COATES, BLECH Wagner: The Potted Ring, Vol. 3 (1926-31) - PACO118

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COATES, BLECH Wagner: The Potted Ring, Vol. 3 (1926-31) - PACO118

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WAGNER The Potted Ring - Volume 3: Götterdämmerung, Motives and Extras
Studio recordings, 1926-31
Total duration: 2hr 23:59 and 60:30 

Florence Austral ∙ Walter Widdop
Rudolf Laubenthal ∙ Maartje Offers ∙ Ivar Andrésen

Lauritz Melchior ∙ Friedrich Schorr

Götterdämmerung: Albert Coates ∙ Leo Blech
Appendix: Lawrance Collingwood ∙ Leo Blech ∙ Karl Muck 

This set contains the following albums:

HMV's Potted Ring, Volume 3: Götterdämmerung, Motives and Extras

"We encounter truly great Wagner singing ... Laubenthal’s Siegfried is not far short of ideal ... Andresen sings with the kind of firm, black tone simply not encountered today"
- Alan Blyth, Opera on Record (1979)

This third and final volume of our “Potted Ring” series centers on Götterdämmerung, whose recording, like the earlier Walküre set, was divided between London and Berlin, with different casts, conductors and orchestras.  I have interpolated two recordings not contained in the original sets in order to make the performance more complete.  First, by including the first side of Coates’ “Rhine Journey” (missing in the albums) and editing it around “Zu neuen Taten”, I have been able to present the Prologue uncut.  Secondly, I have included the Melchior/Schorr recording of “Hast du, Gunther, ein Weib?” in order to fill in a scene which went unrecorded in the original albums, one which leads directly into Hagen’s Watch (and one which I did not originally include in my 1994 “Potted Ring” set for Pearl).

The Appendix contains several recordings from the HMV and Electrola editions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung which were replaced in the versions issued by Victor in America.  The six sides with Laubenthal (three of them with Leider), as well as Blech’s orchestral version of the “Forest Murmurs”, were contained in the first album of Siegfried excerpts issued in Europe.  By the time Victor issued their first Siegfried set, several sides had been re-recorded with Melchior, and these were chosen for the American release, although the abridged final scene with Laubenthal and Leider was retained.  Eventually, Melchior recorded the complete scene; and since that appears in Volume 2 of our series, these duplicated earlier sides are presented here.

Muck’s “Rhine Journey” and “Funeral Music” appeared in the European editions of the Götterdämmerung albums, but Victor replaced them with the Coates recordings.  As Coates conducts the rest of the Prologue and most of the Immolation Scene, I thought it would be more consistent to go with the Victor choices here and put the Muck versions in the Appendix.  Finally, the two discs of illustrated motives from the Ring cycle were not originally part of any set, but were issued separately.  Two different, uncredited announcers are heard.  The first sounds like a seasoned BBC presenter; but I have often wondered whether the second might be producer/conductor Collingwood himself.

The sources for the transfers were American Victor editions (primarily “Z” pressings) for everything except the Melchior/Schorr duet, the three Laubenthal Siegfried solos, Blech’s “Rhine Journey”, a portion of the end of Act 2 of Götterdämmerung, and the side with “Schweigt eures Jammers” (dubbed on Victor), which all came from British HMV pressings.

Mark Obert-Thorn

WAGNER Götterdämmerung

CD 1


1          Welch Licht leuchtet dort?

            Noel Eadie, sop.; Evelyn Arden, sop.; Gladys Palmer, con.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 17 October 1928 and 3 January 1929 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: Cc 13724-2/13725-1A/13726-5/13727-5A ∙ HMV D 1572/3

2          Dawn

            Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 26 January 1926 in Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 136-3 [part] ∙ HMV D 1080

3          Zu neuen Taten

            Florence Austral, sop.; Walter Widdop, ten.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 18 October 1928 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: Cc 13730-2/13731-3 ∙ HMV D 1574

4          Siegfried’s Rhine Journey

            Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 26 January 1926 in Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrices: CR 136-3 [part]/137-1 ∙ HMV D 1080

            Act 1

5          Begrüße froh, o Held

            Arthur Fear, bar.; Walter Widdop, ten.; Frederic Collier, bs.; Göta Ljungberg, sop.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 10 October 1928 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrix: Cc 13699-1 ∙ HMV D 1575

6          Hast du, Gunther, ein Weib?

            Lauritz Melchior, ten.; Friedrich Schorr, bar.; Rudolf Watzke, bs.; Lieselotte Krumrey-Topas, sop.

            Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

Recorded 15 June 1929 in the Philharmonie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CLR 5458-2A/5459-1A ∙ HMV D 1700

7          Hier sitz’ ich zur Wacht

            Ivar Andrésen, bs.

            Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Fritz Zweig (credited to Leo Blech on label)

Recorded 17 February 1928 in the Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CLR 3883-1 ∙ HMV D 1576

8          Seit er von dir geschieden

            Maartje Offers, con.; Florence Austral, sop.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 23 August and 25 October 1927 in Queen’s Hall, London and 16 February 1928 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: CR 1460-3A/1461-2/1473-3/1474-3 ∙ HMV D 1576/8


CD 2

Act 2

1          Hoiho! Hoihohoho!

            Ivar Andrésen, bs.

            Berlin State Opera Orchestra and Chorus ∙ Leo Blech

Recorded 21 June 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CDR 4708-2/4709-1 ∙ HMV D 1578/9

2          Helle Wehr! 

            Walter Widdop, ten.; Florence Austral, sop.; Chorus

Recorded 17 October 1928 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrix: Cc 13728-3A ∙ HMV D 1579

3          Welches Unholds List

            Florence Austral, sop.; Frederic Collier, bs.; Arthur Fear, bar.

Recorded 18 October 1928 in Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: Cc 13732-2A/13733-2/13734-1 ∙ HMV D 1580/1

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

            Act 3

4          Frau Sonne sendet lichte Strahlen

            Tilly De Garmo, sop.; Lydia Kindermann, sop.; Elfriede Marherr, con.; Rudolf Laubenthal, ten.

Recorded 10 September 1928 in the Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CLR 4488-1/4489-1/4490-2/4491-2 ∙ HMV D 1581/3

5          Mime heiß ein mürrischer Zwerg

6          Brünnhilde, heilige Braut! 

            Rudolf Laubenthal, ten.; Desider Zador, bar.; Emmanuel List, bs.; Berlin State Opera Chorus

Recorded 7 September 1928 in the Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CLR 4482-2/4483-1/4484-1 ∙ HMV D 1583/4

            Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

7          Siegfried’s Funeral Music

            Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 26 January and 26 March 1926 in Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrices:  CR 217-2/141-3 ∙ HMV D 1092

8          Schweigt eures Jammers

9          Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort 

            Florence Austral, sop.; Göta Ljungberg, sop.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Lawrance Collingwood

Recorded 1 December 1927 in Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix:  CR 1472-3A ∙ HMV D 1586

10        Sein Roß führet daher

11        Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott!

12        Finale

            Florence Austral, sop.

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

Recorded 25/26 August and 25 October 1927 in Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrices:  CR 1486-3/1487-1/1475-2 ∙ HMV D 1586/7





1 – 90  90 Motives from The Ring (see booklet for details)

            London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Lawrance Collingwood

Recorded 17 April and 23 May 1931 in Kingsway Hall, London, Matrix nos.:  2B 504-2A/505-2A/562-1A/563-1A ∙ HMV C 2237/8



            Act I

91        Nothung!  Nothung!

Recorded 25 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1058-1 ∙ HMV D 1530

            Act II

92        Daß der mein Vater nicht ist

 Recorded 25 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1059-2 ∙ HMV D 1530

93        Forest Murmurs

Recorded 26 June 1928 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix nos.: CLR 4305-2/4306-2 ∙ HMV D 1531

94        Heiß ward mir

Recorded 25 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1060-2 ∙ HMV D 1532

            Act III

95        Heil dir, Sonne!

Recorded 27 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1064-2 ∙ HMV D 1532

96        Ewig war ich 

Recorded 27 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1065-2 ∙ HMV D 1535

97        O Siegfried!  Dein war ich von je!

Recorded 27 August 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1066-1 ∙ HMV D 1535

            Frida Leider (soprano) (Tracks 95 – 97)

            Rudolf Laubenthal (tenor) (Tracks 91, 92, 94 – 97)

            Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech



98        Siegfried’s Rhine Journey                                                                                           (4:24)

Recorded 10 December 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1418-2 ∙ HMV D 1575

            Act III

99        Siegfried’s Funeral Music                                                                                           (8:04)

Recorded 10 December 1927 in the Singakademie, Berlin. Matrix no.:  CwR 1419-3A/1420-2A ∙ HMV D 1585

                Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Karl Muck

Review: Opera on Record (1979)

Before the days of LP, there were desultory efforts to record substantial chunks, bleeding or otherwise, of the opera. The first of these, still in the acoustic era, was the set of four discs added on to the ones from Siegfried, sung in English, These 78s (D 703-6) include the dawn duet (Austral and Davies in their usual forthright form), Radford in Hagen’s Watch and Call (good, solid work) and a cut version of the Immolation with Austral. The conductors are Coates, Percy Pitt and Eugene Goossens. As soon as electric recording came in, Fred Gaisberg of HMV was keen to record more Wagner. As he wrote: ‘In 1925 Coates, who was recognised as England’s greatest conductor of Wagner, joined with me in the endeavour to satisfy the eager appetite for Wagner’s music, which had been denied throughout the war ... ’ I have already commented on his Walküre and Siegfried excerpts, with other conductors also concerned. The Götterdämmerung set, two volumes of eight 78s (D 1572-87), were made partly in London with Coates, partly in Berlin with Leo Blech and Karl Muck.

These records are fascinating for various reasons. In the first place there is Muck’s rich, authoritative account of the Rhine Journey and Funeral March with the then superb Berlin State Opera Orchestra, discs that are also a tribute to the spacious sound being achieved as early as 1927. The vocal records start with an only moderate Prelude and Norns' Scene (Noel Eadie, Evelyn Arden, Gladys Palmer). Then come Austral and Widdop in a rousing Dawn duet (transferred to COLH 147), taken at an almost incredibly fast pace. (All Coates’s Wagner is speedy, but this is ridiculous.) After the Rhine Journey, Gunther and Gutrune welcome Siegfried. ‘Siegfried Drinks the Potion’ in the inimitable words on the old record. An unremarkable disc, with Göta Ljungberg (Gutrune), Frederic Collier (Gunther) and Arthur Fear (Hagen) joining Widdop until the tenor reaches ‘Vergäss’ ich alles’, which he phrases more tenderly, more accurately than any other tenor except Windgassen.
Andresen, in both Hagen’s Watch, and later in Hagen’s Call, sings with the kind of firm, black tone simply not encountered today, a truly menacing figure. He is accompanied by Blech in Berlin. Back to London and another sterling artist, Maartje Offers, for Waltraute’s Narration. The Dutch contralto, who was Erda and Fricka during Toscanini’s regime at La Scala in the 1920s, sings with the expression kept within the musical bounds, a typical attribute of an age when the perfection of tonal delivery during the ‘Golden Age’ had not been forgotten but feeling had entered into singers’ consideration. After the scene with the vassals done in Berlin, back to London for Siegfried’s oath, Widdop clear but uninvolved. Austral as honest and womanly as ever. She is joined by an indifferent Collier and Fear for the second act’s final trio.

In Act 3 we encounter truly great Wagner singing. The Rhinemaidens (listed as Tilly de Garmo, Lydia Kindermann and Marker, but who are apparently de Garmo, Kindermann and Elfriede Marherr) are nothing special, but Laubenthal’s Siegfried, which I admired in Siegfried, is not far short of ideal in this scene, the Narration (reissued on LV 213) and Death. He can be most aptly and briefly characterized as being a Wagnerian Martinelli, with the same taut, pencil-edged tone, the same clear enunciation, and something of the same piercing intensity of declamation in his bright, incisive delivery of Siegfried’s previous exploits. This is also one of the most clearly balanced 78s I have ever heard. Blech is the conductor here up to the Funeral March, then back to Austral and Coates and his urgency for the Immolation (also on COLH 147), where I again admire Austral’s unaffected, unforced delivery - not an individual performance but a lovable one. 

Alan Blyth 

Opera on Record Vol. 1 (1979)

MusicWeb International Review

There are some singers here whose natural abilities still match or even transcend anything we can hear today

It may be perverse, but it makes some sense to deal in the first instance with the supplementary disc provided here containing the Appendices. Just over half of this disc consists of six excerpts from Siegfried featuring Rudolf Laubenthal, which were jettisoned from the original 78rpm boxes in favour of the tracks featuring Lauritz Melchior which were issued by Pristine as Volume 2 of their ‘potted Ring’. One can see the reasons for the substitution; Melchior was, as I have observed in my review of Volume 2, the most recommendable feature of the Siegfried recordings, and moreover the excerpts given there were much less truncated than those here. Nor is Laubenthal anything like as impressive as Melchior, sounding unpleasantly strained in the more strenuous passages of the role; and although Frida Leider is excellent as Brünnhilde in the extracts from the final love duet, the massive omissions from the score do much to vitiate the viability of what we are given here.

Nor does the singing on the first CD of Götterdämmerung do much to substantiate the often-trumpeted notion of the 1920s and 1930s as a ‘golden age’ of Wagnerian singing. The Prologue, briskly despatched by Coates, features a trio of Norns none of whom would pass muster today and in particular the pipingly small-voiced Noel Eadie who completely fails to engender any sense of drama as the scene moves towards its climax. When the lovers finally appear, Florence Austral and Walter Widdop seem to be flailing frantically to keep up with the headlong pace that is set for them by Albert Coates; and once the curtain has descended, he despatches the Rhine Journey at a speed that would give the Flying Dutchman pause for thought. Even Alan Blyth, normally an admirer of this conductor, describes his pace here as “ridiculously fast.” Nor, when we reach the Gibichung court, do things improve much, since neither Arthur Fear and Frederic Collier begin to come to terms with the dramatic element of their characters and it is left to Göta Ljungberg in her few phrases to supply an element of vocal distinction.

The record containing the oath of blood brotherhood did not form part of the original boxed set of 78s but was clearly intended to fill in a gap in the plot which would otherwise have existed, and here everything suddenly comes to life. Lauritz Melchior and Friedrich Schorr make an ideal coupling, and the excerpt here leads nicely into Hagen’s Watch which is given a performance by Ivan Andrésen which is quite simply superlative, encompassing the lowest notes with ease and producing tone and diction which are black as night. He is equally good in the high notes of his summoning of the vassals (slightly cut) where the chorus respond superbly to his call, although no attempt is made to comply with Wagner’s request for a smaller number of voices in the opening section. Before that, at the end of the first CD, we have heard a solidly contralto performance of Waltraute’s scene from Maartie Offers, although she displays distinct signs of uneasiness on her highest notes, some of which she truncates very abruptly. This excerpt goes on through the exchanges with Brünnhilde, only concluding on the entry of this disguised Siegfried. Albert Coates takes surprisingly slow tempos throughout this scene, except in the passage describing Wotan’s felling of the World Ash Tree which takes on a sudden spurt of energy which verges on the jaunty. One suspects that this, and perhaps other unexpectedly fast tempi, may have been conditioned by the need to fit the music onto one side of a 78rpm record.

Widdop and Austral are efficient rather than exciting in their taking of their conflicting oaths, and the trio which concludes the Second Act relies largely on Austral to generate much sense of drama although Collier and Fear are in better voice than before. The opening scene of Act One (complete with a niggling cut of some ten bars) suffers from a totally unengaged trio of Rhinemaidens. Their warning to Siegfried of the curse on the Ring is so dismally unthreatening that one can hardly blame the hero for ignoring them. Laubenthal is in better voice here than in Siegfried, with less purely heldentenor tones required for the delivery of his narration. Here we are given the interjections of the vassals with the solo voice that Wagner designates, but it sounds as though the lines are given to Desider Zador as Gunther – which can be the only explanation that the one tenor vassal’s lines are simply omitted. Alan Blyth describes this recording of the narration as “one of the most clearly balanced 78s I have ever heard” – and although Mark Obert-Thorn has done wonders with the sound throughout, it is true nonetheless that this section has a presence that one might well expect from a mono recording made more than twenty years later. Leo Blech is an excellent conductor in these sections, with a greater sense of moderation in speed than Coates. But then Coates also springs a surprise with a very measured account of the Funeral March, although an editing quirk introduces a couple of additional timpani beats just after the march begins (presumably the result of combining two different takes).

Florence Austral’s Immolation Scene suffers from a similar combination of material from two sessions, her voice sounding very much more distant at the beginning than at the end. There is also an inexcusable cut of some fifteen bars before the line “Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott!” which is all the more galling when one realises that this omission comes at the expense of the exchange between Brünnhilde and Gutrune which precedes the scene itself, and which is not helped by a very underpowered delivery by Ljungberg (or maybe she was just too far away from the microphones). We hear the voice of Hagen (uncredited) at the end, and I am pleased to note that he really sings his line “Give back the Ring” rather than shouting as so many modern exponents of the role do.

Coates thankfully avoids any sense of rush in the closing pages, but he does adopt the bad habit of making an unmarked ‘air pause’ before the last ten bars and the final chord is truncated rather abruptly. In the earlier part of the scene, despite the inferior recording, Lawrence Collingwood takes a properly measured and dignified approach.

Collingwood is also responsible for the delivery of the brief snippets of leitmotifs on the Appendix CD (which was originally issued on 78s separately). Each of these is preceded by an announcer giving a number, which refers the listener to the booklet where an explanation of each motif is given. This may have been valuable to audiences at the time, but it hardly comes up to the standards of Deryck Cooke’s marvellous exposition of Wagner’s compositional methods on his 2-CD lecture which originally accompanied Solti’s Ring (it remains available separately, as well as in the Decca luxury limited edition). The identification of the numbered motifs here also leaves much to be desired, with the principal love theme described as ‘Flight’ in accordance with Walzogen’s original error in his analysis published during Wagner’s lifetime and criticised by the composer for its inaccuracies. The two other tracks on the Appendix CD contain performances of the two orchestral sections of Götterdämmerung which were superseded in the 78rpm boxed sets; but they have a particular interest in that they are conducted by the veteran Wagnerian Karl Muck, whose association with Bayreuth extended back to the nineteenth century. Both extracts are truncated rather curiously, just coming to a halt before the music actually stops. In the main set the Funeral march is provided with a concert conclusion, but otherwise the excerpts stick to Wagner’s operatic score. There are some other points of historical interest, such as a bass trumpet which is clearly not the valved trombone that one finds used on other recordings of the period; and the cowhorns in the summoning of the vassals are simply trombones and not the specially constructed instruments that were at that stage still employed at Bayreuth.

I have had much pleasure in reviewing the seven CDs that Pristine have produced over the last year enshrining what has been described as the “Old Testament” of Wagnerian interpretation in the period immediately following the First World War. There are some singers here whose natural abilities still match or even transcend anything we can hear today; but it has to be said that the much-admired conducting of Albert Coates hardly bears scrutiny on the basis of these recordings, and the same could be said for a good deal of the singing in minor roles. Even as late as the 1950s live performances of The Ring show a propensity for performers to make mistakes which would hardly be tolerated today (see the Clemens Kraus Bayreuth Ring for an example, riddled with horrific errors of various sorts) but on these discs, without presumably much opportunity for retakes, the performers display a sense of security which is admirable. I note with some surprise the manner in which the singers slow down for cadences at the end of phrases to an extent which might occasion comment today, although Wagner does not always seem to expect them to do so; one wonders to what degree he accepted this in his own performances? Those who have an interest in such matters, as well as those who would like to encounter a sense of vocal history in the making, are earnestly recommended to hear these discs, with transfers which are unlikely ever to be bettered.
Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, July 2015