Astrid Varnay sings Wagner
Astrid Varnay
Deutsche Grammophon
Catalogue No.

Astrid Varnay (1918–2006) was born in Sweden of Hungarian heritage and raised in America. She went on to become one of the most sought-after dramatic sopranos of the 20th century and one of the best-known Wagnerian heroic sopranos of her generation. Her voice was often praised for its seemingly limitless upper register. On this generously filled 2CD set (each disc clocks in at more than 80 minutes), we get extensive excerpts from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (with the reigning Heldentenor of the time, Wolfgang Windgassen), scenes from three of the ‘Ring’ operas and the ‘Wesendonck Lieder’. All were much praised when they first appeared on LP in the 1950s and then again as part of Deutsche Grammophon’s ‘Original Masters’ tribute to this great singer.


Die Walküre: Siegmund! Sieh’ auf mich!
Siegfried: Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht!
Götterdämmerung: Zu neuen Taten, teurer Helde
Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort
Tristan und Isolde:
Weh, ach wehe! Dies zu dulden
Isolde! – Tristan! – Geliebte(r)!
Mild und leise wie er lächelt

Wesendonck Lieder

Astrid Varnay,
Ferdinand Leitner
Leopold Ludwig
Hermann Weigert

Recording information

Recording Producers: Heinz Reinicke (Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isolde Act I, Wesendonck Lieder); Karl-Heinz Schneider (Tristan und Isolde Acts II and III)
Balance Engineers: Harald Baudis (Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung Prologue, Wesendonck Lieder); Heinrich Keilholz (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung Act III, Tristan und Isolde)
Recording Locations: Herkulessaal, Residenz, Munich, Germany, 2–4 June 1954 (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung Act III, Tristan und Isolde Act I), 5–9 September 1955 (Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung Prologue, Wesendonck Lieder); Kulturraum, Bamberg, Germany, 14–16 April 1959 (Tristan und Isolde Acts II and III)


‘Ils nous montrent, intacte, une voix aux dimensions du cosmos, capable d’embrasser (et d’embraser) une écriture vocale en forme de maelström, ne sacrifiant jamais le chant à la puissance du mot ’ Emmanuel Dupuy, Diapason

‘Astrid Varnay s’y montre à son sommet: vaillante, ardente, sculpturale … la projection des mots est saisissante.’ Le Monde de la Musique

‘Ici, non seulement le timbre, le legato sont royaux, l’incarnation plus d’une fois anthologique, mais pratiquement aucun des défauts ultérieurs (aigus difficiles, vibrato élargi, émission par à-coups) ne sont perceptibles. L’excellente prise de son (là encore mono pour l’essentiel), la qualité des partenaires et, à un moindre niveau, des directions, permettent de surcroît de jouir de son art immense dans d’excellentes conditions.’ Répertoire

‘On four incredibly busy, surely taxing, days in June 49 years ago, Astrid Varnay recorded an appreciable tranche of her repertory, largely in the company of her husband, Hermann Weigert, as conductor. For the first time all these recordings are assembled in a single issue, along with others made later in the 1950s . . . Varnay enthusiasts will be delighted to have everything here.’ Gramophone

‘[On] DG’s Astrid Varnay set of three CDs of her commercial Wagner recordings made in her prime (early 1950s) … the sound is as excellent as one would expect, so one can appreciate her voice in minute detail, relishing her every commanding interpretative decision.’ Opera Now

‘These performances, recorded between 1955 and 1959, remind us no less strongly that she [Astrid Varnay] was one of the most remarkable Wagnerian singers of that time. […] Varnay is best in the rapt, inner intensity of No. 3 [of the Wesendonck Lieder], “Im Treibhaus”. Such inner intensity is also abundant in the long extract from Act 2 of Tristan. […] it is Varnay’s grandly-phrased account of the closing scene from ‘Götterdammerung’ that wins this disc the strongest recommendation.’ Gramophone

‘This has always been one of DGG’s most impressive Wagner recordings with a sumptuousness of sound that was unrivalled before the arrival of stereo. Astrid Varnay has some swoopy moments, but generally she sings with a glowing beauty, and Windgassen at his finest shows that few Heldentenoren have approached him in recent years for beauty of tone and musicianship.’ Penguin Guide