Author Topic: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...  (Read 148844 times)

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canninator

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Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« on: September 24, 2007, 02:37:41 AM »
I'm not new to Wagner but I've never bought a Ring CD. I have mostly spent my time on Tristan and Lohengrin. I've decided to take the financial plunge and splash out on a Ring cycle. Unless I am struck like Saul on the road to Damascus I imagine that I will only ever buy one Ring cycle. The question is, which...

The new Testament Bayreuth 1955 cycle. Seems to have the advantage of the frission of live performance but may be lacking in sound quality compared to others. Also has the advantage of a consistent cast.

The famous Solti set seems to have been a labour of love but has a varying cast and of course drama can be lacking in a studio performance.

I have heard good things about the Boehm recording but the absence of a libretto in the box set is a major turnoff.

So if I have to buy just one, which should I go for. Have I missed what you view as the "definitive" Ring. I am veering toward the Keilberth set but would love to hear the view of the Wagnerites out their. Did a search but didn't see this subject leap out at me.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2010, 12:27:39 PM by knight »

Offline marvinbrown

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2007, 02:54:30 AM »
I'm not new to Wagner but I've never bought a Ring CD. I have mostly spent my time on Tristan and Lohengrin. I've decided to take the financial plunge and splash out on a Ring cycle. Unless I am struck like Saul on the road to Damascus I imagine that I will only ever buy one Ring cycle. The question is, which...

The new Testament Bayreuth 1955 cycle. Seems to have the advantage of the frission of live performance but may be lacking in sound quality compared to others. Also has the advantage of a consistent cast.

The famous Solti set seems to have been a labour of love but has a varying cast and of course drama can be lacking in a studio performance.

I have heard good things about the Boehm recording but the absence of a libretto in the box set is a major turnoff.

So if I have to buy just one, which should I go for. Have I missed what you view as the "definitive" Ring. I am veering toward the Keilberth set but would love to hear the view of the Wagnerites out their. Did a search but didn't see this subject leap out at me.

  In my very humble opinion, and seeing that you want to buy only one Ring Cycle I would invest in the SOLTI Ring.  As far as I am concerned the Solti Ring  is the Ring Cycle to have if you only want one recording.  The sound is exceptionally good, the cast is as "ideal" as you are ever going to get and the shear power of that recording is mindblowing. Trust me, this set does NOT lack drama!!

  That said, Sarge is the authority on  Wagner's Masterpiece so he should be able to guide you better.  But as far as I am concerned the SOLTI RING is as good as it gets!!!

  marvin
« Last Edit: September 24, 2007, 03:07:23 AM by marvinbrown »

Hector

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2007, 05:16:38 AM »
Testament.

The recording quality, in comparison with today, is irrelevant in the face of such incandescent performances, and I'm no Wagnerite!

However, at a tenner a disc it might be best to 'suck it and see' first.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2007, 05:23:47 AM »
The famous Solti set seems to have been a labour of love but has a varying cast and of course drama can be lacking in a studio performance.

A "varying cast"? WTF?

longears

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2007, 05:29:12 AM »
Can--I'm certainly no expert on Ring cycles and I don't idolize Wagner.  One you might not have considered is the only one I've actually enjoyed (including Solti, Böhm, and Boulez) is Janowski with the Staatskappelle Dresden.  It's lucid, well-recorded, and above all...musical!

Offline marvinbrown

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2007, 05:39:50 AM »
Testament.


However, at a tenner a disc it might be best to 'suck it and see' first.

  Yeah that set is RIDICULOUSLY expensive, what gives  ??? ?

  marvin

canninator

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2007, 05:46:19 AM »
A "varying cast"? WTF?

Yes, the same role can be performed by different individuals in different operas. This is because of the extended time period over which this project was completed, hence "varying cast". This might be a problem for some individuals because a change in performer in a given role may affect the overall homogeneity of the cycle.

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2007, 05:58:22 AM »
Yes, the same role can be performed by different individuals in different operas. This is because of the extended time period over which this project was completed, hence "varying cast". This might be a problem for some individuals because a change in performer in a given role may affect the overall homogeneity of the cycle.

So George London is Wotan in Rheingold and Hans Hotter is Wotan in the next two. Not important. What is important is that no set is as consistently good in terms of conducting, casting, orchestral playing, and sound. I have five complete Rings and a number of other discs with various excerpts. The Solti is the one I'd keep if I could only have one. You can supplement it with other discs later, such as the incomparable Lehmann-Melchior-Walther Act One of Walkuere, or the fascinating "Potted Ring" on Pearl.

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2007, 06:04:46 AM »
To my mind, either Joseph Keilberth's 1955 set or Hans Knappertsbusch's 1956 set (in its Orfeo incarnation) stands at the top of the heap. Keilberth has stereo sound, which - while not modern digital - is serviceable. Keilberth, too, has a more energetic and driving approach. Knappertsbusch, marginally slower (15h11m24s vs. 14h03m07s) than Keilberth, has a more monumental and epic approach - with largely the same cast. Of the "Golden Age" sets, these two are really the major entries from Bayreuth. Solti needs no introduction, but I personally find Hotter to be a bit past his prime for the recordings. He can be heard in better - read, glorious - voice for Keilberth and Knappertsbusch. Solti's 1983 Bayreuth performances, available from "informal" sources, are - for me - the best Solti outing, even if the casts aren't as titanic as they were in Vienna. Von Karajan's set is fine for what it is, but it is not a first or even second choice set. Böhm and Boulez are both acquired tastes. They have roughly identical timings, with Böhm edging out Boulez in, I want to say, three of the four evenings. If you like speed in Wagner, then toss a coin. I find the Boulez recording a little distant, but such things are trivial concerns. Janowski is a contender, but his cast doesn't always satisfy me (Altmeyer, in particular). Levine is too slow. That's a difficult concept in Wagner, but Levine manages to find it (at 15h20m43s). Haitink has his moments, with Tomlinson's nasty and bleak Hagen in Götterdämmerung, but I wouldn't go out of my way to get the whole set.

At the end of it, I would say that Daniel Barenboim's Bayreuth set is the best of all worlds. Reasonable timings, a solid orchestral concept, and a cast ranging from good to wonderful (Tomlinson's Wotan/Wanderer). Throw into the bargain the Festspielhaus acoustic and modern digital sound, and you have a winner. So, you need two sets:

1. Keilberth '55 or Knappertsbusch '56 or Solti, and
2. Barenboim.

canninator

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2007, 06:37:54 AM »
So George London is Wotan in Rheingold and Hans Hotter is Wotan in the next two. Not important.

I knew about Wotan but I was under the impression that a couple of others also changed (but couldn't be any more specific). I presume, therefore, I was under a false impression?

Larry Rinkel

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2007, 06:44:33 AM »
I knew about Wotan but I was under the impression that a couple of others also changed (but couldn't be any more specific). I presume, therefore, I was under a false impression?

Flagstad does Fricka in the Rheingold, and Christa Ludwig in the Walkuere. Can't think of others offhand. Alberich is Neidlinger throughout, Stolze is Mime, Siegfried is Windgassen, Bruennhilde is Nilsson. Who else is there of importance? OK, the Rhinemaidens probably change from Rheingold to G-D. None of this bothers me.

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2007, 07:07:50 AM »
Flagstad does Fricka in the Rheingold, and Christa Ludwig in the Walkuere. Can't think of others offhand. Alberich is Neidlinger throughout, Stolze is Mime, Siegfried is Windgassen, Bruennhilde is Nilsson. Who else is there of importance? OK, the Rhinemaidens probably change from Rheingold to G-D. None of this bothers me.

Yeah, the Rheinmaidens change, as do the Waltraute (that's pretty much standard practice), Erda, and Mime (Stolze is only in Siegfried.  It's Paul Kuen in Rheingold).  And, of course, Wotan and Fricka.  But it doesn't bother me either. 
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Offline MishaK

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2007, 08:38:22 AM »
Yeah, the Rheinmaidens change, as do the Waltraute (that's pretty much standard practice), Erda, and Mime (Stolze is only in Siegfried.  It's Paul Kuen in Rheingold).  And, of course, Wotan and Fricka.  But it doesn't bother me either. 

Yes, none of that is really relevant when the entire cast is stellar to the point that even such a small role as the Waldvogel is sung by none less than Joan Sutherland.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2007, 09:19:22 AM »
  Yeah that set is RIDICULOUSLY expensive, what gives  ??? ?

  marvin

Any less and the label wouldn't be able to stay afloat to produce CDs, I guess. They make very little profit. The effort in licencing and restoring I imagine was considerable...

I sure won't buy anything that expensive, but some will, so the system works :)
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2007, 09:30:57 AM »
Well, this question comes up often.

And once again I can't help rec'ing my old standby: Sawallisch (EMI).

This despite owning (at one time or another) the likes of Krauss and both Furtwänglers among complete Rings.

Not to mention bits from: Böhm, Levine, Barenboim, Knappertsbusch, Dohnanyi, Solti, Haitink, and even a wartime Twilight from (IIRC) Karl Elmendorff. (I spell all this out merely to provide a backdrop).

What Sawallisch's performance has that hits home with me is its crackling electricity, perfectly abetted by a winning sense of proportion. The music is driven but not through histrionics and such. Pacing and commitment are key and every nuance makes its mark.

Singing is first rate with Behrens lacking the heft of a Nilsson or Varnay (who I never cared for anyway) but singing her heart out as if she were a goddess in torment. Utterly believable.

As far as sonics, the recording is so good it's hard to believe it's live! Ringing and clear and perfectly balanced up and down the range with plenty of weight. The envy of even studio productions.

No libretto, alas, which is common with budget Rings. But a libretto might be had via secondary sources.


Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

canninator

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2007, 11:35:05 PM »
Thanks to all for the recommendations. On balance it seems as though the Solti/Decca set is a good place to start. My reason for getting (or anticipating getting) only one cycle is partly financial but also due to the sheer size of the thing. At 14 CDs (or thereabouts depending on the recording) it will take me a long time to get to know just a single cycle before I even thought about a second.

uffeviking

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #16 on: September 25, 2007, 01:06:02 AM »
There is no such thing as One Ring to rule them all... and there never will be. Productions change, directors change, singers change and so on. Thank god the music world, especially the world of opera, is in a constant flux. I hope there never will be one Ring to rule them all, how boring!  :D

Offline marvinbrown

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #17 on: September 25, 2007, 05:18:18 AM »
Thanks to all for the recommendations. On balance it seems as though the Solti/Decca set is a good place to start. My reason for getting (or anticipating getting) only one cycle is partly financial but also due to the sheer size of the thing. At 14 CDs (or thereabouts depending on the recording) it will take me a long time to get to know just a single cycle before I even thought about a second.

  Canninator, I am glad to hear that you decided to get the Solti Ring, an invaluable recording for any Wagner collection.  That said and as Lis points out, in time you'll want to explore other recordings as Wagner's masterpiece lends itself to various interpretations:  I have Solti's, Furtwangler's RAI (its an old recording) and of course the Levine MET DVD but I always go back to Solti- that recording is a tremendous achievement in studio recording.

  marvin

uffeviking

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #18 on: September 25, 2007, 09:52:38 AM »
So help me Hannah, I'll never comprehend the fascination and high rating of the Solti Ring.

This is a studio recording! Does everybody know what actually happens in that studio? Engineers manipulate levers and buttons to correct volume, tempi and anything else they judge to be 'wrong'. Then after each take the singer, conductor and anybody else interested, listen to the take. The soprano is not happy with that note she sang and asks for a retake. And on and on it goes. This performance comes out of scientists laboratory, not even close to a life performance on stage with life audience. And this research project is supposed to rule them all? Gimme a break!  ::)

Offline Shrunk

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Re: Wagner One Ring to rule them all...
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2007, 11:58:10 AM »
Is anyone familiar with this 1953 Bayreuth recording by Clemens Krauss:



It has a strong cast (Windgassen, Hotter, Varnay, Fischer-Dieskau), stellar reviews, a nice box, and comes a a bargain price.  But I've never heard of it.