"I have been a Flagstad fan from my first encounter with her singing. I read about this recording quite a while ago and I thought that it was impossible to get. By chance I saw it here on Amazon.com and in stock and ordered it right away. When I received the CD in the mail and played it, I was in a daze and felt as if I have discovered her voice all over again. The sound quality of the recording was great. Her voice wrapped around me like a very comfortable blanket and took me on a ride. The full bloom and beauty of the voice left me wanting for more. Set Svanholm's Siegmund was also a treasure to behold, with the proper depth, power and security in the voice to make his interpretation totally believable. Arnold van Mill, I thought, wasn't menacing enough, but still was vocally very good. Hans Knappertsbusch was better here than on his performance from 1956 available from Music and Arts. His tempi and timing here are better defined. On the '56 performance there were times when Windgassen, who sang Siegmund, began singing and the orchestra lagged behind. This performance has a vitality to it and is generally faster than what I normally expect from Kna.
The sound is, like I wrote above, really great. All details of the orchestral score is heard and it never is balanced above the singers. This is, for me, the best stereo recording with Flagstad. There aren't many of them. Two of them, Rheingold and the third act from Walkure both with Solti, have a much inferior conductor (Solti). The third with Mahler and Wagner lieder and arias (if there is such a thing in Wagner) with Boult and Kna is still very good, but with this recording we get a complete act with her in great sound and with a great co-star and conductor. This is very highly recommended."
The incomplete Decca "Kna" Ring
L. Johan Modée | Earth | 09/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This CD is of great interest for two reasons.
First, it is an outstanding interpretation of Die Walküre, Act 1, with Flagstad, Svanholm, and Van Mill as (mature) star cast. In my view, it is in the same class as the legendary Walter recording, with Lehmann, Melchior, and List (Wagner: Walküre Act 1). Knappertsbusch (or "Kna") was the leading Bayreuth interpreter, and this fine stereo recording with Vienna Philharmonic demonstrates his exceptional and original understanding of Wagner's music.
Second, this recording is a trial run of the now legendary Decca-Culshaw project: to make a complete recording of Wagner's Ring in studio. For a while, Keilberth's stereo Bayreuth performance (Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen) was the alternative option for Decca, but Culshaw wanted studio control of the production. Eventually, they signed the then "unknown" Georg Solti for the project, which now is the famous Decca Ring: Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring Cycle) / Sir Georg Solti).
Kna conducted Act 1 in his trial run (=the present recording), while Solti conducted Act 3 (Wagner: Die Walküre, Act 3 / Solti, Flagstad). Then, for some strange reason, Decca picked Solti for their prestige project - what a mistake! Solti's fans should hear this Act 1: the presence, balance, and tension are unmatched on Solti's reading. It would have been a more exciting Decca Ring with Kna.
This is a performance of a lifetime - essential in any Wagner collection. Throw in a thrilling and moving performance of Siegfried's funeral march from Götterdämmerung (also on Wagner / Nilsson, Knappertsbusch, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra), and you have what I would like to see as a desert island disc.
Comforting Kna after their odd decision, Decca gave him the opportunity to record additional Wagner music with Flagstad and George London (who became Decca's Wotan in Das Rheingold), and that music is collected in another CD of great interest: Wagner Gala. That CD includes some of Kna's Wagner recordings with Birgit Nilsson as well - all sublime, even if these two Wagner stars couldn't stand each other (*). Moreover, the original LP with Flagstad included the Wesendonk lieder, which Decca has released on a third CD: Mahler & Wagner: Orchestral Song Cycles.
All these Kna Decca CDs are warmly recommended, but the present one is of special interest.
Note (*): Kna & Nilsson in a Vienna performance of "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde can be seen on Youtube."
FLAGSTAD'S INDIAN SUMMER
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 10/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've long been an admirer of this recording, and I'm glad that it's available after being so long out of the catalogue. Knappersbusch was certainly one of the greatest Wagner conductors. His tempi were usually on the slow side, though here they don't seem abnormally so. When one realizes that the great Flagstad was 62 years old at the time of this recording, and already in retirement, there is cause for wonder. I agree that her Siegliende has a staid and matronly quality about it (as has her 1952 Isolde with Furtwangler), and it has no sexual or dramatic tension whatsoever. That said, it must also be said for sheer singing, her voice is still magnificent. Very occasionally, a top G or A may remind us that she was no longer a young woman, but other than that, she displays a sound that many sopranos half her age would envy. Moreover, this recording provides us with the only documentation of her Siegliende, which she sang only occasionally (but it was the role in which she first appeared at the Met in 1935), but wanted to record for London/Decca. Given what she brings off here, this is a treasurable document. Set Svanholm may not have been a Lauritz Melchior, but he sounds awfully good here, especially after Flagstad's "Der Manner" narration. The lyricism of the music bursts forth like a gusher, and both singers are inspired. It is f this Act I of "Walkure" that makes this recording treasurable. Of course, Flagstad's Siegliende has nowhere near the sexual passion of Lotte Lehmann or Leonie Rysanek, but both of those great sopranos lacked one thing that Flagstad had in abundance: a glorious and grand soprano that was virtually equal in all registers. She was by nature a Brunnhilde and an Isolde, but her singing of Siegliende is still magnificent and should not be missed."
Great singers, great conductor
Van Gent | NL | 10/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is, quite simply, very good.
It's my first encounter with Set Svanholm and I really like his voice. Lyrical and manly. It's a pity he sometimes has a rather awkward intonation.
Flagstad has a wonderful voice too. I knew her voice from the Fricka role on Solti's Rheingold (stereo). I'm very glad to have another example of her art.
I'm also very pleased with Arnold van Mill's Hunding. He portrays this man not altogether evil, but rather displeased because he finds his wife with another man in his own house. Only when he finds out, Siegmund is the one he has been searching for, he get's really angry. I think this view on the role is closer to the score than any other recorded Hunding (who portray Hunding as a fundamentally evil creature, a sort of Nibelung, which he is not). Anyway, his voice sounds great.
Knappertsbusch and his orchestra are wonderful. It's a pity that not the whole opera was recorded."
Van Gent | 09/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the famous Act 1 Walkure with Knappertsbusch that John Culshaw describes in his book "Ring Resounding". Kirsten Flagstad sings Sieglinde. She has been criticized for being too "matronly" for Sieglinde. Yes, but she sings the role absolutely beautifully. Who cares if it is matronly? Plus the sound is terrific - Decca Stereo. Knappertsbusch is great too."