Wagner: Die Walküre CD review – Van Zweden's thrillingly vivid concert recording

Melton/Lang/DeYoung/Skelton/Goerne/Struckmann/Hong Kong PO/Van Zweden

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 Philharmonic 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. The Siegmund and Sieglinde are Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton, the Tristan and Isolde in ENO’s recent production.

Some may find Melton’s fast, tight vibrato intrusive at times, though her commitment and steely intensity are never to be doubted, and she really rises to the challenge of her final scene with Siegmund. Skelton is magnificent throughout, surely without a rival in the role today. He’s meltingly lyrical in the love duet, bringing a baritonal richness to some phrases, and sounds even more youthful and ardent alongside Falk Struckmann’s rather woolly, elderly sounding Hunding.

Heidi Melton and Stuart Skelton, sing the parts of Siegmund and Sieglinde for Jaap van Zweden, also starred in ENO’s recent Tristan and Isolde.
Heidi Melton and Stuart Skelton, who sing the parts of Siegmund and Sieglinde, here pictured in ENO’s recent Tristan and Isolde. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Matthias Goerne’s Wotan sometimes seems to be a performance in the making. There are phrases, in the Farewell especially, that are wonderfully gilded and coloured, while others seem gruff and peremptory, and moments in his long second-act confrontation with Fricka, who is very much a woman not to be denied as Michelle DeYoung presents her, when his sound becomes gravelly and introspective, as if he was singing into his metaphorical beard.

But Petra Lang’s Brünnhilde makes a formidable foil; as a former mezzo who has been born again as a dramatic soprano, she makes the most of her striking lower register, especially in the annunciation of death scene with Skelton in the second act, even though that part of her voice does not always connect smoothly with the higher registers. Overall, the performances become much more than the sum of their parts, some of which are outstanding anyway.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wagner: Die Walküre – review
No orchestral details in Walküre escape Marek Janowski, or this wonderfully vivid recording, but he fails to reach the highest dramatic peaks, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

24, Oct, 2013 @12:01 PM

Article image
The Wagner Project CD review – velvet and jolts from Matthias Goerne

Erica Jeal

30, Nov, 2017 @3:00 PM

Article image
Wagner: Die Walküre review I Andrew Clements's classical album of the week
This is Wagner of scattered highlights, but the quality of the Bavarian RSO’s playing distracts from some underwhelming singing

Andrew Clements

09, Apr, 2020 @2:00 PM

Wagner: Lohengrin – review

Karl Böhm's 1965 broadcast from the Vienna Staatsoper is real edge-of-your-seat stuff, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

08, Aug, 2013 @11:30 AM

Toscanini Conducts Wagner – review
This collection of Toscanini-conducted Wagner overtures and excerpts has some striking moments, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

20, Jun, 2013 @5:30 PM

Article image
Wagner: Siegfried CD review – Van Zweden brings lustre even if singing doesn't reach the heights
The latest instalment of Naxos’s Ring cycle is another recommendable bargain, notable for the conducting and excellent Hong Kong Philharmonic

Andrew Clements

15, Nov, 2017 @3:24 PM

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen – review

This East German cycle features leading Wagnerians of the 80s and the Dresden Staatskapelle on superlative form, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Jun, 2012 @9:03 PM

Wagner: Die Walküre, Act I – review

Ain Anger's Hunding provides the highlight in an urgent account of Wagner, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

29, Aug, 2013 @7:00 PM

Article image
Wagner: Concert Overtures CD review – a nimble account of the composer's early works

Andrew Clements

30, Aug, 2017 @3:01 PM

Article image
Wagner/Rienzi review – Sebastian Weigle rethinks a divisive opera
Christiane Libor/Claudia Mahnke/Peter Bronder/Frankfurter Opern-und Museumsorchester/Sebastian Weigle

Tim Ashley

12, Mar, 2014 @5:30 PM