When this recording of Act I of Wagner's Die Walküre with Bruno Walter leading the Wiener Philharmoniker and Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, and Emanuel List was released in 1936, it had no recorded competition -- none whatsoever. Back in those halcyon days of 78s, there was no such thing as a complete Walküre much less a complete Ring; indeed, there was no such thing as a complete recording of any Wagner opera at all. It's true that Karl Muck had recorded Act I of Parsifal in 1928 as part of a projected complete recording, but then the world economy crashed and that ended that. This June 1935 recording was supposed to have been the start of the first complete Walküre, but Germany annexed Austria and the Jewish Walter departed and that was that. All that remains of what might have been is this Act I plus the two scenes from Act 2 recorded at the same time by the same team.
As Bach would say, it is enough. Walter, the heir of Mahler and the whole hyper-expressive late Romantic school of Wagner conducting, leads a performance of unwavering dramatic intensity, pulling glorious sounds from the orchestra while supporting stupendous singing from the soloists, but best of all balancing voices and the instruments so that together they become more than the sum of their parts. At the time, Lehmann was acknowledged to be the most affecting Sieglinda, Melchior was acknowledged to be the most heroic Siegmund and List was known to be no slouch as Hunding, either. While no one who loves great art should be without a complete Walküre, this Act I is a special case and no one who loves the work should be without it. EMI's 2006 remastering of the 78 originals is by far the best it has had, much clearer than the previous CD edition and much, much cleaner than all but the earliest LP editions.