"Siegfried wakes you, brings you to life."
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 09/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had three reasons for acquiring this double CD as soon as it became available. Lauritz Melchior and Friedrich Schorr accounted for two of them. The original producer of these records, Fred Gaisberg, referred to the former as "the greatest heldentenor of our times,....(one) who could sing and rehearse record after record without stress and without his voice going husky or becoming strained". He refers to Friedrich Schorr as "the greatest Wotan ... of our generation". The work of both singers is heard at its best here: Melchior's Siegfried is as highly-charged and vigorous as is any Olympic athlete; Schorr's Wanderer (Wotan) projects a beauty of voice and an authority that I have never heard matched. Of the thirty-six 78 sides that are collected here, Melchior features in 25 and Schorr in 5 of them.
My third reason is my familiarity with some of these recordings in earlier formats - even some of the black labeled originals - and my recollection that the recording quality for the era (1928-1932) was very good indeed. It is good to read in the notes that restoration engineer Ward Marston confirms this estimate.
Restoration is itself a miracle here. I doubt that anyone was ever lucky enough to acquire all the 78s during the years of their ad hoc recording and releasing, let alone have the capacity to join and hear them with anything like the ease and clarity that this Naxos release makes possible. The excerpts comprised here - some extended passages as long as 38 minutes - total a little over two and a half hours.
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have little to add to the enthusiastic review by John Austin dated 7 September 2004. Like him, I find this an outstanding release. It should tell us something that these excerpts from 'Siegfried,' recorded between 1928 and 1932, with varying forces, have rarely if ever been out of print. They were initially released on numerous 78 sides, issued in four separate albums. I owned many of those old 78s more than fifty years ago. They have been released on CD before as well, but never in such resplendent sound as that provided by Ward Marston. At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseam, Marston's way with restoring ancient recorded sound is nothing short of miraculous. He even got rid of a persistent hum that bedeviled part of Act III, and without substantially reducing the fidelity of the music recorded thereon.
This is not, of course, a complete 'Siegfried.' But it is almost certainly the most thrilling recorded performance by Lauritz Melchior of the young hero. He is in simply amazing voice here. Was there ever anyone, anywhere who took this role as excitingly as Melchior? I don't think so. His baritonal tenor reeks of testosterone, surely a prerequisite for the part. Friedrich Schorr is also unmatchable as Wotan. Slightly less exciting is the Brünnhilde of Florence Easton. The tiny role of the Forest Bird is sung beautifully by Nora Gruhn. And for those of you who know and admire Maria Olszewska only from her 1931 'Rosenkavalier' Octavian, here she is as the Earth Mother, Erda, in all her glory. What a splendid contralto she was!
I suspect this would be a wonderful purchase for someone coming to 'Siegfried' (and to Wagner) without prior experience. The abridgement does get rid of lots of what could feel like padding to the neophyte, and Naxos's price cannot be beat. Add to that the marvelous sound and you have a very attractive package.