I have now had a chance to listen to the new SACD release of the 1965 Solti recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre. (For some reason Das Rheingold hasn’t arrived yet). I’m not going to do a detailed review of the performance since pretty much everything that could be said about it has been, and by people better qualified than me. As you might expect for a recording twice voted “recording of the century”. I’ve also already written about the technical details of the new transfer in my review of the sampler disk.
So what struck me listening to the full version of the second opera of the cycle? First of all the sound is overwhelming and utterly brilliant. I listened to Act 1 on a multi-speaker set up (Bowers and Wilkins all round) and the last two acts on Sennheiser headphones. Either way I was blown away. Listening to a whole opera is a bit different to the “highlights reel” and much more immersive.
Second, the singing. It’s all really, really good but Hans Hotter as Wotan and Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde are absolutely the stand outs. By contrast the singing style of James King as Siegmund and Régine Crispin as Sieglinde sounds a little dated (remember this is 50+ year old recording) though I can’t put my finger on exactly why I think that. Then there’s the orchestra; the Vienna Philharmonic. It’s fabulous and, of course, sounding better than ever. Solti’s reading remains incredibly, viscerally exciting as well as beautiful.
Finally this release has been given a most sumptuous packaging treatment. It’s in a 12″ by 12″ box with a full size glossy booklet packed with fascinating photographs (I’ve included a couple). The four disks themselves come in a folder made up to look sort of like an LP. It’s really pretty.
So, all in all, definitely worth having even if you have a previous transfer though, obviously, only if you can do SACD.
Catalogue number: Decca Classics 4853160