Studio recording in stereo
October 29-November 19, 1965
Conductor: Georg Solti
Siegmund James King
Sieglinde Régine Crespin
Wotan Hans Hotter
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson
Hunding Gottlob Frick
Fricka Christa Ludwig
Gerhilde Vera Schlosser
Ortlinde Helga Dernesch
Waltraute Brigitte Fassbaender
Schwertleite Helen Watts
Helmwige Berit Lindholm
Siegrune Vera Little
Grimgerde Marilyn Tyler
Roßweiße Claudia Hellmann
Wiener Philharmoniker
Decca, 414 105-2 4 CDs ADD
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Review by Charles E. Muntz

Die Walküre was the final opera in the Ring cycle that Sir Georg Solti and John Culshaw recorded. It is also the most problematic.

The major problem revolves around Hans Hotter, the greatest Wotan since World War 2. By 1965 he was past his vocal prime and his voice is at times both ragged and wobbly. Solti and Culshaw knew this, but they chose Hotter because no other Wotan at the time (or since, for that matter) matched his authority and depth of character. Their decision was criticized by some at the time, and by some since. But I feel that it was justified and I prefer Hotter with Solti to any Wotan since.

For his Brünnhilde Solti had the great Birgit Nilsson at the peak of her powers. She is, quite simply, the supreme Brünnhilde since Kirsten Flagstad retired from the stage. Her reading of the role for Solti is matched only by her live recording for Böhm two years later at Bayreuth. Her Valkyrie sisters are likewise excellent.

Kirsten Flagstad, who sang Fricka in Solti's Rheingold, learned the role of Fricka in Walküre as well, but unfortunately, it was never recorded. Fricka is instead sung here by Christa Ludwig, one of the most versatile mezzo sopranos of all time. She is appropriately biting and waspish, but not overly so, with the right touch of arrogance, outrage and contempt.

For Siegmund and Sieglinde, Solti had James King and Régine Crespin. King has an excellent heldentenor voice, sings well, and has a generally strong interpretation, although occasionally he could be a bit more enthusiastic. Crespin has a lovely voice and is a magnificent Sieglinde. Gottlob Frick is a black toned, arrogant Hunding.

As with the rest of the cycle, Solti's conducting is dynamic and exciting, yet tender and lyrical where it needs to be. He sees the great Wotan monologue in Act 2 as being the pivotal point of the cycle and with Hotter captures the intensity of Wotan's despair. However, I do think the orchestra is brought in too abruptly just before Wotan's "Leb wohl!" The Vienna Philharmonic plays with its usual perfection and the stereo sound is fabulous.

All in all, the many excellent qualities of this recording greatly outweigh its few flaws. This is probably the best Walküre on record, although anyone really interested in the opera should also seek out Lauritz Melchior's recording of Act 1 with Bruno Walter.

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.