COATES, BLECH Wagner: The Potted Ring, Vol. 1 (1926-32) - PACO107

COATES, BLECH Wagner: The Potted Ring, Vol. 1 (1926-32) - PACO107

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Overview

WAGNER The Potted Ring - Volume One

Das Rheingold
Die Walküre
Studio recordings, 1926-32
Total duration: 2hr 33:07

Frida Leider ∙ Friedrich Schorr ∙ Emmi Leisner
Florence Austral ∙ Walter Widdop ∙ Göta Ljungberg
Albert Coates ∙ Leo Blech, conductors


HMV's Potted Ring, Volume 1: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre

"This is a set no enquiring Wagnerian, whatever complete version of The Ring he or she owns, should be without" - Gramophone


The present release is the first of three which will bring together the 122 78 rpm sides of extended excerpts from Wagner’s tetralogy which His Master’s Voice recorded in London, Berlin and Vienna between 1926 and 1932. The scope of this project centers around the Ring albums – not every disc of music from the Ring which HMV issued during this period. It is, however, “more than complete” in that two HMV recordings which were not part of the Ring albums, but which feature some of the same performers, have been added: Coates’ Rhinegold Prelude, and Schorr’s Wotan/Fricka duet with Leisner from Act 2 of Die Walküre. The present volume gathers together excerpts from Das Rheingold and Die Walküre; the second will focus on Melchior’s Siegfried recordings; and the final one will feature scenes from Götterdämmerung, as well as an appendix featuring alternate recordings from the series and an outline of motives from the Ring cycle.

While Rheingold got rather short shrift in HMVs plans (only two discs in an album otherwise devoted to Siegfried excerpts), more attention was paid to Die Walküre. The sessions were split between a Berlin cast centering around the Brunnhilde of Frida Leider and the Wotan of Friedrich Schorr, conducted by Leo Blech, and a London cast with Walter Widdop as Siegmund and Florence Austral singing Brunnhilde, primarily led by Albert Coates. Göta Ljungberg appeared as Sieglinde in both, save for a single London side. The Act 1 excerpts were all made in London, while Act 3 was done in Berlin and the second act split between the two.

The recordings capture Leider and Schorr, both considered the finest exponents of their roles at the time (and certainly among the finest of all time), at the height of their powers. A decade later, when Kirsten Flagstad came on the international scene, she was invariably compared to Leider, and not always to the latter’s detriment. And while later singers could bring more psychological complexity to Wotan (Hans Hotter, for example), few could match the combination of legato and authoritative declamation that Schorr brings to the role.

The original recording quality is variable, coming as it does within a couple years of the introduction of electrical recording. The London sessions were distantly miked in large halls, and the singers are often overwhelmed by Coates’ surging orchestra. Some of the Berlin sides can also sound rather dim, depending on the engineering of a particular session. Multiple copies of the finest pressings on which these discs were available (prewar American Victor “Z” and “Gold” label editions) were drawn upon for the present transfers, except for one Rheingold disc which only came out on HMV.   


Mark Obert-Thorn



  • CD 1 (76:13)

    WAGNER 
    Das Rheingold WWV 86A

    1. Prelude (4:01)
    Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

    Recorded 2 February 1926, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 142-1 ∙ HMV D 1088 

    2. Spottet nur zu! (4:44)
    Louise Trenton, sop.; Elsie Suddaby, sop.; Nellie Walker, con.; Arthur Fear, bs. 

    3. Wotan, Gemahl (4:46)
    Nellie Walker, con.; Walter Widdop, ten.; Kennedy MacKenna, ten.; Howard Fry, bar.; Arthur Fear, bs.

    London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates
    Recorded 5 January 1928, Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: CR 1540-3/1541-2B ∙ HMV D 1546

    4. Zur Burg führt die Brücke … Abendlich strahlt (8:32)
    Friedrich Schorr, bar.; Waldemar Henke, ten.; Genia Guszalewicz, con.

    Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

    Recorded 17 June 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CDR 4700-2/4701-3 ∙ HMV D 1319

       

    WAGNER Die Walküre WWV 86B

    Act 1

    5. Prelude . . . Wes Herd dies auch sei (4:03)
    Recorded 26 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1485-1A ∙ HMV D 1320

    6. Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater (4:26)
    Recorded 23 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1467-1A ∙ HMV D 1320

    7. Schläfst du, Gast? (0:45)
    8. Der Männer Sippe (3:51)
    Recorded 27 May 1927, Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1367-1A ∙ HMV D 1321

     9. Dich, selige Frau (1:05)
    10. Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond (2:46)
    Recorded 23 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1465-2 ∙ HMV D 1321

    London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

     

    11. Du bist der Lenz (7:51)
    Recorded 16 August 1926, London ∙ Matrices: CR 611-2A/613-1 ∙ HMV D 1322

    Orchestra ∙ Lawrance Collingwood

     

    12. Siegmund heiß ich (3:12)
    Recorded 23 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1466-2A ∙ HMV D 1323

    London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates 

    Walter Widdop, ten.; Göta Ljungberg, sop.

     

    Act 2

    13. Prelude . . . Nun zäume dein Roß . . . Hojotoho! (4:14)
    Recorded 12 September 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1116-2 ∙ HMV D 1323

    Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

     

    14. Der alte Sturm, die alte Müh! (4:38)
    15. So ist es den aus mit den ewigen Göttern (8:06)
    16. Was verlangst du? (4:51)
    Recorded April, 1932, Abbey Road Studio 1, London ∙ Matrices: 2B2840-2/2841-1/2842-2/2843-1 ∙ HMV DB 1720/21

    London Symphony Orchestra ∙ John Barbirolli

     

    17. O heilige Schmach! (4:20)
    Recorded 12 September 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1117-2 ∙ HMV D 1324

    Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

    Frida Leider, sop.; Emmi Leisner, m-s.; Friedrich Schorr, bar.


 


 


  • CD 2 (76:58)

    Die Walküre

    Act 2 (continued)

    1. So nimm meinen Segen (4:13)
    Recorded 12 September 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1118-1 ∙ HMV D 1324

    Frida Leider, sop.; Friedrich Schorr, bar.

    Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech

     

    2. Raste nun hier (3:01)
    3. Hinweg! Hinweg! (5:53)
    Recorded 27 May 1927, Kingsway Hall, London ∙ Matrices: CR 1368-2/1369-1 ∙ HMV D 1325

     

    4. Siegmund! Sieh auf mich! (4:53)
    Recorded 23 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1462-1 ∙ HMV D 1326

     

    5. Fänd’ich in Walhall (4:21)
    6. So jung und schön (3:29)
    Recorded 26 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrices: CR 1483-1A/1484-1A ∙ HMV D 1326/27

     

    7. Zauberfest bezähmt ein Schlaf (4:38)
    Recorded 25 October 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1463-3 ∙ HMV D 1328

     

    8. Wehwalt! Wehwalt! (2:31)
    9. Geh hin, Knecht! (1:46)
    Recorded 23 August 1927, Queen’s Hall, London ∙ Matrix: CR 1464-1A ∙ HMV D 1328

     

    Walter Widdop, ten.; Göta Ljungberg, sop.; Florence Austral, sop.; Louise Trenton, sop.; Howard Fry, bar.

    (Note: Trenton sings Sieglinde on CR 1463 only, while Fry sings both Hunding and Wotan on CR 1464)

    London Symphony Orchestra ∙ Albert Coates

     

    Act 3

    10. Prelude . . . Hojotoho! (6:55)
    Recorded October, 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CwR 1163-6/1164-2 ∙ HMV 1329 

    11. Rette mich, Kühne! (3:45)
    Recorded 1 November 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1188-2 ∙ HMV 1327

    12. Wo ist Brünnhild’ (8:46)
    Recorded October, 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CwR 1161-2/1162-1 ∙ HMV 1330

    13. War es so schmählich (3:31)
    Recorded 1 November 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1190-5 ∙ HMV 1331

    14. Du zeugtest ein edles Geschlecht (3:46)
    Recorded 29 September 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrix: CwR 1189-3 ∙ HMV 1331

    15. Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind! (3:59)
    16. Der Augen leuchtendes Paar (6:35)
    17. Loge, hör! (4:54)
    Recorded 17 June 1927, Singakademie, Berlin ∙ Matrices: CDR 4695-1/4696-2/4697-1/4698-1 ∙ HMV D 1332/33

    Frida Leider, sop.; Friedrich Schorr, bar.; Göta Ljungberg, sop.; (Valkyries: Ljungberg; Elfriede Marherr; Genia Guszalewicz; Alberti; Lydia Kindermann)

    Berlin State Opera Orchestra ∙ Leo Blech


Fanfare Review

For anyone who knows and loves this music, what we have here is an invaluable experience


A standard Fanfare headnote would be nonsensical for this release; it would have to come with a Captain Marvel De-Coding Ring (yes, the “Ring” pun was intended, and no, I’m not sorry). Instead, I will list the contents here in a format that should be simpler. I will use last names only, and abbreviations that should be obvious to Wagnerians, which is the presumed audience for this set. (B St Op = Berlin State Opera Orch). I am also condensing the complete listing of singers, which is not included in a booklet but available easily online from Pristine.


Opera & Excerpt Singer(s) Conductor Orch
Das Rheingold:
Prelude
Coates Unident.
Spottet nur zu! Trenton; Suddaby; Walker; Fear Coates LSO.
Wotan, Gemahl Widdop; Walker; MacKenna; Fry Coates LSO
Zur Burg führt die Brücke Schorr; Henke; Guszalewicz Blech B St Op
Die Walküre:
Prelude….Wes Herd Widdop; Ljungberg Coates LSO
Finale of act I Widdop; Ljungberg Coates LSO
Prelude, act II Blech B St Op
Hojotoho! Leider Blech B St Op
Act II Excerpts Leider, Schorr, Leisner Barbirolli LSO
O heilige Schmach! Leider, Schorr Blech B St Op.
So nimm meinen Segen Leider; Schorr Blech B St Op.
Raste non hier….Hinweg!...Siegmund! Sie auf mich.!...Fänd ich in Walhall; So jung und schön; Zauberfest bezähmt ein Schlaf….Wehwalt!...Geh’ hin.

Widdop; Ljungberg; Austral; Trenton Coates LSO
Act III Excerpts Leider; Schorr Blech B St Op.


At the dawn of electrical recording, from 1926 through 1932, HMV recorded a series of albums featuring excerpts from Wagner’s Ring cycle, which came to be called The Potted Ring. HMV focused on Frida Leider and Friedrich Schorr as the greatest Brünnhilde and Wotan of that era, and of course Melchior as well. But because the recordings were made in different places with different orchestras and conductors, the casts were not kept consistent either. So we hear a good deal of Walter Widdop’s fine Siegmund; given the wide exposure of Melchior in that music it is refreshing to rediscover just how good Widdop was. Listening to this set one is reminded again of the importance of Frida Leider—who sings the music with tonal beauty and an enormous sense of authority and power—and of Friedrich Schorr, a baritone whose legato was as even and firmly bound as the greatest bel canto singers such as Battistini, but who also brought Wotan to life through his vivid articulation of texts and specificity of inflection. Every inner feeling of Wotan is expressed vocally in the Farewell, which is as heartbreaking here as I have ever encountered it. (Blech’s conducting is a big part of that too). Having so much of their singing in one well-transferred set is of enormous importance.


These were landmark recordings, preserving for future generations the finest Wagner singing of the day (and some very fine Wagnerian conducting as well). It was beyond either the ability or imagination of recording company executives at that time to conceive of a truly complete Ring; that had to wait for John Culshaw and Decca to produce the Solti cycle. It makes me feel very old to remember, from having been there, the historic nature of that first Ring and to know that Arkivmusic lists 53 cycles now!


So, what we have here is no substitute for a complete Ring, nor is it a substitute for some of the live complete Wagner recordings from this era restored by the Immortal Performances label. However, one should not minimize the value of this set, which Pristine says is the first of three sets which will bring together all 122 78-rpm sides from HMV’s Potted Ring series! What HMV’s recordings give us is a series of professionally made studio recordings, rather than haphazardly made live broadcasts from this era. The control that the engineers had guaranteed a certain minimum standard of balances and overall sound quality that cannot be found in the broadcasts, though it must be admitted that HMV’s engineers were not driven by a consistent philosophy or approach. Thus the quality here varies, and Mark Obert-Thorn, who oversaw the superb transfers, has some helpful observations about that.


There was a prior CD release of these recordings on the Pearl label, also overseen by Obert-Thorn, and they were wonderful for their time (1995). However, technology and the estimable Mr. Obert-Thorn have both made gains in the 20 years since then, and these are significantly more vivid and colorful than the Pearl set. (Another prior release, on the Claremont label, provided first-rate booklet notes but even muddier recorded sound.)


The downside of these recordings is obvious: the lack of continuity, the incompleteness, the jumping around in casting and conductors. All of those are limitations. But for anyone who knows and loves this music, what we have here is an invaluable experience. This is how the music sounded in the golden era of great Wagnerian singing, largely between the two world wars. Some of these singers have been perhaps equaled but never surpassed (Leider, Schorr), and some have not even been equaled (Melchior). As good as the work that Obert-Thorn did for the Pearl set was, this is definitely at a significantly higher level. The degree of color and the vividness of the orchestra and the voices in, for example, the scene with all the Valkyries in the third act, before the big Brünnhilde-Wotan scene, is stunning for a recording that dates from 1927.


I do wish that Pristine would make the details available in a booklet. Yes one can easily find it on its web site (which provides specific instructions), but unless you are a whiz with printers, you wind up with something that doesn’t fit in the box and takes up too much room on your shelves. If Pristine offered a version of the CDs with a real booklet for an extra $2.00, I know I would happily pay it. Do not, however, let that stand in your way. This is a Wagnerian feast of the highest order.


Henry Fogel
This article originally appeared in Issue 38:3 (Jan/Feb 2015) of Fanfare Magazine.