The Telegraph, 22 Feb 2013
By Rupert Christiansen
Wagner: Die Walküre, classical album review
Although it’s hard to imagine a stronger line-up of currently active singers, this recording of Wagner's Die Walküre lacks bloom and vividness, says Rupert Christiansen.

This is a frustrating release. It’s hard to imagine the second episode of Wagner’s Ring cast with a stronger line-up of currently active singers than the one here, and most of them deliver superb performances: Nina Stemme, in particular, is a magnificent Brünnhilde, emphasising the humanity of a woman discovering the meaning of love rather than the fierce Amazon. She stands in powerful contrast to the awesomely implacable Wotan of René Pape, and together they make something greatly moving at the end of the renunciations in the third act.

Jonas Kaufmann is a consummate Siegmund, and Ekaterina Gubanova makes a regally persuasive Fricka. Only Anja Kampe’s wayward if impassioned Sieglinde disappoints: she develops a quavering intonation under pressure.

But the fundamental problem is the conductor Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, who offer a listless and even flaccid interpretation, lacking in muscle and energy. It’s as though they’re being forced to play music in a foreign language they only partially understand, with the result that the opera’s moral grandeur never registers as it so emphatically does in Mark Elder’s recent Hallé recording (despite its inferior cast).

The recording lacks bloom and vividness: one longs for the electric brilliance of John Culshaw’s 1966 Decca recording with Solti – and in most respects that would remain my first recommendation.

 back top