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Bruce Surtees
The WholeNote, May 2012

Set Svanholm is the Siegfried with an impressive Egil Nordsjø as Hagen, supported by a first class cast with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Norwegian State Radio Orchestra and a studio chorus all conducted by Øivin Fjelstad. Naxos has thankfully returned it to the catalogue in a newly restored four CD set…This is a full-scale production with much to offer and little or nothing to complain about. In crystal-clear, distortion-free monaural sound with fine presence and ample dynamics, this is a full-blooded realization of the closing chapter of Wagner’s ultimate music drama, the ever fascinating, incomparable Ring cycle. © 2012 The WholeNote Read complete review



John Whitmore
MusicWeb International, May 2012

The recording as reissued by Naxos is virtually complete, the only section missing being a short bridge passage between Scenes 2 and 3 of Act One…

The performance certainly deserved its Decca release. Flagstad possessed one of the truly great operatic voices of all time and despite her being 61 years of age at the time her singing is splendidly secure and passionate. The tone is fabulous and the only minor criticism would be that just occasionally the top register isn’t what it would have been at her very peak. However, these are just fleeting moments—she skips the top C in the Prologue duet with Siegfried—and her performance, a fine example of top class Wagner singing, is astounding, especially for someone in their early 60s. Bear in mind that she had already retired from the opera house and died only six years later. The Immolation Scene is spine-tingling and the final part of the opera is both cataclysmic and very moving.

The sound quality is typical of a radio production. There’s nothing very glamorous here but at least it’s clear and despite being in mono has a decent front-to-back perspective. This is a perfectly good, thoroughly enjoyable recording. There is just a little tape hiss present but it isn’t distracting enough to spoil things. The transfer has been made from the original LPs and Mark Obert-Thorn has done wonders with the restoration. You’d be hard pushed to tell that it’s sourced from vinyl. The orchestral sound is not especially rich but everything is there and the voices have good presence when one considers the 1956 recording date. I understand that there have been two previous transfers available on CD. I haven’t heard them but I doubt if they would be in any way superior to this Naxos set.

Flagstad is ably supported by the Siegfried of the veteran Set Svanholm who was in his 50s at the time of the recording. He brought considerable experience to the part. They are well matched emotionally and in terms of maturity. The rest of the cast are adequate and no more than that but collectors will buy this set just for Flagstad and they will not be disappointed. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review



David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2012

A warm welcome to the return of a 1956 Norwegian Radio recording that will always be known as ‘Flagstad’s Götterdämmerung’. The booklet relates that when the great soprano, Kirsten Flagstad, joined Decca Records, she insisted they release this recording—in which she sings Brunnhilde—to demonstrate Wagner performances in her homeland. It was contentious as Decca had thoughts firmly set on a studio recording of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle, which was eventually to happen with stunning results almost a decade later. Flagstad was already turned sixty and had retired from the opera stage when she took on this Oslo performance, and she was to die just six years later. Her Siegfried was the distinguished Swedish tenor, Set Svanholm, who at fifty-one was also coming to the end of his career. Yet both were well equipped and threw themselves into each act without reserve, much helped by having just one act performed and broadcast on separate and spaced-out evenings. So the first act meeting of Brunhillde and Siegfried can rarely have carried so much white-heat passion. Siegfried’s Rhine Journey that follows shows the well-meaning playing of the combined Norwegian orchestras, and we are then introduced to Waldemar Johnsen and Egil Nordsjo as Gunther and Hagen, their robust voices well-suited to characters of devious intent. There is an equally engaging sincerity in Eva Gustavson’s Waltraute as she pleads with Brunnhilde to return to the Rhinemaidens the gold ring given to her by Siegfried, and thus end the curse that surrounds the Gods. Listen to the incredulity of Brunnhilde’s reply to understand why, and in this one moment, she displays why she was the greatest singer/actress this part will probably ever know. When Gutrune joins the story, Ingrid Bjoner’s young and lightweight voice sounds highly plausible to ‘turn the head’ of Siegfried, and she draws our sympathy in the dreadful trick her brother plays on her. The third night of the performance found Svanholm in uncommonly free voice, and, surrounded by the three Rhinemaidens, the act opens as convincingly as you will hear on disc. Hagen’s subsequent murder and death of Siegfried is deeply moving, the orchestra growing in stature with Siegfried’s Funeral March. Then we are into Brunnhilde’s Immolation scene and one of Flagstad’s most famous moments on stage. She does not disappoint, but the voice is becoming tired. The conductor, Oivin Fjeldstad, acquits himself with a well paced account, the few orchestral blips being of little consequence. The sound was rather average for its day but is now well transferred to CD by Mark Obert-Thorn. © David’s Review Corner






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6:27:09 AM, 20 September 2014
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