OP0509. DIE WALKÜRE, Live Performance, 4 May, 1951, w.Denzler Cond. Suisse Romande Ensemble; Gertrud Grob-Prandl, Hélene Werth, Torsten Ralf, Ludwig Hofmann, Herbert Alsen, Georgine von Milinkovic, etc. (Germany) 3-Gebhardt 0056. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 4035122000566
“The conductor [above] was Robert F. Denzler, a gifted Wagnerian in the Rodzinski mold, driving fairly hard….The outstanding cast member is Herbert Alsen, a black-voiced Hunding alongside Torsten Ralf’s bright, assertive Siegmund and Helene Werth’s fitfully fragile Sieglinde. The Brünnhilde of Gertrude Grob-Prandl sounds initially a little like Frida Leider…and Wotan is a sturdy Ludwig Hofmann.”
- Rob Cowan, GRAMOPHONE, July, 2004
"...there is a better cast 1951 WALKÜRE which is not from Bayreuth. Not far away in Geneva we have an impressive live concert performance under Robert Denzler (above). Helene Werth’s pure and passionate Sieglinde is a lyrical foil to Rysanek, revealing a beguiling youthfulness and vulnerability. Ludwig Hofmann’s Wotan shows some strain in Wagner’s higher writing but his rich resonant bass will make your spine tingle. It feels churlish to mention Gertrud Grob-Prandl’s tight vibrato because her Brünnhilde mixes bright metal, power, melting freshness and radiance. Take a teleological approach and sample Grob-Prandl’s final lines first: she soars upward and outward thrillingly, extending the notes as Brünnhilde makes one last great stand; truly a goddess who cannot bear to let go. This is recorded history’s often overlooked ‘B’ cast and you should make their acquaintance.”
- David Harbin
“One of the three potent Wagnerian heroic sopranos born within a half year of each other, Gertrud Grob-Prandl, according to numerous colleagues, outshone both Astrid Varney and Birgit Nilsson in sheer amplitude. Soprano Irmgard Seefried swore that ‘the walls shook’ when Grob-Prandl sang TURANDOT, and indeed, the great-voiced soprano achieved celebrity in Italy surpassing even that accorded her in her native Austria. Grob-Prandl's voice was not merely immense, it was firmly knit and true, with a fast vibrato that avoided any taint of the unwieldy. If her passagework in Mozart was slightly labored, her dramatic roles were all sung with lyricism as well as power. Working mostly with Papier Singer-Burian, Grob-Prandl found herself engaged by the Vienna Volksoper even before the end of her four-year academic program. After her 1939 début there as Santuzza, she was plunged into the hochdramatisch repertory, including Leonore, Elisabeth, Ariadne (heard by Strauss), and a lengthy list of large Italian roles, all sung in German. A hoped-for production of Strauss' DIE ÄGYPTISCHE HELENA under the composer's baton came to naught due to the widening war in Europe. In January 1944, Grob-Prandl joined the Vienna Staatsoper where she sang for nearly three decades, although from 1945 to 1947, she was the leading dramatic soprano in Zürich. With the Vienna Staatsoper destroyed by Allied bombs during WWII and so many sets and costumes reduced to powder, those operas for which a production could be pulled together were the ones to be heard following the cessation of hostilities. Thus, Grob-Prandl was heard in some 35 performances of DIE FLEDERMAUS as Rosalinde, a luxury seldom thereafter accorded her. In 1949, she made an appearance at Salzburg in the important but rather brief role of the First Lady. Grob-Prandl's first WALKÜRE Brünnhilde was sung in 1949 with Clemens Krauss as her conductor. With conductor Rudolf Moralt, she undertook the SIEGFRIED and GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG Brünnhildes that same year, finding in them both strength and lyric expression. The role of Isolde was introduced with the Vienna Staatsoper shortly before the company took its production from the Theater an der Wien to Brussels. Grob-Prandl's enormous success there resulted in her being made a Kammersängerin when the company returned to Vienna. In Italy, the soprano relished working with Victor de Sabata, whose TRISTAN UND ISOLDE she found graceful and poetic. Grob-Prandl appeared at Covent Garden in 1951 to sing TURANDOT in English with Sir John Barbirolli conducting. Her mastery of Turandot, in fact, most endeared her to Italian audiences who appreciated her stentorian sound and fiery top notes. Bayreuth eluded her, as did America, except for the 1953 season in San Francisco when she appeared as the WALKÜRE Brünnhilde, Isolde, and Amelia. With Nilsson later dominating the big roles in America, there was little call for Grob-Prandl's services. Aside from regular appearances in Italy and occasional guest performances in other European houses, Grob-Prandl primarily sang at her home theater in Vienna, retiring in 1972 while her voice was still in its prime.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Dramatic tenor Torsten Ralf achieved both artistic and popular success in several of the repertory's heaviest tenor roles. His large, smoothly produced voice was not quite of Heldentenor caliber, given that it lacked the baritonal lower register thought of as necessary for such challenges as Tannhäuser, Tristan, and Siegfried. But Ralf possessed unusually full and powerful top notes, fitting him ideally for such roles as Walter von Stolzing and the often painfully high Strauss heroic tenor roles. Indeed, one of the latter was his own creation. Ralf was a conscientious musician, seeking to follow the composer's intentions. When, however, he sang the final B flat at the conclusion of ‘Celeste Aïda’ softly as Verdi notated, his reward was only a smattering of applause.
Ralf made his début in Stettin as Cavaradossi in a 1930 production of TOSCA. He sang at Chemnitz in 1932 and 1933, then in Frankfurt from 1933 to 1935. In 1935, he began an eight-year association with Dresden, where he appeared as Apollo in the premiere of Strauss' DAPHNE in 1938. A recording made at the time testifies to Ralf's extraordinary facility in the very high tessitura of the role. Ralf's début in London also took place in 1935 and he remained with Covent Garden until the outbreak of WWII made his return impossible. He revisited London once more in 1948, as Radames.
London critics appreciated Ralf at his first appearance on 8 May, 1935 -- but the opera house administration liked him even more. He had come from Germany to substitute for an ailing singer in LOHENGRIN. Unable to book a flight, he traveled by ship and train, arriving just three and a half hours before performance time. His supple, yet powerful voice appealed greatly to the public and he became an instant favorite. Surprisingly, Ralf's Walter in MEISTERSINGER the next season was felt to be lacking, but Ernest Newman wrote that his Parsifal was the finest he had ever heard. In November 1936, Ralf was a part of the Dresden Staatsoper ensemble visiting London and offered his Bacchus in a single performance of ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, conducted by the composer himself.
During the period of hostilities, Ralf sang in Central Europe. On 26 November, 1945, he made his début at the Metropolitan Opera performing Lohengrin under the baton of Fritz Busch, himself new to the company. The critics were pleased with his smooth delivery of the hero's long narratives and a TANNHÄUSER three months later was regarded as positive. During the interim, Ralf's Walter elicited the opinion that no other tenor within memory had sung the role with so much freshness and ease. Under George Szell's firm direction, Ralf's Otello was fluent in the more lyric stretches, but short on the volcanic intensity needed for the dramatic outbursts. The eloquence Ralf brought to his Parsifal was as welcome at the Metropolitan in March 1947 as it had been in London.
Among Ralf's recordings, the pre-WWII MEISTERSINGER Act III is indispensable, showing his soaring tenor at its best. Ralf was only 53 at the time of his death.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Georgine von Milinkovic; was a Croatian operatic mezzo-soprano of Czech birth, particularly associated with Wagner and Strauss roles. After vocal studies in Zagreb and Vienna, she sang at the Zürich Opera from 1937 to 1940, and then in Hilversum and later in Prague from 1945 until 1948. She made her début at the Munich State Opera and the Vienna State Opera in 1948, where the major part of her career was to take place. She also appeared at the Salzburg Festival, where she created the role of Alkmene in Richard Strauss' DIE LIEBE DER DANAE, in 1952. She sang at the Bayreuth Festival from 1954, in roles such as Fricka, Magdalene, Grimgerde, Second Nom, etc. She made guest appearances at the Edinburgh Festival and the Holland Festival, and the Royal Opera House in London.
She was also admired in Strauss' DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU and ELEKTRA (as Klytemnestra), as well as in Verdi roles such as Eboli, Amneris, and Bizet's Carmen.”
- H. P. Casavant
"Denzler is a mediocre conductor but he was an outstanding Nazi. I am prepared to consider only the opposite: a mediocre Nazi who is an outstanding conductor."
- Rudolf Bing