OP0903. DIE WALKÜRE, recorded 1954, w.Furtwängler Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Martha Mödl, Leonie Rysanek, Margarete Klose, Ludwig Suthaus, Ferdinand Frantz, Gottlob Frick, etc. (Italy) 3-Urania 22.280. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 8025726222804
“This is the EMI studio recording made in 1954 that was supposed to be the first installment in a complete RING Cycle. The project was never completed because Furtwängler died less than two months after the completion of this recording. It has been reviewed a number of times in FANFARE, most recently by me in 30:4 when Naxos reissued it. Both Naxos and Urania have produced transfers on CD more satisfying than EMI’s….certainly if you have the EMI version and enjoy it there would be ample reason to replace it with this.
As Furtwängler collectors know, there are two complete live RINGs that have been in circulation in various guises for years: the Rome RAI studio broadcasts and the staged La Scala performances. When they first saw the light of day, the resulting sound quality ranged from dismal to barely tolerable. But over the years, reissues have consistently improved both to the point where they are much more satisfying. Clearly the Vienna Philharmonic, in a professionally produced studio setting where mistakes can be redone and corrected, is in a whole different league from both the RAI Rome and La Scala orchestras. Furtwängler generally disliked studio recordings, but one senses that he felt the significance of being asked to make what would be the first complete professional recording of the RING Cycle, and the performance here certainly has plenty of intensity and drama. But it is also true that it lacks the fire heard in the Scala WALKÜRE….it remains, for me, the most thrilling of the Furtwängler cycles.
But there are many wonderful things unique to this WALKÜRE. The playing of the Vienna Philharmonic is at the top of that list, with a richness and variety of orchestral color not available to the conductor from the Italian orchestras. And this is certainly not a static, studio performance lacking energy. Rysanek and Mödl are actually astonishing in the commitment they bring to their roles, and all the singers are alert to nuances of text and music. Were there no live versions with Furtwängler available, or were they still available only in cramped and distorted sound, this would be mandatory for all serious collectors. As it is, it is perhaps more appropriate to say it remains an important recording, one that those interested in this conductor and repertoire will want to obtain.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, July /Aug., 2014