Wolfgang Sawallisch
Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
July/August 1962
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live   studio
  live compilation   live and studio
Heinrich der Vogler Franz Crass
Lohengrin Jess Thomas
Elsa von Brabant Anja Silja
Friedrich von Telramund Ramón Vinay
Ortrud Astrid Varnay
Der Heerrufer des Königs Tom Krause
Vier brabantische Edle Niels Möller
Gerhard Stolze
Klaus Kirchner
Zoltán Kelemen

Decca’s recent foray into the world of opera with librettos on CD-ROM has proved to be a huge success on all fronts. Since Philips is now part of the Decca group, we also have quite a few fine operas from the Dutch label’s back catalogue with this Lohengrin being a case in point.

I remember Sawallisch’s white hot version previously available in a sumptuous Philips ‘Bayreuth Wagner Edition’ that also included Boulez’s ‘Ring’ and Bohm’s masterly ‘Tristan’. I doubt if Sawallisch’s version has ever been surpassed and having grown up with Keilberth’s masterly recording also on Decca, I can safely say that I was bowled over by the fantastic sound of the 1963 version that also includes a cast of top notch singers. Jess Thomas is a brilliant Lohengrin whilst Silja and Vinay are also towering in their respective roles. The orchestra plays with a devilish abandon throughout and the passion and dedication of all has to be heard to be believed.

Solti’s more modern version with Domingo pales into relative insignificance although the more lavish packaging and undeniably state-of-the-art sound will sway some. At this price, you had better snap this Lohengrin up, it must be the bargain of the year in the Wagnerian operatic field.

Gerald Fenech

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Philips, Decca, TOL
Technical Specifications
676 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 951 MByte (flac)
A production by Wieland Wagner (1958)
Philips only states that this is a live recording from the Bayreuth festival July 1962 but don’t give a precise date. However there was only one Lohengrin performance in July 1962 (25 July) and Astrid Varnay did not sing Ortrud at this date. There were only two performances with the cast given (3 and 8 August). My guess is that Philips taped several performances for this recording.