Die Walküre

Georg Solti
Wiener Philharmoniker
29 October – 19 November 1965
Sofiensaal Wien
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundJames King
HundingGottlob Frick
WotanHans Hotter
SieglindeRégine Crespin
BrünnhildeBirgit Nilsson
FrickaChrista Ludwig
HelmwigeBerit Lindholm
GerhildeVera Schlosser
OrtlindeHelga Dernesch
WaltrauteBrigitte Fassbaender
SiegruneVera Little
GrimgerdeMarilyn Tyler
SchwertleiteHelen Watts
RoßweißeClaudia Hellmann

The first point to be made is that this Decca version is once again a revelation in sound, improving appreciably on the original analogue recording. It is possible to hear much more instrumental detail than before, and more than on the Philips Bayreuth recording listed above. Against that, it has to be said that the orchestra, as in all the Decca Ring recordings, is accorded much greater prominence than is the case in the theatre. Some certainly find that an advantage, but I prefer the more natural balance to be found in the Bohm set and the complete Janowski Ring on Eurodisc.

It is marvellous, for instance, to hear the very start of the opera so clear, every detail well pointed, but as the First Act progresses I was not caught up in the impassioned, tragic love of Sieglinde and Siegmund as I was when listening to the Bayreuth performance. James King sounds much less involved here than he is for Bohm. Crespin is certainly a fresher-voiced, steadier Sieglinde than Leonie Rysanek, but she is correspondingly more careful, and neither the singers nor Solti quite catch the rapture of the love duet. In brief, the act seems studio-bound. The last two acts are more satisfying in that respect because Nilsson and Hotter bring to their interpretations of Brunnhilde and Wotan all the experience of their stage partnership. In any case, Hotter’s portrayal remains hors concours where his part is concerned. He can be forgiven, in the autumn of his career, the occasional wobble in his voice in forte passages because of the immense authority he imparts to Wotan’s frustrations, anger and sorrow. Nobody else has invested the Second Act monologue with such a Lieder-like concentration of the text or brought to his anguished ”O heilige Schmach” such desperate expression, and his account of the Farewell is justly renowned. I am sure John Culshaw took the right decision in casting him for this set.

Nilsson, though not so involved as for Bohm, sings with great sensitivity and feeling, nowhere more so than in the short, moving passage after Wotan’s departure in Act 2 and at ”War es so schmahlich” in Act 3, and needless to say she rides even Solti’s orchestra with ease. Ludwig is a properly commanding and nagging Fricka, and Gottlob Frick a dour, implacable Hunding. The Valkyries ride and sing buoyantly.

Solti compensates in energy and nervous excitement what he misses in the longer view of the work: I don’t feel the inevitable, forward thrust of Bohm or quite the incandescence of Janowski. The playing of the VPO is superb and is even more lifelike now on both CD and LP issues. One drawback of CD opera issues is the tiny print that has to be used for the librettos, a particularly trying feature in such a long work as this. Final choice between Bohm and Solti will depend on what you consider most important in sound and interpretation. I have tried to make clear the differences. From a cast viewpoint, there is not much to choose between the two. But, as I said in February, I know it is Bohm that I shall return to more often, while on occasion wanting to hear the Decca for Hotter’s Wotan for the fabulous sound.’

Alan Blyth

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Decca, London
Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 524 MByte (MP3)
2.8 Mbit/s VBR, 96 kHz, 4.5 GByte (flac)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.