Author Topic: Which Furtwangler Ring?  (Read 7815 times)

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Wilhelm Richard

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Which Furtwangler Ring?
« on: October 03, 2008, 10:40:56 AM »
I see that the two Furtwangler Rings have been recommended in other discussions about Ring recordings, but I was wondering if members could provide some feedback on the two when compared only with each other (considering all aspects ---- singing, orchestra, sound quality, the whole nine yards).

W.R.

Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2008, 04:23:04 PM »
Well, this is the $64,000 question. Which Furtwängler Ring to buy. Each have their own special qualities though equally each have their own special afflictions.

As far as the Scala Ring, on the credit side there's Flagstad's acclaimed Brünnhilde, the superior Scala orchestra, and the 'live' experience.

On the debit side, there are two cuts (act II of Walküre and act III of Siegfried), Max Lorenz's Siegfried is nothing to write home about (though he appears only in Götterdämmerung), and the sound is truly awful.

As far as the RAI Ring, on the credit side there's the better sound (though "better" in a relative sense: relative to the Scala sound) which allows a better view of the inner workings of the music, a very good Brünnhilde in Mödl, and a cast that overall is excellent.

On the debit side, it's a radio performance performed one act at a time over the course of several weeks (with no audience) which means those requiring a running narrative (staged) might be let down, the RAI orchestra is inferior to the Scala orchestra, and some folks really miss Flagstad.

For myself I've owned both and I'm not sure there's really a clear choice due to all the variables. Personally I enjoyed the RAI version better for the improved sound.

(Though, if I may, I wouldn't recommend either of these Rings as someone's first Ring. There's just too much musical information missing because of the very dated, inferior sound).



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

Offline PSmith08

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2008, 06:18:06 PM »
Don's pretty much right. Neither Furtwängler Ring emerges as a clear winner, though both have their benefits. If you want to hear Flagstad and Furtwängler in the Immolation Scene, then you're better off getting the EMI Extracts from the operas[sic] set. The sound is pretty good and the Philharmonia isn't bad.

If you want a complete Ring, go with Knappertsbusch's 1956 Bayreuth recording, on Orfeo. His view is cosmic and grand in a way that's not dissimilar to Furtwängler's. His cast is better - except, maybe, for Flagstad - and his band is better. You're not going to see a one-to-one equivalency, but if you don't want to decide between Furtwängler's two, go for Knappertsbusch '56.

Offline val

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2008, 12:06:23 AM »
The sound is bad, but I prefer the 1950 version in the Scala. Because of Furtwängler's enthusiasm and the presence of Flagstad and Max Lorenz, the best Brünnhilde and Siegfried I ever heard.

PerfectWagnerite

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2008, 02:40:01 PM »
The sound is bad, but I prefer the 1950 version in the Scala. Because of Furtwängler's enthusiasm and the presence of Flagstad and Max Lorenz, the best Brünnhilde and Siegfried I ever heard.
The sound is not bad, it is atrocious. I have the new Gebhardt remastering(?) and still it is pretty much unlistenable. A broadcast in AM over a 50 year old transistor radio would sound better. It is so amazingly bad sonically that if you go back about 15 years and listen to Reiner's recording of Tristan with Flagstad the Reiner almost sounds hifi.

The RAI RIng sounds much better, but that is all relative. On the other hand, the RAI orchestra is much much inferior to the La Scala band although the La Scala would never remind you of any of the great German/Austrian ensembles.

In any case I think either one is for historic interest only.

Offline marvinbrown

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2008, 06:36:28 AM »
I see that the two Furtwangler Rings have been recommended in other discussions about Ring recordings, but I was wondering if members could provide some feedback on the two when compared only with each other (considering all aspects ---- singing, orchestra, sound quality, the whole nine yards).

W.R.

  Hi W.R,
 
  I've been staring, reading and rereading the posts on this thread for quite some time now.  At first I did not want to write in, I think my fellow Wagnerian friends and colleagues (PerfectWagnerite, Val, PSmith08 and donwyn) have more than adequately responded to your query.  Yet I felt I just had to write something about my own experiences with the RAI Ring which I used to own for many years.  Now don't get me wrong I adore Furtwangler as a Wagnerian conductor. His Tristan und Isolde on EMI Great Recordings Of The Century is to die for, but that RAI recording of the Ring was quite possibly the worst purchase I had ever made.  The poor sound quality, and worst yet the dreadful orchestra (what an awful brass section- it completely ruined Siegfried for me) made the whole experience rather unpleasant.  I found myself avoiding it altogether over the years until I finally donated it to the local library and bought the Solti Ring to replace it.

  The Ring is quite possibly the most ambitious artistic musical work ever conceived.  It's length is staggering, 14+ hours. To have to sit through 14+ hours of Wagner's masterpiece with bad sound and a less than ideal orchestra is to do oneself a disservice.  This is one work that really needs a good recording, excellent sound and a cast of singers.  I would seriously invest in the Solti Ring, that's what I did and have never regretted giving away my Furtwangler RAI Ring.

  marvin
« Last Edit: October 06, 2008, 06:39:40 AM by marvinbrown »

Offline Roberto

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2015, 06:55:12 AM »
I bought Furtwängler Scala Ring from SWF months ago and finally I listened to it last month.
I have listened to the youtube uploads on headphones before I ordered it (just for background music) and I thought it is quite acceptable. But SWF release is even more better. I think they made miracle. (I listened to it on my home stereo at my listening room.)

The sound is acceptable mono with much background noise but actually I like dramatic stage noises because they add live experience for me. (For example Hunding's drop when Wotan said him go to Fricka)
The balance between orchestra and singers is almost ideal for me since I prefer natural balance. Yes, there are parts where the orchestra make singers almost unaudible but it doesn't annoy me. Singers are almost never harsh and dynamics is quite good. I've never noticed bigger distortion at louder passages.
There are pros and cons for singers too but in this respect there is no perfect Ring cycle.

The main flaws are the drop-outs, audience coughing and the two which are mostly annoy me: audience starts to clap before the very end of the Götterdämmerung and Walküre. It destructs the experience for me at that point. (And there are the two cuts what I miss.)
The orchestra is not first rate but they are capable to capture Furtwänlger's intentions and they brings us the essential drama.

All in all I think it was great experience and I will listen to it again and again. The remastering makes this artistic document enjoyable.

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Which Furtwangler Ring?
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2015, 02:46:28 PM »
The sound is bad, but I prefer the 1950 version in the Scala. Because of Furtwängler's enthusiasm and the presence of Flagstad and Max Lorenz, the best Brünnhilde and Siegfried I ever heard.
Agree about Flagstad, the ultimate Brunnhilde.  But I preferred Set Svanholm to Lorenz as Siegfried in that cycle. 8)
Imagination + discipline = creativity