I propose only to discuss recordings which are available as "stand alone" sets, as opposed to only available as part of a complete ring set. Obviously the Keilberth Testament 1955 recording (the first one with Varnay) is "hors concours!.It is essential for all lovers of this work.
There are are 2 other monumental achievements beside the Keilberth-Solti and Levine.
I find too much wrong with the Barenboim set-Brinkmann is a wobbly unfocussed Gunther, Kang sings well enough as Hagen but puts NO interpretation into the part whatsoever-and Barenboim's interpretation is not to my taste.
Alongside these recommended Titans now stands this recording, for which no praise is too high. Here in Nottingham we have the Halle as a resident orchestra, so i know their excellence well-here they surpass anything I have heard in playing. It is stunning-rich, beautiful rounded brass, resplendent strings, plangent woodwind-it's just great!Plenty of them too! The Halle has to stand comparison with the greatest orchestras in this work, Vienna, Berlin (Karajan), Dresden (Janowski),
BRSO (Haitink) and the Bayreuth Festival many times over-the Halle is NOT found wanting!
I have heard Elder conduct Wagner in the Opera House-Lohengrin and Parifal-but here, he has added a new dimension to his interpretational depths.He paces and balances every scene, every passage to perfection. Dramatic, stately, powerful, emotional,moving, thrilling-add any superlative you like!! The cast and singing are utterly superb-Katarina Dalayman who was a mezzo a few years ago steps up to this role fearlessly-and again, superlatives are hard to limit. This is a live recording, so she is not always absolutely pitch perfect-but who cares? She has the most "beautiful " voice recorded in this role since Flagstad!
You'll be swept along by her, and Cleveman is scarcely less effective as Siegfied, reminding me of a young Svanholm rather than a more open toned Jerusalem or Heppner-but this is no bad thing. If I say that he rivals Windgassen at his best, then praise could scarcely be higher!
Jun is a fine Hagen, a tad more "Italianate" than say Frick or Salminen, nearer to Geindl at his best-and that is very good indeed. The only sour-ish note that I would enter is Andrew Shore as Alberich-not that he does not sing or interpret well, he does all of that-but it is strange to me that he is currently "the Alberich of choice" as he is a LIGHT baritone, not a Bass (though he is described as one). On the recent Thieleman Ring, he was indistinguishable from Mime in his scenes with him, especially in Siegfried.
Here, he is contrasted with the true Bass of Jun, so it is more acceptable and there is, to be fair , more weight to his tone-but still, it is baffling to me! You may not have the same reservations, and let's be clear-he sings the role VERY well.
Nothing else is a let-down in this recording-Norns, Rhinemaidens, Waltraute (SUPERB!) Gunther-and the recorded sound itself is just superb! As it is a live concert performance recording, there are occasions when the balance sounds very different from studio or theatre recordings-and there are odd problems, such as Hagen getting swamped by the maelstrom that Elder whips up at "Not is da" when Hagen summons the vassals-but these are all minor and are offset by an amount of detail I have seldom if ever heard. GREAT Steerhorns, by the way.
This set is a true bargain, especially at the amazon price. It joins the top recommendations at ANY price-indeed , I am moved to write that it is THE set of this work in the Digital era. Earlier recordings still hold their greatness, but I recommend this set to ALL lovers of Wagner and this work, and if you are new to it (lucky you!), you can do no better than this set. If you intend to buy only ONE set of this work, this set is a major contender and I recommend it on all counts.
What pleasure it has given me!!! No need to bother about the impending release of Thieleman's Gotterdammerung as a separate set (no matter how good Konig is as Hagen)-this is in a different league. 10 !Stars Stewart Crowe