Die Walküre

Joseph Keilberth
Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
11 August 1955
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundRamón Vinay
HundingJosef Greindl
WotanHans Hotter
SieglindeAstrid Varnay
BrünnhildeMartha Mödl
FrickaGeorgine von Milinković
HelmwigeHilde Scheppan
GerhildeHerta Wilfert
OrtlindeGerda Lammers
WaltrauteElisabeth Schärtel
SiegruneJean Watson
GrimgerdeGeorgine von Milinković
SchwertleiteMaria von Ilosvay
RoßweißeMaria Graf

This Walküre completes Testament’s release of the Bayreuth 1955 Ring. Hailing from the second of two Decca cycles (the first released by Testament in 2006-7), it features Astrid Varnay singing Sieglinde instead of Brünnhilde, the latter role being taken by Martha Mödl, a cult figure among Wagnerians, and rightly so.

The rest of the cast remains as in the first cycle, but one of the things that makes this new release so interesting is the way in which Hans Hotter – the greatest of all Wotans, here in stupendous voice – and Ramon Vinay – the baritonal, deeply affecting Siegmund – react to the personalities of their Brünnhilde and Sieglinde respectively.

Varnay was one of the great heroic sopranos, however Sieglinde is not an heroic part, and she scales her huge voice down. But her way of inflecting the line to gain maximum charge for Sieglinde’s lyrical, then passionate, later hysterical music is extraordinary.

And Mödl, though she finds the higher reaches of Brünnhilde’s role a strain, is so deeply expressive and able to bring out every facet of the goddess’s relationship to her father, that her scenes with Wotan in Acts II and III are more searching than in almost any performance I have heard.

Almost no Walküre, apart from the first set that Decca recorded a fortnight before, is so well cast and conducted. And the early recording conveys the atmosphere of the Festspielhaus with an honesty and power that are overwhelming.

Michael Tanner | 20 January 2012

The Guardian

In 2006 and 2007, Testament made available for the first time the Ring cycle that Decca had recorded live in stereo at Bayreuth in 1955. Since then it has already released one follow-up to that outstanding set, arguably the finest Ring currently available: the performance of Götterdämmerung, taken from the second cycle that year, in which Martha Mödl took over as Brünnhilde and Hans Hotter sang the role of Gunther, with Joseph Keilberth again conducting. Now the performance of Die Walküre from that second cycle has appeared too, and it is, if anything, an even more significant release than the Götterdämmerung.

If there is any weakness in the original cycle, it was Gré Brouwenstijn’s rather tremulous Sieglinde, which hardly stands comparison with the towering performances around her. In this performance, though, Astrid Varnay (who sang Brünnhilde in the first cycle) takes over as Sieglinde and makes a truly formidable impression. Varnay doesn’t illuminate the more feminine, vulnerable side of Sieglinde exactly; in fact, she sounds more than a match for Ramón Vinay’s Siegmund and Josef Greindl’s Hunding put together. But the dramatic sweep of her singing is thrilling and her scene in the third act with Mödl’s Brünnhilde, two of the greatest Wagnerian sopranos of their time toe to toe, is totally compelling.

Andrew Clements | 21 August 2009

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Testament, Walhall Eternity, OOA
Technical Specifications
760 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 1.2 GByte (flac)
Broadcast from the Bayreuth festival
A production by Wieland Wagner (1951)
This recording is from the second Ring cycle in 1955. The complete Ring cycle was broadcasted but only Walküre and Götterdämmerung has been released by Testament so far.
The first Ring cycle was not broadcasted but recorded by Decca und released by Testament.
In the third act after Wotan’s long monologue it’s Varnay that starts singing (Wohl taugte dir nicht die tör’ge Maid etc.) and then all of a sudden Mödl takes over (Muss ich denn scheiden). Testament gives no explanation for this.