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Wagner - Siegfried (Bayreuth 1951 Von Karajan) Box set

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

Price: £16.24 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Product details

  • Orchestra: Herbert von Karajan
  • Conductor: Richard Wagner
  • Audio CD (1 May 2016)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: Walhall
  • ASIN: B0007WBF32
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 439,738 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8f8ca024) out of 5 stars 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9028a1e0) out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars - but would be 10 stars if Aldenhoff (Siegfried) actually sang Wagner's intended notes 9 May 2013
By Mogulmeister - Published on Amazon.com
It's thrilling to listen to this performance as issued on Walhall. Karajan presents an urgent, moving, and tremendously compelling performance of Siegfried, which is the opera of the entire Ring cycle which touches me the most. Karajan's conception of the work is just incredibly spot-on to these ears. While the live mono sound from Bayreuth in 1951 is not going to win any awards, it's not so horrible that you can't enjoy the performance. In fact, once the music gets started, my ears adjust immediately.

The singing is on the whole superb--which is half the reason why anyone would want to hear this particular performance (the other half being Karajan). Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde is simply phenomenal and beyond criticism of any sort. Sigurd Bjorling as Wotan/The Wanderer is fantastic.

The weak link of the central characters in the cast is Bernd Aldenhoff, who sometimes sings the role of Siegfried. While he acquits himself generally well in the duet with Brunnhilde that is Act 3, so much of his alleged singing is off-key barking, albeit with a strong voice. In the lyrical passages, he is capable of some very beautiful singing, but when the notes move into his higher register and/or require greater volume, all bets are off that he'll actually hit the right notes. In fact, Aldenhoff pioneers and introduces a new style of singing in this performance that can only be called 12-tone singing. I truly love "Siegfried's Forging Song"--it's one of the most essential and pivotal moments of the entire Ring cycle--but if you didn't know the music beforehand and listened to this particular performance, you'd struggle to appreciate exactly how Wagner intended it to go. (OK, slight exaggeration--but not by much.) Given Karajan's reputation and penchant for perfectionism, how did he let Aldenhoff get away with this? I also really liked Ruth Siewert's Erda, whose brief appearance in Act 3 is haunting and moving.

In spite of the sound, this has become my favorite recording of Siegfried because Karajan's conception of the work is so perfect and most of the lead singers are phenomenal. Were it possible to insert Lauritz Melchior into the cast (as Siegfried, of course), this would likely be the desert island performance of Siegfried, compromised sound and all.

The one question I have about this performance is, was it truly recorded live? There's no audience sound whatsoever. This makes me think that this recording was made at the festival but was not an actual live performance. Does anyone know for sure?
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