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Wagner: Gotterdammerung (August 4, 1951) ~ Knappertsbusch [Box set, Import, Original recording remastered]

Richard Wagner , Hans Knappertsbusch , Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus , Astrid Varnay , Bernd Aldenhoff , Elisabeth Höngen , Elisabeth Schwarzkopf , Hanna Ludwig , Heinrich Pflanzl , Hermann Uhde Audio CD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Performer: Astrid Varnay, Bernd Aldenhoff, Elisabeth Höngen, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Hanna Ludwig, et al.
  • Orchestra: Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus
  • Conductor: Hans Knappertsbusch
  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Audio CD (September 7, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Format: Box set, Import, Original recording remastered
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: Testament UK
  • ASIN: B00001NTLL
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,382 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Disc: 1
1. Prologue: Prld - Orchester Der Festspiele Bayreuth/Hans Knappetsbusch
2. Prologue: Welch Licht Leuchtet Dort? - Orchester Der Festspiele Bayreuth/Hans Knappetsbusch
3. Prologue: Dammert Der Ta? - Martha Modl
4. Prologue: Dawn/Tagesgrauen/Lever Du Jour - Orchester Der Festspiele Bayreuth/Hans Knappetsbusch
5. Prologue: Zu Neuen Taten, Teurer Helde - Astrid Varnay
See all 14 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Act One, Scene Two: Gunther, Wie Heibt Deine Schweter? - Bernd Aldenhoff/Hermann Uhde
2. Act One, Scene Two: Bluhenden Lebens - Bernd Aldenhoff/Hermann Uhde
3. Act One, Scene Two: Was Nahmst Du Am Eide Nicht Teil? - Bernd Aldenhoff/Ludwig Weber/Hermann Uhde/Martha Modl
4. Act One, Scene Two: Hier Sitz Ich Zur Wacht - Ludwig Weber
5. Act One, Scene Three: Altgewohntes Gerausch - Astid Varnay/Elisabeth Hongen
See all 10 tracks on this disc
Disc: 3
1. Act Two: Prld - Orchester Der Festspiele Bayreuth/Hans Knappetsbusch
2. Act Two, Scene One: Schlafst Du, Hagen, Mein Sohn? - Heinrich Pflanzl/Ludwig Weber
3. Act Two, Scene Two Hoiho, Hagen! - Bernd Aldenhoff/Hermann Uhde/Marha Modl
4. Act Two, Scene Three: Hoiho! Hoihohoho! - Ludwig Weber/Chor Der Festpiele Bayreuth/Wihelm Pitz
5. Act Two, Scene Three: Rustet Euch Wohl - Ludwig Weber/Chor Der Festpiele Bayreuth/Wihelm Pitz
See all 20 tracks on this disc
Disc: 4
1. Act Three, Scene One: Siegfried! - Hertha Ludwig/Hanna Ludwig/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Bernd Aldenhoff
2. Act Three, Scene One: Ein Goldner Ring Ragt Dir Am finger! - Hertha Ludwig/Hanna Ludwig/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Bernd Aldenhoff
3. Act Three, Scene One: Behalt Ihn, Held - Hertha Ludwig/Hanna Ludwig/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Bernd Aldenhoff
4. Act Three, Scene One: Weialala Leia - Hertha Ludwig/Hanna Ludwig/Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Bernd Aldenhoff
5. Act Three, Scene Two: Hoiho! - Ludwig Weber/Chor Der Festpiele Bayreuth/Bernd Aldenhoff
See all 21 tracks on this disc

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

It's still easy to imagine the anticipation that must have attended the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 when it reopened for the first time since the war. This was the epoch-making summer when Wieland Wagner began to unveil a bold rethinking of his grandfather's canon--and to distance his art from the ideological trappings of the Third Reich--through increasingly austere and abstract productions. One member of the recording teams on hand (rivals EMI and Decca) was John Culshaw, who would later become famous as the mastermind producer behind the first and still most-popular studio recording of the Ring. Despite problems with the rest of the cycle, Culshaw managed to register its epic concluding work to his satisfaction. Yet that legendary Götterdämmerung sat in the archives for almost half a century due to contractual complications. This release at last makes its glories available.

Conductor Hans Knappertsbusch--a master of the grand old tradition who is above all prized for his incomparable accounts of Parsifal--presides over a majestically scaled performance right from the doom-colored opening chord. Its cumulative power builds like a juggernaut. Though Knappertsbusch's famously weighty pacing makes this probably the slowest Götterdämmerung on record, the tempi rarely feel distended but rather enable Wagner's densely webbed, late-style ripeness to reverberate with its full emotional resonance. Knappertsbusch also knows how to keep a particular dramatic moment taut without losing his command of the larger context, as in the confrontation between Brünnhilde and Waltraute or Act II's vengeance trio. And in the funeral march you won't hear Soltian muscle but a profoundly resigned summation far subtler in its impact.

The relatively young cast features some of Bayreuth's finest postwar artists, several making their festival debut during the 1951 reopening. Astrid Varnay proves her claim as Flagstad's successor, imbuing Brünnhilde's transfiguring love and subsequent betrayal with a presence that is completely gripping from the beginning to the cycle's cataclysmic end. Variety of color endows Bernd Aldenhoff's Siegfried with more dimensions than most interpreters; he can be sweet-voiced or imperious, rising to glory in the Act I duet and summoning a blustery bravado in his scene with the Rhinemaidens. Marth Mödl's angsty, dark-hued tone gives Gutrune an intensity far beyond the usual passive dimwit, while Hermann Uhde portrays her brother--despite his straining upper range--as a complex tangle of ambition and self-doubt. An integral part of this tremendously tight-knit ensemble is Ludwig Weber's intimidating Hagen. He gives the villain a truly Iago-like scope, brooding in the malignancy of his monologues and striking a chord of sheer terror in the scene of Siegfried's murder. In short, this set belongs in the collection of anyone interested in the performance of Wagner--or of great musical drama, period. --Thomas May

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful and Important Document January 27, 2000
I actually wanted to rate this 4.5 stars. This recording is worth the money for anyone who wants to hear a first-class, "live" performance of the last of Wagner's "Ring" operas. It is of special value to listeners who know and love Wagner's "Ring" cycle and the recordings of Wieland Wagner's first production of the cycle that was performed at Bayreuth during the '50's. There are a number of issues of radio broadcasts, and thanks to them we can know and study the performances of Astrid Varnay (my favorite Brünnhilde), Hans Knappertsbusch, and quite a few others. The problem is that the sound quality of these tapes ranges from okay to awful.
What sets this recording apart from the radio tapes is that it was a commercial recording, recorded by Decca at the 1951 festival. The world at large has known about this recording since the publication of John Culshaw's book, "Ring Resounding," in the late '60's. Now that I have heard it for myself, I must say that it is one of the most exciting and satisfying performances that I know of this glorious opera.
For those who know the recording of "Parsifal" recorded by Decca at the same festival (and last issued on CD by Teldec), I find the sound of the orchestra in "Götterdämmerung" to be quite a bit more beautiful than in "Parsifal." This recording seems to capture more of the resonance and warmth of the sound of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, and it is quite exciting. For me, the primary value of this recording is the way it documents the Bayreuth orchestra and what Hans Knappertsbusch could achieve with it on a good night.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knappertsbusch at his best January 28, 2004
Since I bought this performance I have bought many other live recordings of this opera from around this era. The 1955 Kna performance from Munich, the '52 performance with Keilberth and Lorenz are among the better ones. But I always fall back to this one recorded in 1951 at the first Bayreuth festival after the second world war. The freshness of the performance, the magnificent conducting by Knappertsbusch are the main reasons.
This is a performance that gets better with each hearing. A statement I cannot make about any stereo set. I have come to think that Windgassen is not an ideal Siegfried. He is OK as the younger Siegfried, but in Gotterdammerung he seems more miscast every time I hear it, whether it is the 1953(Krauss and Keilberth), '56(Kna), '67(Bohm) or Solti's performance. He doesn't have the necessary weight that I feel it requires. Bernd Aldenhoff, who sings Siegfried here is something totally different. He may seem to be unsteady when first heard, but he gets better and better every time I hear him. His understanding of the role and the glorious sounds he makes us believe that he is a fearless hero who can do anything. When he is stabbed in the third act he is so touching that we feel with him as he dies from the fatal blow.
Then there is the magnificently exciting Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde. She is the supreme Brunnhilde from the post war era. In all aspects of the role she outshines all competiton. The passion in the duet in the prologue, the determination and fear in the first act. Suprised and enraged in the second act and dedication and determination in the third. All these emotions are sung so tremendously grand. Her Brunnhilde here is also quite fresh and youthful which makes it better than her performance in 1956.
Ludwig Weber also stars in this performance.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 1951 Bayreuth Goetterdaemmerung May 30, 2000
A friend recommended this set to me, and I heartily thank him for it. I have always loved Knappertsbusch and have his 1956 Bayreuth Ring, which is my favorite next to the 1960 Kempe. But this 1951 Goetterdaemmerung on Testament is in a class by itself. It is certainly the broadest recorded performance, but here breadth does not equate with slowness. Knappertsbusch generates so much tension and power (the power of subtlety, instead of vulgar Solti-ish bombast) that he makes the opera seem all too brief. Not once is there a moment that drags or disaccomodates the singers, unlike a few in the 1956 Ring. I defy anyone to listen to the Norn Scene, the conclusion to Act 1, Siegfried's Death and Funeral March, and above all, the Immolation Scene, and not feel utterly shattered. As for the cast, Varnay is at her freshest and most impassioned, and mystical at the end; Aldenhoff, despite occasional unsteadiness, is a bright, ardent Siegfried, by turns bluff and sensitive; Uhde is a model Gunther, tortured by guilt and remorse; Moedl is a three-dimensional Gutrune, not some empty-headed ninny; Hoengen is properly desperate as Waltraute, and Planzl is an excellent Alberich, voicing both evil and frustration in his scene with Weber's Hagen. And Weber! His is the only Hagen I put in the same class as Frick's; indeed, his is so strong a presence that one wonders if Hagen shouldn't be one of the lead roles! The Rhinemaidens (including Schwarzkopf! ) and the Norns are cast from strength. And the recorded sound, though mono, is both rich and transparent, far better then the uneven sound of the Kempe on Melodram. I nominate this as the essential Goetterdaemmerung, a performance which shows this work, even more than Walkuere, as the one Ring opera that can stand alone as a complete whole. My thanks to Testament from bringing this performance to light from the depth of the Rhine (or was it from Decca's vaults?).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic! And frustrating at times. But a Must-Have.
This Götterdämmerung from Bayreuth in 1951 under the direction of Hans Knappertsbusch is legendary for good reasons. Read more
Published 1 month ago by pekinman
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I can't get enough of Act 2 and 3 of this performance, just beautiful, but I still prefer Furtwangler's 1950 Scala and 1953 RAI radio recordings. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Andrew Levas
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Gotterdammerung on record
Bernd Aldenhoff and the (first rate) mono side aside, this recording of Gotterdammerung is perfect. Varnay is the best post-war Brunnhilde, Weber makes a superb Hagen, and then... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Don Gustavo
5.0 out of 5 stars Mighty, majestic and moving
Previous reviewers, including an excellent "Product Description" Amazon review by Thomas May, have already adumbrated the many virtues of this terrific live performance, so let me... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Ralph Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars The GreatFuneral March
Many have already said what I feel about this recording, but one thing I would like to add- Kna's funeral march in this recording is so stunning, I have never since heard one to... Read more
Published on December 23, 2010 by puffyfugu
4.0 out of 5 stars Cohesive performance despite significant flaws
After having cut my Wagner teeth on the Solti Ring and reading Culshaw's "Ring Resounding" this recording was too intriguing to pass up. Read more
Published on August 11, 2008 by Gary Evoniuk
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Wagner Gotterdammerung
Technical shortcomings notwithstanding, this is a joy to own and listen to. Represents an "older" conducting style of the "majestic" sort. Read more
Published on July 10, 2006 by Robert D. Potter
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful recording that almost carries all before it
The most magnificent aspect of this legendary recording is clearly Knappertsbusch's conducting. The gears never crash and there is a beautiful saturated sound. Read more
Published on February 6, 2006 by D Harbin
This is a cracking performance of Gotterdammerung, arguably the very best available on disc. Knappertsbusch could be a frustrating conductor - on a good day, when he was in the... Read more
Published on September 13, 2005 by Klingsor Tristan
5.0 out of 5 stars This set is expensive.
So I read all the reviews. Gramophone magazine gives it the highest marks - 3 "stars". Every review I read raved about it. So I plunged in. Result? Read more
Published on January 9, 2004 by "dijeet2shankar"
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