The Sunday Times, February 17, 2013
Hugh Canning
Pick of the week - Wagner — Die Walküre
In the theatre, Gergiev’s performances of the Ring have been patchy, sometimes poorly cast affairs, but for this recording, taken live from the new Mariinsky Concert Hall in 2011 and 2012, the Russian maestro has gone for optimum international casting of at least three of the principal roles. His Act I has Jonas Kaufmann’s heroic, poetic Siegmund at the peak of his powers, partnering a limpid, youthful-sounding Sieglinde in Anja Kampe — a dream pair of Wälsung twins for our time, and one to compare with the greatest on disc. Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde, too, is a Valkyrie for the ages, combining the gleaming attack of her compatriot Birgit Nilsson with the lyric tenderness of Anne Evans. She is one of the most complete and musical Brünnhildes ever recorded, even managing a decent trill in her war cries. Gergiev catches fire from these wonderful singers, but he goes off the boil when Ekaterina Gubanova’s well-sung but dull Fricka enters and René Pape’s patrician-toned but sometimes taxed Wotan embarks on his long Act II narrations. The Ride of the Valkyries is thrilling, too, and Pape finally convinces in his touching farewell to his daughter. Mikhail Petrenko’s black-voiced Hunding — singing decent German — is an asset. Let’s hope Gergiev can find a Siegfried to equal the standards set here. HC

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