Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews


WAGNER, R.: Ring des Nibelungen (Der): Die Walküre [Opera] (Goerne, DeYoung, Skelton, Melton, P. Lang, Struckmann, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden)

Naxos 8.660394-97

   Limelight, May 2017
   MusicWeb International, March 2017
   Fanfare, March 2017
   Opera News, March 2017
   MusicWeb International, February 2017
   Musical Toronto, January 2017
   The Sunday Times, London, January 2017
   BBC Music Magazine, January 2017
   Opera, January 2017
   The Guardian, December 2016
   Matthew Gurewitsch |, December 2016
   The Northern Echo, December 2016, December 2016
   Opera Now, December 2016
   The Times (London), November 2016, November 2016, November 2016
   The Guardian, November 2016
   David's Review Corner, November 2016
   Gramophone, November 2016

English        Dutch        French        German        Spanish
See latest reviews of other albums...

Clive Paget
Limelight, May 2017

Conducted by Dutch maestro Jaap van Zweden, Das Rheingold set the bar high with an excellent cast, a consistent, steady orchestral interpretation and well-engineered audio production taken from live concert performances.

It’s great then to report that Die Walküre offers more of the same. Van Zweden’s tempi range from solid to expansive with considerable attention to matters of phrasing. His band responds with bite and flair, strong in the lower strings and brass, and with warm, nimble woodwind. Never rushed, the conductor gives his singers ample room for manoeuvre…

In Goerne, Naxos has struck gold. Dark-toned, and noble, he brings a real Lieder singer’s experience to the role ensuring he’s deep inside the text at all times, winnowing it for psychological nuance. He’s powerful at the top, too, and never woofs or hectors.

The Wälsung twins are as good as it gets today. Stuart Skelton’s magnificent Siegmund is here preserved in excellent sound, the stream of golden tone pouring forth in this, a signature role. His attention to psychological detail and word painting is compelling, culminating in a moving Zauberfest. Heidi Melton’s Sieglinde matches him note for note, her ample, pearly soprano ringing out comfortably from top to bottom. © 2017 Limelight Read complete review

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, March 2017

The Hong Kong Philharmonic may not be the first orchestra one expects to hear in a Wagner recording, but from the very beginning, the stormy prelude to act I, one hears that this is going to be Wagner playing of the highest order. We hear a homogenous sound, with powerful wind and velvety strings, really beautifully featured in the love music in the first act. …Jaap van Zweden has steadily built up a reputation as one of the most interesting conductors. …His conducting here is utterly convincing. He keeps the tension alive throughout the performance. The recording of the orchestra is also well-balanced and realistic and the voices carry out excellently, without being swamped by the orchestra. All in all the technique serves the enterprise admirably.

Admirable are also the soloists. Young American soprano Heidi Melton is a warm and caring Sieglinde in the beginning of the first act and when she lets loose in the love scene towards the end of the act she sings gloriously. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Huntley Dent
Fanfare, March 2017

Jaap van Zweden led a very satisfying cast in the Naxos Rheingold last year, …Now that we’ve arrived at Walküre, the first 15 minutes of act I reveal that some virtues in the first installment continue, namely, excellent recorded sound, impressive orchestral playing by the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and sensitive leadership by van Zweden, especially considering his lack of experience in the opera house. It’s also welcome that the youthful-sounding Siegmund of Australian tenor Stuart Skelton has a beautiful tone, and he can sing the role without strain (Skelton is arguably the best Tristan on the current scene). Much the same praise can be directed at the gleaming Sieglinde of rising American dramatic soprano Heidi Melton, whose gorgeous tone makes me think back to Jane Eaglen in her prime. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Fred Cohn
Opera News, March 2017

As he was in last year’s Rheingold with the same forces, Goerne is a revelation. His beauty of tone and vivid projection of text will be no surprise to listeners who know his work in lieder; what’s astonishing is his ability to sustain these virtues throughout the long role, even in its most strenuous passages. I cannot guess whether Goerne would be able to achieve this level of distinction in a staged performance, but in the present circumstances he is ideal—a Hans Hotter for our time.

Stuart Skelton, the Siegmund, has the thrust of a true Wagnerian tenor—as anyone who heard his recent Met Tristan could attest. But here I was struck by the voice’s sweetness. His Siegmund is as much lover as martial hero, thoroughly in line with van Zweden’s lyrical conception of the work. Heidi Melton, the Sieglinde, matches Skelton in tender beauty in her lower range. If she were able to bring commensurate warmth and fullness to her top notes, Melton would be a Wagnerian for the ages. © 2017 Opera News Read complete review

Marc Rochester
MusicWeb International, February 2017

No reservations about Stuart Skelton as a gloriously robust, virile and assertive Siegmund, nor Heidi Melton’s delicious Sieglinde. Matthias Goerne’s Wotan is uneven, often richly expressive and suitably commanding, …Fricka, who, imperiously sung by Michelle DeYoung, is very much in vocal command here. …Particular praise must go to the group of Valkyries who sing with a remarkable sense of unity and vocal balance. Between them they produce some of the most enchanting singing on the discs.

Any Wagner production is the result of a successful bringing together of many diverse strands, not all of which may, in isolation, withstand the closest scrutiny. By extremely good fortune, what we have here is a Wagner production which has brought together some very impressive performers and created a singularly outstanding whole. This Hong Kong production is turning out to be a Ring of exceptional quality. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Arthur Kaptainis
Musical Toronto, January 2017

…I am inclined to rank Goerne a notch higher even than Hans Hotter in the 1965 Solti recording on Decca that remains in many ways the audio gold standard.

Another American, tenor Stuart Skelton, is the Siegmund of your dreams: Trumpet-like in the “Walse” shouts but always attuned to the shape of a lyrical line and aware of the import of Wagner’s words. …Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung is a suitably temperamental Fricka. Too often taken to be an old-fashioned scold, this oft-cuckolded character makes Wotan’s dilemma unavoidable because she argues her points so persuasively. As for the German bass Falk Struckmann, if he is a tad approximate as a vocalist, he leaves no doubt of Hunding’s obnoxious nature.

In no way does the Hong Kong Philharmonic sound less than excellent or ineptly balanced in its own right. © 2017 Musical Toronto Read complete review

Hugh Canning
The Sunday Times, London, January 2017

Van Zweden works wonders in transforming the HK Phil into a world-class Wagner band: the interlude in the final scene is the emotional climax of the performance. ...Michelle DeYoung’s Fricka and Falk Struckman’s villainous Hunding are assets. © 2017 The Sunday Times, London

Michael Scott Rohan
BBC Music Magazine, January 2017

Like many conductors, Van Zweden seems to respond more naturally to this richer, more passionate score, better suited to his sweeping approach. Drawing airy, luminescent textures from the Hong Kong players, he drives the drama excitingly…avoiding Pierre Boulez’s glibness and the lumpen Teutonicism currently reigning at Bayreuth.

His singers respond superbly, …Matthias Goerne consistently seems to be singing right in your face, but he brings Wotan’s fearful conflicts of love and desperation alive with a beautifully mellow bass tone rare in the role these days. …Petra Lang isn’t the most natural Brünnhilde, but her high notes soar with cutting power; unusually for an ex-mezzo, it’s her lower range which can curdle slightly. It’s a fine, moving performance nevertheless. Skelton and Melton are well established Volsungs, but both their voices seem to have taken on fresh lustre and clarion ring, giving memorably intense performances. The top-drawer Valkyries include British Brünnhildes Katherine Broderick and Elaine McKrill, Hunding is gruff veteran Wotan Falk Struckmann, and Michelle de Young an imposing Fricka. © 2017 BBC Music Magazine

Hugo Shirley
Opera, January 2017

There’s an awful lot to admire in van Zweden’s conducting, which is naturally paced and flexible, and charts a sensible fluid course through the work. He shows a natural command of the music’s longer paragraphs and rises powerfully and inexorably to the big climaxes. The Hong Kong Philharmonic’s playing is outstanding, with warm brass, incisive strings and a healthy, glossy overall sound. The engineering is excellent, too, its tweaks in favour of certain singers notwithstanding.

There are likely to be further individual vocal performances worth seeking out, but it increasingly looks as though this cycle will be collectable primarily for van Zweden’s achievement in turning his Hong Kong players into a Wagner orchestra to be reckoned with. © 2017 Opera

Andrew Clements
The Guardian, December 2016

Andrew Clements’ top 10 classical CDs of 2016

In what has generally been a disappointing year for new opera recordings, the latest instalment of Naxos’s Ring cycle, recorded in concert in Hong Kong, easily maintains the standard set in Rheingold last year. Conductor Jaap van Zweden has the breadth and depth of a true Wagnerian, and the cast is a fine one, with Stuart Skelton’s superb Siegmund, a thoughtfully nuanced Wotan from Matthias Goerne, and Petra Lang’s increasingly involving Brünnhilde. © 2016 The Guardian

Matthew Gurewitsch
Matthew Gurewitsch |, December 2016

From the realms of fable of the curtain-raiser Das Rheingold, which is peopled by gods, dwarves, and giants, we now descend to earth. The great tug-of-war between power in the sense of coercion and the higher power of love continues, with colorful new players on the field. © 2016 Matthew Gurewitsch | Read complete review

Gavin Engelbrecht
The Northern Echo, December 2016

Performed by an all-star international cast, Die Walküre (Part II) features thrilling set pieces such as the Ride of the valkyries. Conducted by Jaap van Zweden, the cast includes Matthias Goerne, Stuart Skelton, Heidi Melton, Petra Lang and Michelle DeYoung. A worthy addition to the discography. © 2016 The Northern Echo

Blair Sanderson, December 2016

This cast may not have the name recognition of the great Bayreuth veterans, but these are strong voices well trained in Wagner’s notoriously demanding music, and the performance as a whole is convincing. The Hong Kong Philharmonic may not seem like a rising Wagnerian orchestra, but in spite of some occasional rough edges, it plays its heart out and gives the score the intensity, color, and grandeur it requires. © 2016 Read complete review

Francis Muzzu
Opera Now, December 2016

Wagner’s Die Walküre continues Naxos’s Ring cycle under Jaap van Zweden and is even better than the preceding Das Rheingold, …here it is spacious and considered, building to an ample intensity without going slack or becoming ponderous. The Hong Kong Philharmonic really excels itself too, with some punchily accurate brass playing, plus the recording seems to favour the voices more than before (these are live concert recordings). Siegmund and Sieglinde’s attraction here is a slow boil and all the more erotic for it, and Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton provide sheer vocal luxury. His tenor is heroic yet tender, and her soprano has warmth and a thrilling top. Michelle de Young’s Fricka is more incisive and characterful than before, Matthias Goerne goes from strength to strength as Wotan, with his luxurious bass-baritone particularly strong as it ascends and providing an almost introverted reading of the text at times, not that he lacks any decibels when required. Petra Lang’s Brünnhilde here is preferable to her other recently recorded assumption under Janowski—the voice sounds more secure and offers more punch, though there is still an element of solid mezzo tones with a soprano welded on top. Against Melton’s radiance she sounds worthy rather than thrilling. Good casting all round makes this well worth purchasing. © 2016 Opera Now

Neil Fisher
The Times (London), November 2016

Also available: WAGNER, R.: Walküre (Die) (Goerne, DeYoung, Skelton, Melton, P. Lang, Struckmann, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden) (Blu-ray Audio) NBD0051

This atmospheric Walküre, the second part of the Ring, is evidence of Van Zweden’s success in dramatically raising standards at Hong Kong—and although Naxos is a budget label this is much more than a budget performance. © 2016 The Times (London), November 2016

…this is nevertheless a more powerful and ultimately more compelling reading than what [van Zweden] provided in Das Rheingold

…this performance is blessed—that is not too strong a word for it—with the presence of Stuart Shelton, who is first-rate both vocally and in voice acting: his technique is wonderful, his musicianship obvious and pervasive, and his portrayal of Siegmund absolutely convincing. And he is wonderfully partnered by Heidi Melton as Sieglinde: she offers a warm, touching portrayal featuring emotional radiance and tonal beauty. They are a thoroughly captivating pair, and they bring the human heart of Die Walküre marvelously to life.

Petra Lang is an unusually girlish Brünnhilde, her impetuosity quite clear and her voice bright and vivid, if somewhat thin in its higher register. And that brings us back to Goerne and DeYoung. Goerne is better here than he was in Das Rheingold, more generally authoritative in his delivery and apparently quite comfortable with van Zweden’s tempo choices, …If Goerne’s heartfelt delivery of the last part of the final act is the highlight of his performance, there are many other beauties in his interpretation, …It is an impressive performance. © 2016 Read complete review

Jed Distler, November 2016

Matthias Goerne, the great Lieder singer, is the Wotan, as he was in Rheingold. …his Abschied is ravishing. It’s really quite a beautiful performance.

The Wälsungs are stunning. Stuart Skelton sings Siegmund as if it were an easy role. His tone is big and clean, wobble-free, truly tenorish rather than pushed-up baritone. …Heidi Melton’s Sieglinde is brighter and more soprano-like than I prefer, but she’s wonderfully expressive. The listener hangs on every perfectly pronounced, clear word she and Skelton sing, and thanks to Zweden, who leads their interactions as if the opera were bel canto, we feel for them.

Maestro van Zweden never gets in the way. …The orchestra plays wonderfully for the most part; textures are translucent; brass ring out; lower strings offer danger and sadness. The word I’d have to use for this performance—if I were allowed only one—would be, “beautiful”. © 2016 Read complete review

Andrew Clements
The Guardian, November 2016

Recorded in concert in Hong Kong at the beginning of this year, the second part of Jaap van Zweden’s Ring Cycle for Naxos easily maintains the high standard and promise of Das Rheingold, 12 months ago.

As before, the playing of the Hong Kong Symphony Orchestra provides the foundation of the performance, putting down its marker in a taut, intense account of the first-act prelude and maintaining its grip right through to the radiant account of the Magic Fire music with which Die Walküre ends. Van Zweden’s sense of pacing and drama never falters either, and some of the climaxes he engineers are thrillingly vivid—the orchestral depiction of Wotan’s rage as he seeks out Brünnhilde in the third act is as frightening as any on disc.

And once again, he has a first rate cast. © 2016 The Guardian Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2016

The second instalment in Hong Kong’s concert version of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is a project adding one opera to the cycle each year and recorded ‘live’. An international cast has been gathered, most having already enjoyed a successful career in the world of Wagner, and here headed by one of today’s most celebrated heldentenors, Stuart Skelton. Wagner having set the scene in Das Rheingold, we find Siegmund, the earthly son of the God, Wotan, stumbling breathless in his search for refuge in a lonely house. There he meets Sieglinde, who—though he does not know it—is his twin sister. He has escaped from a battle, but the house he has now entered is the home of Sieglinde and her husband, Hunding, whose kinfolk he has been fighting. And so the story unfolds where Wotan is ordered by his wife, Fricka, that Hunding should kill Siegmund as punishment for his infidelity in fathering Siegmund and Sieglinde. Neither Wotan nor Fricka know that in one night spent in Hunding’s house, Sieglinde has conceived Siegmund’s child who will be born and will carry the story into the next episode. There are the big moments, including the famous Ride of the Valkyries, and Wotan’s Farewell to his beloved daughter, Brünnhilde, who has challenged his authority in trying to defend Siegmund, but Die Walküre is the least active of the four operas. From the outset of this performance we have a change in the balance of the story, Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton (as Sieglinde), possessing such powerful and potent voices that the Hunding of Falk Struckmann would surely shake in his shoes when faced by them. It is with Matthias Goerne’s arrival that the libretto gets back on track again, his imperious Wotan moving the story from earth to the upper world of the Gods where we meet his daughter, Brunnhilde, sung with venomous intensity by the German soprano, Petra Lang. Michelle DeYoung then pictures Frika as both uncompromising and unforgiving, and a wife who will use pure spite to impose marital fidelity. The third act introduces Brünnhilde’s sisters, the Valkyries, to whom she is bringing for safe keeping the distraught Sieglinde, rescued from the fight between Siegmund and Hunding. They are a first class group of eight singers including Katherine Broderick, probably the finest young Brunnhilde I have heard in recent years. And so we reach the long concluding section taken by father and errant daughter, a testing time for singers who have already given so much. Goerne remains firm and resolute, eventually giving way to pity for his daughter, while Petra Lang’s vibrato becomes wider as the scene progresses, but is genuinely pleading to create our pity. The release comes hard on the heals of my marvellous summer attending and reviewing three quite remarkable European performances of Der Ring, but I have much enjoyed this release, the conductor, Jaap van Zweden, taking an unadorned view of the score with committed playing from the Hong Kong orchestra who unleash some impressive climatic moments. It receives a much detailed recording with the voices well forward. There is no libretto with the discs, but it can be downloaded. © 2016 David’s Review Corner

Mike Ashman
Gramophone, November 2016

WAGNER, R.: Walküre (Die) (Goerne, DeYoung, Skelton, Melton, P. Lang, Struckmann, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden) 8.660394-97
WAGNER, R.: Walküre (Die) (Goerne, DeYoung, Skelton, Melton, P. Lang, Struckmann, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden) (Blu-ray Audio) NBD0051

Thus Heidi Melton’s generous-voiced Sieglinde is given all the space in the world to make the narration about the twins’ father Wotan the high point of Act 1 that it should be… Van Zweden follows up by allowing Stuart Skelton’s accurate and virile Siegmund equal space in ‘Heiligste Minne…

Michelle DeYoung argues Fricka’s case with power and sweep; Falk Struckmann, in a new part of the Wagner Fach for him, uses text rather than colour to frighten as Hunding. The Valkyrie group is well chosen—someone with an excellent ear has sampled recent European cast lists skilfully. These girls not only make for a tight ensemble but provide a real foil in their little individual moments for Wotan and Brünnhilde. © 2016 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group