The Ride of the Valkyries, by Richard Wagner, in a classic recording with Wilhelm Furtwangler and the Vienna Philharmonic. Illustrations are by Arthur Rackham.
“One golden summer in adolescence…I heard the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ on a gramophone and saw Arthur Rackham’s illustrations to The Ring.” (C.S.Lewis)
The music: probably the most famous and instantly identifiable of Wagner’s works is this short orchestral prelude from Die Walkure, the second opera in the monumental Der Ring des Nibelungen. It has gone on to enter popular culture, being used in many films, most notably the helicopter attack sequence in Apocalypse Now. In terms of composition it perfectly demonstrates Wagner’s epic sense of drama, and also his masterful orchestration.
The conductor: Wilhelm Furtwangler is probably unrivalled as an interpreter of the core Austro-German Romantic repertoire, setting benchmarks in the performance of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner and others. His recordings include two complete Ring Cycles, both of them classics.
The illustrations: Arthur Rackham was one of the greatest illustrators at the turn of the 19th century, creating classic visions for fairy tales and fantasies (Alice, Peter Pan, etc.).
His work on Der Ring des Nibelungen is often considered one of the finest visual depictions of Wagner’s epic.
Sound: sorry the quality isn’t first class – the recording is nearly sixty years old! (Imagine what Furtwangler could do with digital surround sound…)
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