3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I bought this set having read previous enthusiastic reviews here, knowing that I always enjoyed Sigurd Björling's tireless, metallic Heldenbariton in the live EMI recording of the Third Act of "Die Walküre" and having a great appreciation of Karajan's way with Wagner in the early 50's - especially his classic "Tristan und Isolde" from 1952.
However, I feel it's only fair to warn other prospective buyers that the mono sound here really is very dim - and even deteriorates further in Act 3, when both voices and orchestra become distant and distorted. You can still hear how vibrant and alert Karajan's direction is and how sterling are the singers - but you have to be a dedicated devotee of both Wagner and Karajan to appreciate it.
Aldenhoff is more than adequate, especially in his more reflective moments in the forest, but there is a hard, unattractive edge and a bleat to his top notes. He yells a bit but we can forgive this given the superhuman demands Wagner makes on his tenor. Varnay is superb: huge, warm and heroic of voice with ringing top notes but she can be heard in equally fine form as Brünnhilde for Krauss, Knapperstbusch and Keilberth in somewhat better sound, especially if you buy the Pristine Audio release of "Siegfried". Nonetheless, the climactic duet at the end of the opera really delivers. Paul Kuen is sly and competent as Mime but others are better. When all's said and done, the chief reason to buy this is to hear Karajan's masterly pacing.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The sound is not bad, but still as you would expect for a live recording from 1951. I found Kuen's Mime less irritating than on other recordings. Bjorling is a fierce Wotan with ample weight though perhaps less subtlety than others. Aldenhoff, as for Keilberth the following year, most accurately projects the youth of the hero with ardour and a light boyish half-voice for the soliloquies. He deserves to be heard, even if he lacks the artistry of Windgassen. Varnay shines in the final scene. Admirers of the excellent conductor won't hesitate. Rheingold from this year is also available.