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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a commendable performance
Despite some idiotic negative "reviews" this performance is superior to anything to appear in teh last 20 years. There are short missing passages but unless you're following it with an orchestral score (which most of you can't read anyway) you'll never miss them. Flagstad and Svanholm are in fine voice and Fjeldstad is a conductor far better than Solti or other recent...
Published 13 months ago by Col William Russell

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost...
This Norwegian recording was fairly coolly received on its appearance in 1956 and has never really featured in the list of top recommendations. Critics spoke respectfully and affectionately of the great Kirsten Flagstad's contribution and it is indeed a phenomenon that she could undertake so arduous a role in her sixty-first year, but there is no disguising the fact that...
Published on 29 April 2012 by Ralph Moore


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a commendable performance, 10 Nov 2013
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Col William Russell (Springfield, VA) - See all my reviews
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Despite some idiotic negative "reviews" this performance is superior to anything to appear in teh last 20 years. There are short missing passages but unless you're following it with an orchestral score (which most of you can't read anyway) you'll never miss them. Flagstad and Svanholm are in fine voice and Fjeldstad is a conductor far better than Solti or other recent ones. The Naxos release is better than the other two having better remastering and sources. If you think you're a Wagnerite, add this to your collection and quit listening to idiots.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost..., 29 April 2012
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This Norwegian recording was fairly coolly received on its appearance in 1956 and has never really featured in the list of top recommendations. Critics spoke respectfully and affectionately of the great Kirsten Flagstad's contribution and it is indeed a phenomenon that she could undertake so arduous a role in her sixty-first year, but there is no disguising the fact that her voice is no longer that which "once moved heaven and earth": there are edgy, even screechy patches, a matronly tone and she avoids any note above B-flat. At the end of what should be the great conspiracy trio which concludes Act II, she slides and makes some uncomfortable sounds; consequently that climactic point lacks the thrills provided by Nilsson, Frick, Fischer-Dieskau and Solti. On the other hand, the famous aureate amplitude of voice is still very much in evidence at certain points and there are frequent glimmers of the old majesty; one is still conscious of the sheer size of the voice even when the tone is a little curdled. The richness of her lower voice is intact and she mostly rises to the challenge of the climax to the entire tetralogy, with a grand "Starke Scheite".

He co-singers are a mixed bunch. Baritone Waldemar Johnsen is sadly inadequate as Gunther; he barks and yells. The Hagen of Egil Nordsjø too often sounds woolly and worn, without the requisite bite and darkness of tone that a really chilling impersonation of this role demands. He is better in quiet passages such as when he "sleep-talks" in answer to his father but the voice loses steadiness and power in the "Hoihos".

Fortunately, there are compensations in the form of an excellent, incisive Alberich, some full-throated singing from the chorus and unexpectedly first-rate conducting, alternately driven and sensitive, by a conductor of whom most of us will never have heard, Øivin Fjeldstad. Some occasional tuning problems in the orchestra notwithstanding, he shapes and paces the orchestral passages beautifully so that preludes and the Funeral Music really make their mark. Set Svanholm was a very experienced and distinguished Swedish Wagnerian heldentenor, occasionally somewhat bleaty of tone in the Windgassen manner but very musical and dependable, with the stamina to endure the rigours of the role and sustain intensity during his long narration scene just before his death, as well as the ability to produce a prolonged top C.

In the supporting cast, three good Norwegian singers double up variously as Norns, Rhinemaidens, Gutrune and Waltraute: mezzo-soprano Eva Gustavson is especially fine as the latter and the attractively-voiced Ingrid Bjoner makes much of Gutrune's music in a role which is too often under-cast. The other Flagstad in the cast has something of a tremolo but it's not distracting.

Flagstad was an enthusiastic advocate of this recording, not out of vanity but because it presented the Norwegian National Opera, of which she was briefly Director from 1958-1960, as a company able to do justice to a great Wagnerian masterpiece; her own fast deteriorating health made it clear that she would not be able to record another. It was her determination that it should be commercially released that persuaded Decca's John Culshaw to record the forty minutes of music missing from the original recording; the only thing preventing this from being complete is that it is missing the transitional orchestral interlude between the first and second scenes of Act I. This therefore remains the first (almost) complete commercial recording of "Götterdämmerung" and thus retains its historical importance as well as being of intrinsic artistic worth.

The mono recording has been re-mastered by Mark Obert-Thorn; it is still rather hissy but very listenable. Voices are prominent but the various orchestra lines may be heard. Cues and synopsis are provided but of course no libretto.

I would like to be able to say that this is the fulfilment of a Wagnerian's dream but it isn't. It nonetheless has sterling qualities; if only it had been recorded a few years earlier before age and Flagstad's progressive ill-health had begun to take their toll.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome reminder of Kirsten Flagstad’s art, 15 April 2014
This famous recording was originally released by Decca on 6 LPs in 1956 (LXT 2055210) but has been generally overlooked ever since. This set is very much Kirsten Flagstad’s Götterdämmerung. Towards the end of her career, she was in the process of moving from EMI to Decca and during negotiations she was insistent that this Norwegian Radio performance should be issued by the company rather than recording the whole work again in Vienna under studio conditions with producer John Culshaw in charge. At the time, this recording was viewed as a testament to the newly instituted Norwegian Opera and despite John Cumshaw’s pleading Flagstad got her way, partly due to her national pride. This is her farewell appearance in her famous role as Brünnhilde.
The radio broadcast performance, recorded in January 1956, had been cut by around 40 minutes for the transmission and Decca had to rectify this by recording the missing passages and doing some short fixes where there had been minor issues with the radio tapes. The extra session took place in Oslo in March that year. The recording as reissued by Naxos is virtually complete, the only section missing being a short bridge passage between Scenes 2 and 3 of Act One - the Oslo sessions in March ran out of time, unbelievably.
The performance certainly deserved its Decca release. Flagstad possessed one of the truly great operatic voices of all time and despite her being 61 years of age at the time her singing is splendidly secure and passionate. The tone is fabulous and the only minor criticism would be that just occasionally the top register isn’t what it would have been at her very peak. However, these are just fleeting moments (she skips the top C in the Prologue duet with Siegfried) and her performance - a fine example of top class Wagner singing - is astounding, especially for someone in their early 60s. Bear in mind that she had already retired from the opera house and died only 6 years later. The Immolation Scene is spine tingling and the final part of the opera is both cataclysmic and very moving.
The sound quality is typical of a radio production. There’s nothing very glamorous here but at least it’s clear and despite being in mono has a decent front to back perspective. Don’t be misled by the historic tag that Naxos has given it. It’s not one of those tinny, distorted horrors where you struggle to listen through the bad sound to vaguely hear the music. This is a perfectly good, thoroughly enjoyable recording. There is just a little tape hiss present but it isn’t distracting enough to spoil things. The transfer has been made from the original LPs and Mark Obert-Thorn has done wonders with the restoration. You’d be hard pushed to tell that it’s sourced from vinyl. The orchestral sound is not especially rich but everything is there and the voices have good presence when one considers the 1956 recording date. I understand that there have been two previous transfers available on CD. I haven’t heard them but I doubt if they would be in any way superior to this Naxos set.
The orchestral playing of the combined Oslo Philharmonic and Norwegian State Opera orchestras isn’t impeccable with a few slips here and there and some scrappy passages, especially from the strings, but on the whole the standard is well up to scratch and Øivin Fjelstad keeps the energy, momentum and drama going from start to finish. I’ve never associated Fjelstad with Wagner before and it’s good to have Götterdämmerung to hand for a change rather than his other orchestral records such as Peer Gynt (as much as I like the piece and the way he conducts it).
Flagstad is ably supported by the Siegfried of the veteran Set Svanholm who was in his 50s at the time of the recording which meant that he brought considerable experience to the part. They are well matched emotionally and in terms of maturity. The rest of the cast are adequate and no more than that but collectors will buy this set just for Flagstad and they will not be disappointed. I'm pleased that I’ve heard this recording but at the end of the day it isn’t really a first choice. It’s a good supplement to an opera lover’s collection but that’s about it.
The Solti/Culshaw Ring Cycle for me still reigns supreme with glorious playing from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Despite its age this Decca masterpiece, with its gripping Götterdämmerung, has tremendous drive, drama and power and the recording quality has an impact and range that has never been matched since. It really is a true classic that might never be beaten. It’s also beyond belief that it was recorded as early as 1964, only 8 years after this Oslo production. There simply is no comparison in sound quality. Solti has Birgit Nilsson in her prime; Fjelstad has Flagstad just past her best. Both are magnificent and need to be heard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as bad as legend has it., 7 April 2014
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A. J. Valentine (London.UK) - See all my reviews
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The details of the issue of this recording are too well known to go into details again here. Suffice to say it was Kirsten Flagstad's last performance of the Gotterdammerung Brunnhilde that was broadcast on Norwegian radio . Her insistence on it being released commercially ,encouraged her into the Decca recording studios to make several subsequent recordings. It was the first virtually complete recording of the work to be issued commercially . I say virtually, as about six minutes of orchestral interlude are missing after " Hagens Watch" to the beginning of the Waltraute scene. This set has had a bad press from critics in the past, and though it would not be a first choice for this work, it has more going for it than we have been led to believe. Of course the main reason for acquiring this set is the Brunnhilde of Kirsten Flagstad. She was in her sixties at the time of this recording, so for a soprano, the ending of a career. Flagstad however had such a secure technique that apart from some notes at the very top of her voice you would hardly guess her age. Many moments of her golden tone are quite magical. The scene when she tries to fully comprehend Waltraute's message " Welch banger Traume " The end of act 2 "Welches unholds List " where she tries to fathom why Siegfried doesn't recognise her, and many more, are beautifully vocalised. She certainly has more voice and understanding of the role than many singers who take on the part today. (Nina Stemme excepted) The only other option to hear Flagstad in Gotterdammerung complete is in the live La Scala, Furtwangler set recorded some six years previously. She may be a bit more alive to verbal nuances, but even here she avoids the topCs and is guarded with the top of her voice. The sound on that set is also pretty abysmal. So what of the other singers. Set Svanholm, her long time partner is an excellent Siegfried, his voice may tend to a dry tightness on occasion , but his bright forward placed Scandinavian sound makes a pretty youthful hero, together with a ringing top C at the beginning of Act 3. Ingrid Bjoner then at the start of her international career is a lovely lyric Gutrune. A part so often under cast. The Waltraute of Eva Gustavson has a warm contralto tinged mezzo, she may not be as emphatic as some but she doesn't let the side down. The Alberich, Norns and Rhinemaidens are all pretty good with the exception of the Second Norn and Wellgunde who has a wide vibrato and thin unsupported voice. (Karen Marie Flagstad, who I think was Kirsten's sister, they must have had very different teachers) Vocally now things get pretty bad. The Gunther Waldemar Johnsen is inadequate a bland unfocused voice, tolerable, but certainly no Fischer-Dieskau or Thomas Stewart. Hagen is the driving evil force in this opera and it should be cast from strength. A true black voiced bass is required here, but in Egil Nordsjo we have a weak wobbly unsupported voice that is totally inadequate . The orchestra under Oivin Fjeldstad play surprisingly well. Fjeldstad opts for fairly brisk tempos (, not a surprise as we see he studied under Clemens Krauss) but builds up the dramatic moments of Act 2 very excitingly. The sound on these CDs is exceptionally good. This is by no means a first choice Gotterdammerung . My vote would still go for the Solti on Decca with an amazing cast and stunning recording. At Naxos bargain price this is a set even with its weaknesses worth investigating.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Definitive CD transfer, 1 Aug 2014
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This is the only CD version of this historic performance transferred at the correct speed/pitch. For Kirsten Flagstad fans, this set is a must. She was 60 and certainly not in her prime, but had an authority, vocal security, and round, steady tone which still amaze 60 years later.
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