WAGNER: Die Walküre
Stuart Skelton (Siegmund); Deborah Riedel (Sieglinde); Richard Green (Hunding); John Bröcheler (Wotan); Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde); Elizabeth Campbell (Fricka); Elizabeth Stannard (Gerhilde); Lisa Harper-Brown (Ortlinde); Liane Keegan (Waltraute); Zan McKendree-Wright (Schwertleite); Kate Ladner (Helmwige); Gaye MacFarlane (Siegrune); Jennifer Barnes (Grimgerde); Donna-Maree Dunlop (Rossweise); Adelaide Symphony Orch/Asher Fisch, cond.
MELBA SACD MR 301091-94 (4 disks) TT: 63:17 / 49:10 / 42:12 / 68:47

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93.
Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra-Sopot/Wojciech Rajski, cond.
TACET SACD S 149 TT: 63:01

LÜBECK: Praeludium in C. Praeludium in G minor. Praeambulum in F. Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich. Praeambulum in E. Praeludiium in D minor. Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herren. Praeambulum in C minor. Praeambulum in G. Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. In dulci jubilio.
Friedhelm Flamme, organist
cpo SACD 777 198 TT: 67:03

The Adelaide Festival featured the State Opera of South Australia in 2004 performing Wagner's Ring cycle. This overall presentation is considered to be the largest single recording project ever undertaken in Australia made possible by a $5 million grant to the Melba Foundation which produced it. From the Festival we have Die Walküre in a splendid performance. The 27 featured singers are predominately Australian and are uniformly strong. Stuart Skelton is outstanding as Siegmund (major opera houses should investigate him!), Deborah Reidel's Sieglinde is assured, and John Bröcheler repeats his sensitive Wotan/Wanderer (which can be seen in the Netherlands Opera DVD production—see REVIEW). Linda Gasteen may not be the most assured Brünnhilde around today but she is adequate.The augmented Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Asher Fisch sounds like a major orchestra and he obviously knows his Wagner. Of course on a sound recording we don't have to be concerned with visual aspects of the production. Nothing is said in the handsome accompanying booklet about sets, costumes and direction, although a quote from a review refers to, "Elke Neidhardt's world-class, contemporary-dressed production," ending "with gushing fire and pouring water and Erda planting a tree for the future....."

For audiophiles, this set is of enormous interest. Produced by Maria Vandamme and Ian Perry, Phil Rowlands was sound engineer in charge of SACD surround sound mix and mastering. Rowland is probably the finest master of his craft around today. He has received many major awards for his recordings including the stunning Naxos CD of Stokowski Mussorgsky transcriptions (see REVIEW). Performers are in front with an admirable sense of space and presence and no lack of orchestral detail or impact. Those who love Die Walküre surely should investigate this first-class enterprising magnificently recorded performance, an appropriate contemporary supplement to historic older recordings of the work Wagner's masterpiece. The remainder of the Adelaide Ring will be issued before the end of 2007. I look forward to them.

Another knock-out audio experience is Tacet's remarkable surround sound issue of Beethoven's Symphonies 7 and 8 with Wojciech Rajski conducting the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra-Sopot. These dynamic performances are recorded with imaginative use of surround sound. The listener isn't in front of the orchestra, he is inside it. The acoustic is reverberant but highly detailed and one is immersed in the performance. Totally enjoyable, and a treat for surround sound buffs.

Most listeners probably have never heard of German composer Vincent Lübeck (1654-1740) who was a leading organist of his era. Thanks to cpo we now have not only his complete known works for organ, but two short works probably written by his son, whose name also was Vincent. The featured work is the 13-minute chorale fantasia Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ. Friedhelm Flamme, who has recorded the complete organ works of Duruflé for the same label, here plays the Christoph-Treutmann Organ in Stiftskirche St. Georg, Stuttgart. The instrument has been beautifully recorded by producer Gregor van den Boom.

R.E.B. (August 2006)