Studio recording in mono
September 28-October 6, 1954
Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler
Siegmund Ludwig Suthaus
Sieglinde Leonie Rysanek
Wotan Ferdinand Frantz
Brünnhilde Martha Mödl
Hunding Gottlob Frick
Fricka Margarete Klose
Gerhilde Gerda Scheyrer
Ortlinde Judith Hellwig
Waltraute Dagmar Schmedes
Schwertleite Ruth Siewert
Helmwige Erika Köth
Siegrune Hertha Töpper
Grimgerde Johanna Blatter
Roßweiße Dagmar Hermann
Wiener Philharmoniker
EMI, CHS 7 63045 2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Charles E. Muntz

In 1954 EMI began a recording of Wagner's Ring with the great German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. Sadly, they only recorded Die Walküre before Furtwängler died and a complete Ring would have to wait until 1965 when Solti finished his legendary cycle.

The Walküre he did leave is in good, clear mono sound with a reasonable amount of orchestral detail. The sound is vastly superior to both Furtwängler's recording with the RAI Orchestra in Rome and Krauss’ live Ring from Bayreuth, both in 1953. The Vienna Philharmonic is likewise leagues ahead of the Rome forces and even the Bayreuth Orchestra of the time.

For Brünnhilde, Furtwängler had Martha Mödl, a fine dramatic soprano of the day. She provides an intelligent, well thought out portrayal of the Valkyrie. She can not rival Nilsson or Flagstad, but she is pretty good. Her main problem is that she sometimes over-emphasizes a phrase.

Wotan is sung be Ferdinand Frantz. I’ve often wondered why Furtwängler did not choose the greatest Wotan of the day, Hans Hotter. Frantz is a strong Wotan, nonetheless, but he can not rival Hotter. Still, he is better than any of today’s Wotans.

For the Volsung twins Furtwängler had Ludwig Suthaus, who sang Tristan for him in 1952, and Leonie Rysanek. Sieglinde was one of Rysanek’s signature roles and here one can here why. Her understanding and excellence of singing has been matched by very few. Suthaus is strong and reliable as Siegmund, although at times he does not really show a firm grasp of character.

The minor roles are all well taken. Margarete Klose is an experienced, waspish Fricka. Gottlob Frick is appropriately evil and sly as Hagen. The Valkyries are all excellent.

It is difficult to describe Furtwängler's conducting. Many have described him as one of the greatest Wagner conductors ever, but he has had his detractors as well, most notably Ernest Newman, the father of modern English Wagner criticism. His interpretation is dark, brooding, with great power and conviction. He obviously feels the music very deeply, but I think it needs a more dramatic hand. But it is still a very remarkable recording and my second favorite Walküre (Solti is my first).

This review is from the now closed Wagner on the Web and it is published without the author's consent. I haven't been able to get in touch with him. If the author reads this, please contact me as soon as possible. If you don't want it here, I'll take it of the site immediately.