Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wagner: Die Walküre, Act II

Richard Wagner, 1871
"Richard Wagner, I hate you - but I hate you on my knees."  Thus spake Leonard Bernstein about the composer whose bicentennial (May 22, 1813) we celebrate this month, and the quote gets to the heart of a curious paradox about Wagner: that the most anti-Semitic composer in music history, whom Hitler idolized above all others, should have among his most persuasive interpreters a number of Jews, from Hermann Levi in his own time to Klemperer and Bruno Walter during the Nazi era.  The set I present today offers a graphic example of this dichotomy.  One-fourth of this set features the inspired direction of Bruno Walter with Lotte Lehmann and Lauritz Melchior, recorded in Vienna in 1935 (at the same time as their famous recording of Act I).  The remainder, recorded three years later in Berlin (after the Nazis' annexation of Austria), features the reliable but relatively workmanlike direction of Bruno Seidler-Winkler, with a young Hans Hotter as Wotan.  EMI has offered this recording as a CD reissue, but in order to fit it complete on one disc has cut out one of the orchestral interludes.  I offer it complete, but with a choice of downloading one long file (82 minutes) or, for those who like to burn CDs from their downloads, in two files of 43 and 39 minutes respectively:

Wagner: Die Walküre, Act II (nearly complete)
Hans Hotter, Marta Fuchs, Margarete Klose and Lauritz Melchior with the
Berlin State Opera Orchestra conducted by Bruno Seidler-Winkler and
Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior and Emanuel List with the
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter
RCA Victor set DM-582, ten 78-rpm records
Link (one FLAC file, 218.57 MB)
Link (two FLAC files, 217.35 MB)
Link (one MP3 file, 110.10 MB)
Link (two MP3 files, 108.81 MB)

This act contains five scenes, of which 1, 2 and 4 were recorded in Berlin, and 3 and 5 in Vienna.  The description "nearly complete" is necessary because five cuts, totalling 97 bars, are made in Scene 2.


  1. It's phenomenal to have direct from 78 transfers of this fabulous set of performances, but I find the noise-reduction is too great. I would be really grateful if you could make available a clean transfer with no processing at all. The problem with the EMI CD transfer is that it is so overprocessed that you lose all the considerable feeling the artists put into these recordings. It would be great to have, as a corrective, a transfer with no processing at all.

  2. I, for one, could not POSSIBLY be a curmudgeon and complain about processing in this SUPERB transfer. Specifically, 'anonymous' says, "I find the noise-reduction is too great." I find this unsupportable and, in fact, preposterous.

    I am a professional audio engineer (forty years at it) who has done major symphony recording work for one of "America's Big Five" orchestras; commercial classical LPs; and radio broadcasts of concerts; and also am an avid restorer of 78s. In fact, *I have these sets* on pre-war Victor pressings. So, the sound, here, is exemplary. No dynamic filter processing has been done to muddy the highs, partials, and inner voices. The declicking is subtle--in fact, inaudible as it should be.

    I do perceive what I analyze as the LIGHTEST POSSIBLE TOUCH of something like the Algorithmix K-Stereo Ambiance Processor Plug-in to create a very slight 'width' enhancement. The nice thing about this is that it is mono-recoverable with NO change in the original sound. Just place your system in L+R mono and you get back exactly the original substance, if this TINY bit of width-enhancement is objectionable; I find it preferable AS-IS in fact! There is no added echo or reverb and the recording needed none.

    I will say this: I've been following Bryan's work since BEFORE he started Shellackophile blog and merely uploaded links to RMCR. The hallmark of his style is MINIMALISM and preserving the original sound.

    This is in fact the only example I've heard of this TINY amount of L-R width enhancement applied on Shellackophile, and it is SO subtle that I had to check a few times on two systems just to make sure it was REALLY there. It's that delicately applied. No commercial CD (or upload such as Andrew Rose's Pristine stuff) has as subtle an application of K-Stereo width enhancement; everybody else goes way overboard.

    I think it works here pleasingly because of the original acoustic and the "air" around the voices gains by it.

    To "anonymous" above--put your playback in L+R mono if this *really* bothers you. I won't. And I am basically a mono purist from way back.

    Thanks again, Bryan, for your splendid efforts. The world is better off for your dedication. I was just hugely saddened that the ONLY comment so far was this nitpickey, over-the-top criticism, as if you had *ruined* it by piling on effects. You did NOT do so.

    Now, if the original anonymous commentator can tell us, FOR CERTAIN, that (like me) he OWNS these original shellac pressings; knows how to get the correct playback curve; and THEN can prove one way or another, perhaps with an uploaded sample, that there is allegedly "too great" noise reduction, I'd be VERY, very surprised. I first got the original sets around 1983 and don't at all agree.

    S. W. - professional audio engineer, retired