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The Wagnerian Review of the Gergiev Walkure:

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 23 February 2013 | 4:17:00 am

Wagner: Die Walküre

Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), René Pape (Wotan), Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund), Anja Kampe (Sieglinde), Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding), Zhanna Dombrovskaya (Gerhilde), Irina Vasilieva (Ortlinde), Natalia Evstafieva (Waltraute), Lyudmila Kanunnikova (Schwertleite), Tatiana Kravtsova (Helmwige), Ekaterina Sergeeva (Siegrune), Anna Kiknadze (Grimgerde), Elena Vitman (Rossweisse)

Mariinsky Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
SACD - 4 discs

The Gergiev Walkure: "Parsifal is Parsifal, Walkure is Walkure."

From the moment it was announced, I have waited enthusiastically upon this release. While I would be the first to admit that Gergiev's Ring cycle, as heard at the ROH, was far from perfect, I have been a dedicated admirer of his Parsifal - also released on the Mariinsky label a few years ago. While that may never replace a number of other recordings that I hold and listen to repeatedly, it was certainly a Parsifal that I had happily added to them -  for a number of reasons. One of these being that in Parsifal, Gergiev brings forth something new both from the score and text.

With this in mind, and a cast that included many of the leading performers of Wagner today - Kaufmann, Pape, Stemme, etc - it seemed that this Walkure would be one of the digital recordings of both this and even the last century.  However, I am sad to report that it is not the recording either for which I hoped or indeed it could have been.

And the fault? Alas, the blame must lay firmly at the feet of conductor Valery Gergiev. Whereas, with his interpretation of Parsifal he managed to bring many new nuances from Wagner''s score and at the same time produced an "exciting" performance, with much "forward momentum" , here he not only fails to do this but instead produces a performance that would be kindly described as "restrained" and at worse "boring". - something up-to now I had thought impossible with Walkure. And this is not just to do with any restrained  "tempos". To use a tirade of cliches, it lacks muscle, energy, excitement;  while remaining limp, flaccid (why are terms used by music critics when describing the negative always so "Freudian"?) without any hope of a spark and, to be brutally honest, down-right dull. Even as I type, I am listening to Leb' wohl,. and it is simply "underwhelming", not even to be saved by the usually magnificent Pape. And this is a section of Walkure that I have rarely, if ever before in a recording, found to be so. 

The cast work admirably within this structure but not even they can be truly considered to "save" this recording.

It really does sadden me to say so but, despite a "stellar" cast I would find it difficult to recommend this recording to anyone, especially those new to Wagner in particular.

I can only hope that Gergiev may learn from this recording,( although it must be added,  many reviewers seemed to have enjoyed it) and he brings more "energy" to the rest of the Ring

Of modern "studio" recordings, despite their various flaws, I would recommend any of the "usual suspects" Although my preferred choice of Ring cycles would have to remain the live Bohm from 1966,  from whose strong forward momentum and general "energy" (whether you like the tempos or not is not that relevant) Gergiev could learn much. Parsifal is Parsifal, Walkure is Walkure.