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Die Walküre - Act One (Bruno Walter 1935)

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday 2 November 2011 | 4:20:00 pm

Found lying around on youtube As far as I am aware, given its age, this now lies in the public domain: There are many CD remasters out there. If you don't have already, you might want to have a look at the Pristine or Naxos remasters

Performer: Lauritz Melchior, Lotte Lehmann, Emanuel List, Alfred Jerger, Ella Flesch 
Conductor: Bruno Walter. Vienna in 1935

Extract below from the Lotte Lehmann League

This recording sometimes appears on “essential” and “desert island” lists and, while I think some tenors come within belting distance of Melchior and I like some Sieglindes just as much as I admire Lehmann, and even prefer some of the recorded Hundings to Emanuel List, I will concede that it may, nevertheless, deserve its apparent consensus status as the best recording of this music. Certainly, Bruno Walter’s impassioned, powerful conducting has a lot to do with the performance’s effect. He was actually supposed to conduct a complete recording of the opera and “therein,” as the saying goes, “lies a tale.” The notion of recording the first complete Die Walküre was hatched at EMI sometime in the early 1930s. It was to be done in Berlin with Bruno Walter presiding over some of the outstanding Wagner singers of the day. By the time they got around to making the arrangements in 1935, the Nazi regime had made Walter persona non grata, so the recording site was shifted to Vienna. Along with the first act, both of the act II scenes involving Melchior and Lehmann and the one that includes List were also recorded. Since the Hunding appearance in the closing scene of the act also requires a Wotan and Brünnhilde, Alfred Jerger, not one of nature’s Wotans, and Ella Flesch made brief appearances. By the time EMI was ready for act II in 1938, the German takeover of Austria meant that Walter was unavailable in Vienna, so the recording scene shifted back to Berlin and a new conductor, Bruno Seidler-Winkler. Melchior was on hand for the “Todesverkundigung,” and he was joined by Marta Fuchs (Brünnhilde), Margarete Klose (Fricka), and Hans Hotter (Wotan). A slightly edited version of act II, with a few cuts, was recorded. The scenes that had already been recorded under Walter were slipped into the performance later on, how smoothly, I don’t know, since I never heard the 78s. I might point out that, when this act was put on CD, an additional cut was made by EMI so that it would fit on a single disc. The onset of World War II interrupted the project. In 1945, American Columbia finished the job when Helen Traubel, Herbert Janssen, and Artur Rodzinski recorded the third act. Thus, in 1946, you could purchase a nearly complete Die Walküre on 26 breakable shellac 78s, recorded by two companies, in three cities, on two continents, with three conductors, three orchestras (the Vienna and New York Philharmonics and the Berlin State Opera Orchestra), three Wotans, three Brünnhildes, and two Sieglindes (Irene Jessner, doubling as Ortlinde, was the other).

Although Melchior could outbelt any tenor of his time (and ours), his contribution to the recording goes beyond mere power—he actually creates a character—first exhausted, then intrigued by his hostess, rueful about his tribulations, and finally, passionately in love. Lehmann’s ability to go beyond the notes was never questioned, and List is certainly a strong, menacing Hunding. The sound won’t blow you away but it has ample power and clarity for 1935. At this stage of his career Walter was more virile and energetic than the kindly old philosopher promoted by Columbia toward the end of his career and one can only regret that EMI’s project languished—a 1930s Bruno Walter Ring would have been something to hear, but I would have settled for a Bruno Walter Die Walküre if this recording is an indication of what could have transpired.
 James Miller