Richard Wagner - Die Walküre

Following their Gramophone Award winning recording of Götterdammerung the Hallé under Sir Mark Elder announces its long awaited release of the live recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre, taken from the acclaimed Manchester International Festival 2011 performance at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

Thought by many to be Wagner’s greatest opera, Die Walküre is a psychological drama charting the full range of emotions in music that is powerful, tender and everything in between and with orchestral and vocal writing which perfectly displays the master craftsman at work.

This is the latest release in Elder and Halle’s stunning Ring cycle and was recorded live at sell out Bridgewater Hall concerts which formed highlights of the 2011 Manchester International Festival.

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"A very welcome alternative to existing recordings – and at a competitive price." Brian Wilson - (Recording of the Month)

“[The Hallé’s concert performance of Die Walküre was] a two-day emotional journey that left me feeling torn apart. Act I was captivating and potent; Act II fiercely moving; Act III enough to make one rush from the hall and plunge in a Manchester canal. The gigantic orchestral climax interrupting Wotan's Farewell was as convulsively emotional as I could want it. Subtleties of orchestral shading and balance went by like an express train. The conducting was inspired; the immense structure cohered; one looks forward to the issue of the live recording happily being made.” The Sunday Times, July 2011 - Paul Driver

“The Hallé excelled in supporting the human voice, lifting the vernal lovesong of Siegmund and Sieglinde in a light lilt … the cast was outstanding.” Hilary Finch - Monday 18 July 2011 - The Times

“[The Hallé’s] Wagner is simply beautiful, and if that burnished lyricism was more glamorous than dangerous in Act I of Die Walküre, the duet with Siegmund (Stig Andersen) and Sieglinde (Yvonne Howard) had a tenderness beyond renegade intoxication. Elder is a skilful accompanist, metering the blend to suit the timbres of his cast … [he] conducted as though in love with a score that was in love with love itself.” Anna Picard - 24 July 2011- The Independent on Sunday

“In 2010, the Hallé performed Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in two concerts in Manchester; the recording made from the live performances was named BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice in July that year. Following that success, I’m pleased to report that this recording of Die Walküre is every bit as good. As before, Sir Mark Elder is the driving force, with an approach that’s powerfully measured and beautifully detailed, nowhere more so than in Act I, his cast is also excellent.This special recording knocks spots off anything we’ve had from the continent in recent years.” August 2012-Gramophone

Elder’s Act I Prelude at once establishes a beautifully shaped storm with transparent orchestral colours, founded on clear lower strings. Dark energies emerge through rhythmic surge within the lower strings and the capping timpani open with cushioned attack rather than a thunderous crack. Similarly Elder’s Act II prelude and Act III Ride are oddly civilised, barely airborne in either trampling tempi or spirit. Furtwängler (1953) evokes both energy and craziness.

Certainly Elder and the Hallé can raise temperatures, such as in the seamless upsweep towards Siegmund claiming Notung and the magisterial power of the orchestral arch as Wotan kisses away Brünnhilde’s godhead. Elder’s Magic Fire Music is the set’s highlight, beautifully steered with real command and dramatic immersion.

Certainly future generations need a record of the Hallé Orchestra’s splendid playing, resurgent under Elder’s baton. Imagine the section rehearsals to get this attention to inner balances and colours! All the Hallé musicians are rightly named in the accompanying booklet as they are the heroes of this Die Walküre.

Steve Portnoi’s sound engineering is certainly in the front rank, boasting bloom, a wide sound-stage and voices forward but beautifully integrated so all Wagner’s orchestral wonders ring out. It’s all very natural. David Harbin MusicWeb-International, September 2012

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