André Cluytens
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
3 August 1958
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
Heinrich der VoglerKieth Engen
LohengrinSándor Kónya
Elsa von BrabantLeonie Rysanek
Friedrich von TelramundErnest Blanc
OrtrudAstrid Varnay
Der Heerrufer des KönigsEberhard Waechter
Vier brabantische EdleGerhard Stolze
Heinz-Günther Zimmermann
Gotthard Kronstein
Egmont Koch

It took the postwar Bayreuth Festival almost two decades to find a steady Lohengrin conductor — and even then it only lasted two years. From 1953 when the house presented its first postwar performance of the opera with Joseph Keilberth until 1971 when it presented the first of Silvio Varviso’s two consecutive appearances, the only steady thing about Bayreuth’s Lohengrin conductors was how brief their tenure on the podium was. After Keilberth came Eugen Jochum in 1954, then André Cluytens in 1958, Lovro von Matacic and Heinz Tietjen in 1959, Ferdinand Leitner and Lorin Maazel in 1960, Wolfgang Sawallisch in 1962, Rudolf Kempe and Berislav Klobucar in 1967, Alberto Erede in 1969, and, finally, Varviso in 1971. Then, having seemingly exhausted every possible candidate, the house retired the work for the next eight years. Clearly, with competition from Meistersingers, Tristan, and the four Ring operas, Lohengrin was not a high priority at Bayreuth.

In this parade of famous and forgotten Lohengrins, is there any reason to seek out the 1958 Cluytens? It depends on how deep into collecting historical opera recordings you are. As his 1956 and 1957 performances of Meistersinger had demonstrated, Cluytens was a remarkably effective Wagner conductor. His greatest strength was his dramatic drive — his Lohengrin is always going somewhere — but one could argue that his very straight-forwardness, his refusal to bend either to the work’s rabid nationalism or its pseudo-spiritualism, was the quality that gives this performance its special merit. As for the singers, although the superlative Leonie Rysanek is at her first peak here as Elsa and Astrid Varnay is reliably vile as Ortud, Ernest Blanc is perhaps too brutal as Telramund and Sándor Kónya is possibly a bit too sincere in the title role, especially in his hymn to his swan near the close of Act III. Except for a few wind fluffs, the 1958 Festival Orchestra is up to its usual high standards, while, without exception, Wilhelm Pitz’s magnificent Festival Choir is likewise up to its usual high standards. For those whose shelves are lined with Knappertsbusch Parsifals and Furtwängler Rings, this set may be of some interest. For those who have not heretofore heard Lohengrin, the set to get first is the classic 1964 Kempe recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. Unsurprisingly, Golden Melodram’s live sound is realistic and, surprisingly, it’s also clear.

James Leonard

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Media Type/Label
GM, Walhall Eternity
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Technical Specifications
327 kbit/s VBR, 32.0 kHz, 488 MiB (flac)
Broadcast from the Bayreuth festival
A production by Wieland Wagner (1958)
This is the second Lohengrin broadcast from the Bayreuth festival 1958