real punch. But this one is justly regarded by many aficianados as the single finest Wagner recording ever made by anyone, anywhere. And while I haven’t kept up on all the recent releases of the Ring, I would have to say that so far I have not heard a better, nor could I intuit how anyone could improve upon it. Both Hotter and Nilsson (who joined forces on the legendary London Ring under Georg Solti) are here in slightly better voice, apparently better temper, and (meaning no disrespect for Sir Georg) working with a conductor capable of greater subtlety and emotional range — on a par with Knappertsbusch at his best. Each of the scene’s cascade of moods — from apprehension to outrage, regret to the transcendent reconciliation and the quietly reflective finish, all are perfectly nuanced. The recording quality is not up to today’s best, but the technology for good stereo sound was in place by 1958, and the disc has been digitally remastered to recover the best it has to offer.
I first heard this recording in 1971, the day after I graduated from high school, and almost thirty years later it remains the favorite recording in my collection, bar none. That it is now available in a clean CD version is extremely gratifying.