Wagner: Die Walküre: Act I

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Orfeo
WORKS: Die Walküre: Act I
PERFORMER: Marianne Schech, Franz Völker, Friedrich Dalberg; Bavarian State Orchestra/Georg Solti
CATALOGUE NO: C 019 991 Z ADD mono
When Decca producer John Culshaw heard Solti conduct Wagner’s Die Walküre in 1950 he thought it was the best performance he had ever heard. In his book Ring Resounding he tells how the idea of using Solti to record the complete Ring cycle for Decca took root that balmy summer’s night in Munich. And it’s easy to forget how exciting Solti’s firebrand approach must have seemed just after the war to Culshaw’s generation, brought up on the more Germanic virtues of Furtwängler, Krauss and Knappertsbusch.

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This recording of Act I captured on the wing three years earlier is the first example we have of Solti’s way with Wagner: hard-driven and volatile. There is some rough orchestral playing, Franz Völker’s idiomatic but strained Siegmund occasionally fights Solti’s whiplash tempi, Marianne Schech’s Sieglinde can sound a little shrewish and Friedrich Dalberg’s gruff bark makes a less than menacing Hunding. But it’s alive. Wieland Wagner may have despaired of ‘Solti and his orgasms in every second bar’ but as the incestuous lovers whip themselves into a frenzy, Solti injects a hair-raising shot of adrenalin which drives the act to a spectacular climax. If you like your Wagner to be a religious encounter, look elsewhere; if you want a theatrical experience, you could do much worse. Clive Portbury