Great Wagner Singers from DG

Accompanying the label’s recent release of an
audio recording of the 2011 Wiener Staatsoper Ring Cycle conducted by Christian
Thielemann and a companion set entitled Great Wagner Conductors,
Great Wagner Singers offers six discs containg recordings of some of
the greatest Wagner singers of the Twentieth Century, with a number of
selections that have never before been available on compact disc. The efforts
of ‘the Yellow Label’ have been central to the recording of Wagner’s
music, both artistically and technically, since the inception of recorded
sound, and this compilation draws upon the label’s extraordinary archives to
present more than seven hours of the best Wagner singing ever recorded,
superbly mastered by Lennart Jeschke.

Pride of place in terms of discussion of this remarkable release must go to
the 1928 account of the Act Three Narration from Lohengrin (‘In
fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten…Mein lieber Schwan!) by Moravian tenor
Leo Slezak. Recorded in Berlin in June 1928, with composer Manfred Gurlitt
conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin, this is one of the most emotionally
forthright performances of the Narration on records. Mr. Slezak was approaching
his fifty-fifth birthday at the time of this recording: his last performance at
the Metropolitan Opera, as Verdi’s Otello, was fifteen years in the past, and
he had ended his extensive career at the Wiener Staatsoper in 1927. The voice
displays wear and audible signs of decline, especially in the upper register,
but the sweetness of timbre, magisterial but liquid phrasing, and eloquent
placement of vowels on the beat are of a quality not only absent today but
barely even remembered. Hard-hearted listeners might suspect that the almost
abrupt manner in which Mr. Slezak’s Lohengrin bids his Elsa farewell is the
result of limitations of duration in early recordings. This would be to slight
the way in which Mr. Slezak puts a matter of engineering to dramatic use: there
is considerable poetry in his clipped delivery, the coloration of the voice
suggesting that his words of goodbye to his new bride are almost too painful to
be uttered. Mr. Slezak shapes his performance like a long-extended cantilena in
a bel canto opera, and it is fascinating to note that the breadth of Wagner’s
genius and originality is all the more apparent when his music is sung with
genuine beauty and bel canto technique.

It is especially welcome to find in this compilation excerpts from
Wagner’s seldom-heard Rienzi sung by singers of top quality.
Rienzi is widely considered to be a bloated mess of a score, a
by-product of Wagner’s endeavors in the realm of Meyerbeer-esque Grand Opera
that merits mention in histories of the composer’s career and little more.
The adventurous listener will encounter sparks of the fire that would engulf
the score of Der Fliegende Holl‰nder, however, as well as passages of
great effectiveness. A better account of Adriano’s Act Three passage
‘Gerechter Gott, so ist’s entschieden schon!’than that sung by Gundula
Janowitz can hardly be imagined: recorded in Berlin in 1967, with Ferdinand
Leitner conducting the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Ms. Janowitz brings
the instrumental accuracy typical of her singing to a poised but pulsating
performance of Adriano’s music. Equally engaging is Lauritz Melchior’s
1923-24 recording of Rienzi’s Act Five aria ‘Allm‰cht’ger Vater.’
Neither the Orchestra nor the Conductor is identified, but the youthful
Melchior voice emerges with superb clarity. Not surprisingly, Mr. Melchior’s
presence in this set is considerable, his contributions to Wagner tenor singing
in the Twentieth Century demanding the prominence it receives here. Mr.
Melchior also recorded two of the Wesendonck-Lieder in the winter of
1923-24, ‘Schmerzen’ and ‘Tr‰ume.’ It remains unusual for a tenor to
take on the Wesendonck-Lieder, but Mr. Melchior’s prodigious vocal endowment
enabled him to do many unusual things. Both songs receive deeply-felt, vocally
sumptuous performances from the young tenor. The other three of the
Wesendonck-Lieder—‘Der Engel,’ ‘Stehe still,’ and ‘Im
Treibhaus’—are beautifully sung by Astrid Varnay in a 1955 performance with
the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks under Leopold Ludwig’s

Der Fliegende Holl‰nder is the earliest of the Wagner’s operas
to remain in the international repertory and the first score in which the work
of the mature Wagner of Tristan und Isolde andDer Ring des
can be discerned in every bar. Inclusion of Hans Hotter’s
unforgettable 1943 recording of the Holl‰nder’s ‘Die Frist ist um’ from
Act One was surely inevitable: scarcely ever rivaled and never surpassed in the
title role, Mr. Hotter sings ‘Die Frist ist um’ with complete mastery of
the music. Supported by the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and Maestro Heinrich
Hollreiser, Mr. Hotter creates in slightly less than nine minutes a
compellingly three-dimensional portrait of the Holl‰nder. In the great
choruses from Acts One and Three [the three-act edition of the score was
employed for the 1958 Bayreuth recording from which the choruses in this
compilation are excerpted],’Mit Gewitter und Sturm’ and ‘Steuermann, lass
die Wacht,’ the Bayreuther Festspiele Chorus respond to Wilhelm Pitz’s
legendary leadership with sharply-focused, dramatically thrilling singing. The
selections from Senta’s music may prove to be the most controversial choices
made by Project Manager David Butchart and his team: using the DGG recording of
the 1971 Bayreuth production of Der Fliegende Holl‰nder conducted by
Karl Bˆhm, Senta is sung by Dame Gwyneth Jones. Ever a fiery dramatic
presence, Ms. Jones was at the zenith of her powers as a Wagnerian in 1971, the
voice vibrant and secure. She seized every dramatic opportunity offered by
August Everding’s production, in which she alternated as Senta with Ursula
Schrˆder-Feinen. Complemented by the alert Mary of Sieglinde Wagner, Ms. Jones
sings Senta’s Ballad with mesmerizing intensity, following a whirling
performance of the Spinning Chorus. The timbre of Ms. Jones’s voice may never
be to every opera lover’s taste, but her stature as a Wagnerian is validated
by the exciting singing on this disc.

Tannh‰user is represented in this musical anthology with
especially fine performances, beginning with a broadly-phrased ‘Dich, teure
Halle’ by Leonie Rysanek. Recorded with the M¸nchner Philharmoniker and
Ferdinand Leitner in April 1955, the performance finds Ms. Rysanek at her
youthfully radiant best, the aria capped with a heart-stopping top B such as
only the young Rysanek could have produced. Also taken from the 1958 recording
used for the Fliegende Holl‰nder choruses, three choral numbers from
Tannh‰user—‘Freudig begr¸flen wir die edle Halle’ from Act Two
and ‘Begl¸ckt darf nun dich, o Heimat, ich schauen’ and ‘Heil! Heil! Der
Gnade Wunder Heil!’ from Act Three—are expertly sung by the Bayreuth
Chorus. The Act Two duet for Elisabeth and Tannh‰user receives from the
undervalued Annelies Kupper—an accomplished Wagnerian in Europe in the decade
after World War II—and Wolfgang Windgassen a performance of crackling energy,
their dynamic partnership shaped by the insightful conducting of Richard Kraus.
‘Gar viel und schˆn ward hier in diese Halle,’ the Landgraf’s launching
of the Song Contest in Act Two, is memorably sung by Josef Greindl in a 1955
recording conducted by Leopold Ludwig. Gundula Janowitz returns with a gorgeous
performance from 1967 of Elisabeth’s Prayer, ‘Allm‰cht’ge Jungfrau! Hˆr
mein Flehen!’ One of the finest aspects of Otto Gerdes’s much-discussed
1968 studio recording of Tannh‰user is the Wolfram of Dietrich
Fischer-Dieskau. Wolfram was arguably the Wagner role to which the great
baritone was best suited, and his singing of Wolfram’s Song to the Evening
Star—‘O du, mein holder Abendstern’—is one of the finest stretches of
Wagner singing on records, deservedly included in this set. The
Tannh‰user excerpts are crowned by a towering performance of the
title character’s Narration from Act Three, ‘Inbrunst im Herzen, wie kein
B¸fler noch,’by Lauritz Melchior. Also recorded in 1923-24, this performance
is notable not only for the vocal security and ease with the demanding
tessitura but also for the psychological sophistication exhibited by the young
singer, just thirty-three at the time of the recording.

In addition to Leo Slezak’s wondrous performance of the Act Three
Narration, Lohengrin also benefits from the excellent singing of the
Bayreuth Chorus in 1958, with bustling performances of ‘Seht, seht! Welch ein
seltsam Wunder’ from Act One, ‘Gesegnet soll sie schreiten’ from Act Two,
and ‘Treulich gef¸hrt ziehet dahin’ from Act Three. From her 1967
recording conducted by Ferdinand Leitner come beautiful performances of
Elsa’s ‘Einsam in tr¸ben Tagen’ from Act One and ‘Euch L¸ften, die
mein Klagen so traurig oft erf¸llt’ from Act Two by Gundula Janowitz. The
purity of Ms. Janowitz’s voice is ideal for conveying the sweetness of Elsa,
and the clarity of her diction ensures that even passages that require slightly
greater tonal amplitude than Ms. Janowitz can provide are nonetheless delivered
with passion and musical integrity.

It seems somewhat strange that the selections from Tristan und
exclude music for the male half of the title pair, but the three
selections on offer are representative of the finest standards of Wagner
singing in DGG’s archives. Beginning with a powerful, biting performance of
Isolde’s Narration and Curse from Act One (‘Weh, ach Wehe! Dies zu
dulden!’) with Astrid Varnay as Isolde and Hertha Tˆpper as Brang‰ne, the
Tristan und Isolde excerpts are among the most persuasive in the
compilation. A Bayerischen Rundfunks performance from June 1954, conducted by
Hermann Weigert (Ms. Varnay’s husband), Isolde’s Narration and Curse
unfolds with great dramatic tension, Ms. Varnay’s voice tingling with anger
and her top notes gleaming like silvery comets. One of the greatest surprises
of this recording is the 1954 performance of Kˆnig Marke’s Act Two Monologue
(‘Tatest du’s wirklich? W‰hnst du das?’) by Finnish bass Kim Borg, an
under-recorded artist of impeccable Wagnerian credentials. Mr. Borg encounters
no difficulties in Marke’s challenging tessitura, and his idiomatic phrasing
expresses all of the shifting emotions of Marke’s character with uncommon,
unsentimental directness. Though he now enjoys less renown than he deserves,
Mr. Borg possessed one of the most beautiful bass voices of the Twentieth
Century, and the inclusion of his singing of Marke’s Monologue in this set
was an inspired choice by Deutsche Grammophon. Fittingly, the Tristan und
selections end with Birgit Nilsson’s 1966 Bayreuth performance of
Isolde’s Liebestod, ‘Mild und leise wie er l‰chelt.’ Conducted
by Karl Bˆhm, the DGG complete recording of the ’66 Tristan und
is one of the truly classic Wagner recordings, one still cited by
many listeners as the finest recording of Wagner’s paean to complicated love
and betrayal. The tonal accuracy that Ms. Nilsson brings to a live performance
of the Liebestod after a long evening is arresting and justifiably
celebrated: less remembered, or perhaps less discussed, is the fact that, when
at her best, Ms. Nilsson possessed a voice that combined power with rapt
beauty. She was at her most inspired in the 1966 Tristan und Isolde,
and her singing of the Liebestod is an appropriate testament to the
legacy of one of the greatest Wagnerians.

The excerpts from Das Rheingold recall a Golden Age of Wagner
singing in the 1920’s. Recorded in 1924, contralto Karin Branzell’s
performance of Erda’s Scene (‘Weiche, Wotan, weiche! Flieh des Ringes
Fluch!), conducted by Manfred Gurlitt, is a stunning piece of singing. The
verbal sharpness and stinging crispness of diction brought to the music by Ms.
Branzell are revelatory, and the poignancy of Erda’s warnings is eerily
brought out. No less authoritative is the performance of Wotan’s ‘Abendlich
strahlt der Sonne Auge’ by Josef von Manowarda, recorded in 1921. The
vitality of Mr. von Manowarda’s singing and the saturnine vibrancy of his
voice are evident despite the dated sound of the excerpt. Both Ms. Branzell and
Mr. von Manowarda sing with notable attention to text, making the importance of
Erda’s admonitions and Wotan’s stubborn persistence palpable to the

Act One of Die Walk¸re is offered in its entirety, presented in a
sterling 1951 account with Maria M¸ller as Sieglinde, Wolfgang Windgassen as
Siegmund, and Josef Greindl as Hunding. Conducted by Ferdinand Leitner, this
performance simmers with dramatic heat from start to finish. Ms. M¸ller, whose
dÈbut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1925 was also Sieglinde, shows
laudable comfort with the part, of which she was an acknowledged paragon during
Heinz Tietjen’s tenure at Bayreuth . Though at the time of this recording
nearing the end of her career, which she drastically curtailed after the end of
World War II, Ms. M¸ller’s voice still retained much of the elegance for
which it was admired, and her instincts as a Wagnerian remained deep. Ms.
M¸ller’s interactions with both of her colleagues are gripping, and the
sense of sadness that she brings to Sieglinde’s description of her life with
Hunding is very touching. Though the voice no longer responds with absolute
perfection to the demands placed upon it, Ms. M¸ller is thrilling in
Sieglinde’s most telling passages, not least in her response to Siegmund’s
extraction of Notung from the tree. Mr. Windgassen here reminds the listener
why he was for a generation a Wagnerian par excellence: the youthfully virile,
ringing tone with which he voices Siegmund’s lines is extremely winning, his
‘Winterst¸rme wichen dem Wonnemond’ as romantic as any ever recorded. The
voice is on splendid form, combining the smoothness and confidence above the
staff of a lyric tenor—Mr. Windgassen’s top A in this performance is a
wonderful eruption of tone—with the power and stamina of a young dramatic
voice. Verbally, not a syllable of text is lost. Mr. Greindl is a formidably
menacing Hunding, the bleakness of the tone used to chilling effect. The
listener is also treated to a 1957 recording of the Todesverk¸ndigung
from Act Two (‘Siegmund! Sieh auf mich!’) featuring the incomparable
Kirsten Flagstad as Br¸nnhilde and Set Svanholm as Siegmund, conducted by the
young Sir Georg Solti. Recorded in Vienna’s famed Sofiensaal, this is even
after fifty-six years one of the most classic recordings of any of Wagner’s
music. Ms. Flagstad, in many hearts the dominant Wagnerian soprano of any age,
had retired from the operatic stage before the making of this recording, but
the voice remained an instrument of warmth, security, and unparalleled
amplitude. Starting low in the voice, the music in the
Todesverk¸ndigung reveals the autumnal beauty of Ms. Flagstad’s
lower register. Mr. Svanholm was a committed Wagnerian but, perhaps because of
the legacies of artists like Leo Slezak and Lauritz Melchior, is not as widely
remembered as his singing merits. Here singing Siegmund, Mr. Svanholm responds
eloquently to Ms. Flagstad, his level of intensity rising as Siegmund defends
his devotion to Sieglinde and his voice possessing both steel and satin.
Die Walk¸re ends with some of Wagner’s most moving music, and this
set offers brilliantly noble performances of two monumental excerpts from Act
Three. Attempting to justify her defiance of Wotan’s orders, Br¸nnhilde
softens from the warrior maiden to a loving, frightened daughter: few sopranos
make that transformation more emotionally transparent than Frida Leider.
Recorded in 1925, when Ms. Leider sings ‘War es so schm‰hlich, war ich
verbrach,’ the voice—more focused than formidable in scale—goes directly
to the heart of the listener. The tonal beauty is formidable, however, and the
experience with Wagner’s musical idiom is audible in every phrase. Only the
most accomplished Wotan would be suitable for taking leave of such a
Br¸nnhilde, and Deutsche Grammophon provide a 1942 performance of Wotan’s
Farewell—‘Leb wohl, du k¸hnes, herrliches Kind!’—by Hans Hotter that
matches Ms. Leider’s grace, passion, and beauty. Even in his earliest
performances of the role, Mr. Hotter was an atypically insightful Wotan, and
this performance finds him at his youthful best, both musically and

With its male-dominated sound world and complex dramaturgy,
Siegfried is perhaps the most difficult of the Ring operas to produce
and record successfully. Beginning with an appropriately muscular but
unfailingly attractive 1923-24 performance of Siegfried’s ‘Forging Song’
(‘Notung! Notung! Neidliches Schwert!’) by the young Lauritz Melchior, the
excerpts in this set reveal the rewarding depth offered by Siegfried when sung
by voices of legitimate quality. Siegfried’s ‘Dass der mein Vater nicht
ist’ receives from Max Lorenz a nuanced performance, recorded at Bayreuth in
1936 and followed by a broadly-phrased playing of the famous Waldweben
(‘Forest Murmurs’) conducted by Heinz Tietjen. The Wanderer’s ‘Wache,
Wala! Wala! Erwach!’ from Act Three is nobly sung by Josef von Manowarda in a
performance recorded in 1921. The opera’s final duet, the music to which
Siegfried awakens Br¸nnhilde from her slumber and claims her as his bridge, is
represented by a 1925 performance in which Br¸nnhilde is unforgettably sung by
Frida Leider. Fritz Soot, her Siegfried, does not achieve the same level of
excellence, but he holds his own in very challenging music. Here, too, Ms.
Leider’s phrasing is revelatory, the voice girlish but not insubstantial. Ms.
Leider’s concluding top C rings out brightly across the years.

Building upon the foundation of the closing duet in Siegfried,
Gˆtterd‰mmerung contains an equally ecstatic love duet for
Br¸nnhilde and Siegfried, commandingly sung in a 1955 recording by Astrid
Varnay and Wolfgang Windgassen. Mr. Windgassen excels in the rocketing phrases
with which Siegfried extols his love for Br¸nnhilde, and his ardor is matched
by Ms. Varnay’s bold, firm singing, her top C powerful and secure. Two
samples of Josef Greindl’s legendarily craggy Hagen are offered, the first of
which is a delightfully insinuating 1955 performance of ‘Hier sitz ich zur
Wacht, wahre den Hof’ from Act One. Even more appreciably dominating is Mr.
Greindl’s 1958 Bayreuth account of Hagen’s Summoning of the Vassals,
‘Hoiho! Ihr Gibichsmannen, machet euch auf!’ The singing of the Bayreuth
Chorus in this scene is again fantastic. Mr. Greindl’s voice was one more
noted for power than for beauty, but there is a strange attractiveness in
hearing some of the most extroverted passages in the Ring sung with such relish
and confidence. The scene in Act Three in which Siegfried describes his
youthful adventures is sung with convincing bravura by Max Lorenz—and ably
complemented by the Hagen of Georg Hann—in a 1950 performance conducted by
Ferdinand Leitner. Mr. Lorenz did not possess the most opulent of voices, but
his dedication to the character even in the context of a recording is
admirable. Nonetheless, Mr. Lorenz’s vocalism shames the efforts of many
latter-day Wagnerians. ‘Br¸nnhilde, heilige Braut’ from Siegfried’s
death scene in Act Three is movingly sung by Wolfgang Windgassen in a 1953
performance conducted by Leopold Ludwig. Mr. Windgassen was for a decade such
an ubiquitous presence in Wagner performances, not least at Bayreuth, that his
value as an artist has perhaps been underestimated by successive generations of
critics and listeners. At his best, Mr. Windgassen was a sensitive interpreter,
and the voice was an instrument of world-class quality. Br¸nnhilde’s
Immolation Scene (‘Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort’) receives a fantastic
performance from Astrid Varnay, recorded in 1954 under her husband’s
direction. Even when the voice started to show the effects of hard use, Ms.
Varnay was a phenomenally gifted interpreter of the music of Wagner. The ways
in which Ms. Varnay conveys Br¸nnhilde’s emotions through vocal colorations
alone are outstanding, but this performance also preserves Ms. Varnay on her
best vocal form. The voice only becomes stronger as the tessitura rises, the
ecstasy with which Br¸nnhilde joins Siegfried in death more convincingly
depicted than in almost any other recorded performance. Ms. Varnay did not have
the same opportunities in the recording studio that other Wagnerians were
granted: thanks are due to Deutsche Grammophon for giving her such a deservedly
preeminent place in this compilation.

Die Meistersinger von N¸rnberg is described as the only comedy
among Wagner’s mature works, but it is humanity rather than humor that
inhabits the soul of the opera. The excerpts from Die Meistersinger
offered by Deutsche Grammophon center the focus on the roles of Veit Pogner,
Walther von Stolzing, and Hans Sachs. As in all of their contributions to this
set, the Bayreuth choristers sing with idiomatic vigor in ‘Wacht auf! Es
nahet gen den Tag’ from Act Three. Pogner’s brief passage ‘Das schˆne
Fest, Johannistag’ from Act One is resoundingly sung by Josef Greindl. The
highlights of Hans Sachs’s music are distributed among three of the most
acclaimed interpreters of the role. ‘Was duftet doch der Flieder’ from Act
Two and ‘Wahn! Wahn! ‹berall Wahn!’ from Act Three are sung by Hans
Hotter. Both selections were recorded in 1942, the first under the baton of
Artur Rother and the second conducted by Robert Heger. The vocal power and
allure that Mr. Hotter brings to his performances are superb, but it is the
big-hearted good humor of his singing that is truly legendary. Immensely
enjoyable, too, is the 1921 performance of Act Two’s ‘Jerum! Jerum!
Hallahallohe!’ by Friedrich Schorr. Remembered as a great Wotan, Mr. Schorr,
recorded in his early prime, proves an equally impressive Sachs, the burly
quality of the timbre perfectly suited to Sachs’s pragmatism. Another fine
Sachs is honored by the inclusion of Theodor Scheidl’s 1930 recording of
Sachs’s ‘Verachtet mir die Meister nicht’ from Act Three. Mr. Scheidl,
now almost completely forgotten, was a noted Sachs at Bayreuth in the years
just before World War I, and his singing of Sachs’s warning about the dangers
of cultural disintegration is as beautiful, noble, and heartfelt as any ever
recorded. This performance, too, is a noteworthy rediscovery. It is surprising
that the assignment of representing Walther von Stolzing in this set was
entrusted to American tenor Jess Thomas, but his singing in his 1963 recordings
of ‘Fanget an! – So rief der Lenz in den Wald’ from Act One and the Prize
Song from Act Three (‘Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein’) belies his
reputation for leather-lunged performances of dubious sensitivity. Captured at
his best, Mr. Thomas here sings with untiring musicality and lovely tone that
leave no doubt about why Walther prevailed in the song contest.

If Die Meistersinger is an exercise in humanity on a large scale,
Parsifal is Wagner’s exploration of the rapture of spirituality and
the triumphs of truth, trust, and even flawed benevolence. Interpretations of
Parsifal are as varied as the music of Wagner itself, but any
performance that focuses upon executing Wagner’s music on the scale that it
deserves will offer at least limited pleasure. The Bayreuth choristers return
for a stirring account of ‘Zum letzten Liebesmahle ger¸stet Tag f¸r Tag’
from Act One. Amfortas’s ‘Des Weihgef‰fles gˆttlicher Gehalt’ is sung
with pained nobility and an audible sense of suffering in a state between life
and death by Theodor Scheidl. Recorded in 1928, Mr. Scheidl’s singing is
supported by the conducting of Hermann Weigert, and the unheralded singer
achieves a performance of uncompromising grandeur. Similarly exceptional is
Frida Leider’s 1925 recording of Kundry’s ‘Ich sah das Kind an seiner
Mutter Brust’ from Act Two. Ms. Leider’s voice is more conventionally
beautiful than Twenty-First-Century listeners are accustomed to hearing in
Kundry’s music, but Ms. Leider’s thoughtful, carefully-shaped singing
proves anew that she was a Wagnerian of rare elegance. A Danish Radio recording
from 1939 preserves the Act Two ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde!’ of Lauriz Melchior,
a performance that adds markedly to the listener’s appreciation of
Melchior’s status as a Wagnerian. Josef Greindl’s 1952 performance of
Gurnemanz’s ‘Das ist Karfreitagszauber, Herr!’ from Act Three is
fantastic, the wonder of the scene subtly but palpably expressed by Mr.
Greindl’s unflinchingly committed singing. The famed recording of the
controversial 1970 Bayreuth Parsifal conducted by Pierre Boulez
provides the final excerpts from the opera, pairing James King’s Parsifal
with Thomas Stewart’s Amfortas against the Bayreuth Chorus with rousing
results. Both of the American singers are on career-best form, with Mr.
King’s singing especially inspiring. The enchantment that Maestro Boulez
brought to Wagner’s operas is well known, but this Parsifal exceeded
even his own exalted standards.

It is impossible when listening to these discs to avoid pondering the state
of Wagner singing in the Twenty-First Century. What is immediately obvious is
that, though there are fewer handsome faces and trim waistlines among the
singers on this DGG compilation than there are in the casts of Wagner’s
operas in performances today, beautiful Wagner singing comparable to the
performances heard on these discs is an elusive organism that has become
virtually extinct. It can be debated whether a singer like Lauritz Melchior,
whose figure reflected the largesse of his voice, would enjoy unprecedented
success in this age of cinecasts and closely-filmed DVD productions.
Ultimately, the music of Wagner emphatically deserves beautiful singing rather
than beautiful faces, and Great Wagner Singers documents precisely
what its title suggests: an array of standard-setting performances by some of
the most significant singers ever recorded in the music of Wagner. Vielen Dank,
Deutsche Grammophon.

Joseph Newsome

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883): Great Wagner
Singers — Excerpts from Rienzi, Der Fliegende Holl‰nder,
Lohengrin, Tannh‰user, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von N¸rnberg,
Der Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal
, and the Wesendonck-Lieder
sung by sopranos Kirsten Flagstad, Gundula Janowitz, Dame Gwyneth Jones,
Annelies Kupper, Frida Leider, Maria M¸ller, Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek,
and Astrid Varnay; mezzo-sopranos Hertha Tˆpper and Sieglinde Wagner;
contralto Karin Branzell; tenors James King, Max Lorenz, Lauritz Melchior, Leo
Slezak, Fritz Soot, Set Svanholm, Jess Thomas, and Wolfgang Windgassen;
baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; bass-baritones Hans Hotter, Josef von
Manowarda, Theodor Scheidl, Friedrich Schorr, and Thomas Stewart; basses Kim
Borg, Josef Greindl, and Georg Hann; Various Choruses and Orchestras;
Conductors include Karl Bˆhm, Walter Born, Pierre Boulez, Otto Gerdes, Manfred
Gurlitt,Robert Heger, Heinrich Hollreiser, Richard Kraus, Ferdinand Leitner,
Leopold Ludwig, Nicolai Malko, Artur Rother, Sir Georg Solti, Heinz Tietjen,
and Hermann Weigert [Various recording dates and venues; Deutsche Grammophon
479 1241; 6CD 452:18]

image_description=Great Wagner Singers from DG
product_title=Great Wagner Singers from DG
product_by=A review by Joseph Newsome
product_id=Deutsche Grammophon 0289 479 1241 5 [6CDs]