On CD: Die Walküre
Web-only review by Joe Banno
It’s gratifying when a recording is released like the new, live performance of Wagner’s “Die Walkure” from the Hamburg Opera on the OehmsClassics label (OC 926). Defying the conventional wisdom that Wagner singing is at its nadir right now – to many fanatical Wagnerians, any era but our own qualifies as a golden age – the singers on this “Walkure” are an ardent, eloquent, generally handsome-sounding lot who know how this music goes.
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Falk Struckmann, with his sturdily commanding bass-baritone, leads the cast as a dramatically involved, neurotically restless Wotan, conjuring Alberich-like bitterness in the great Act 2 Narrative. Partnering him is Deborah Polaski, a veteran Brunnhilde whose weathered upper register doesn’t overly detract from a touching portrayal very much alive to psychological subtext. Mikhail Petrenko’s lightly baritonal, elegantly creepy Hunding contrasts nicely with Yvonne Naef’s eager, excitable Sieglinde, who inflects her text well and nails the money notes with a steely gleam. Stuart Skelton, distinctively throaty in tone, matches Naef in word-pointing and amply-fueled high notes, and boasts seamlessly blended registers and an attention to line that make him an uncommonly musical Siegmund.
Knitting the performance together is a thrillingly conducted reading from Simone Young – perhaps the set’s greatest glory. Surging and nuanced as needed, her reading revels in the score’s ever-shifting tone color and its gathering and release of tension. The sheer personality and timbral beauty she draws from the Hamburg Philharmonic’s wind section is alone worth the price of these CDs.
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