13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The Ring is too great a work for there to be a best recording of it, or any one of the operas that comprise it. Suffice it to say, this is a great recording; the listener will learn and enjoy a lot from it. Most notable is the conducting of Von Karajan who has been intensely criticized for his lyrical or chamber music or small scale account of the music. What this means, as far as I can tell, is that in addition to placing rightful attention to the drama of the Rheingold (the lust for power, the corruption of love by the lust for power, the need for power as a defense against fear), he constantly puts forward usually unheard beauties in the score and his singers sing much more in a bel canto style than is usual in Wagner (notable examples include the singing of both giants in scene II and Alberich in his great set of scenes with Wotan and Loge. The cast, in general, is superb. Especially noteable are Martti Talvela and Karl Ridderbusch as the giants, Zoltan Keleman as a lyric Alberich approached only by Neidlinger and Franz Anderson, and Gerhart Stolze as Loge. But everyone is good. The weakest link is Fischer-Dieskau as Wotan, which saddens me since he is one of my favorite singers. His voice is just too small and too light especially for the part and he strains at times. Being the great singer he is, of course, much of his reading is still beautiful and revealing. But in terms of pure rightness of sound, Thomas Stewart, who sang the other two Wotans in the Von Karajan Ring, would have been preferable. But this is a beautiful performance bringing to light many felicities of the score less noticed in other great recordings. One of the felicities is the bel canto singing noted above. Another is the fact that the sheer beauty of the singing (and very much of the conducting as well) makes the conflict between characters more striking. If the giants sing beautifully,for example, we view them more sympathically than if they sing brutally and the drama is enhanced if all the characters have the legitimacy of their interests and point of view fairly presented. The sound is good.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
My daily commute to and from work is about 40 min, so it is ideal for listening to operas. As such, I base my criticism of recordings based on whether it holds my attending during these commutes. To date, I have the following Ring sets: Solti, Bohm, Boulez, Janowski, and now Karajan. Of these, I like best Karajan and Bohm due to their pacing of allowing the music to flow. Solti and Janowski are close seconds due to their historical significance; Solti's the first recorded Ring Cycle, and Janowski's the first digital Ring. I could pass on Boulez. Yet to come... Levine.
Many say, "if you were to own just one Ring Cycle", so for what it's worth, pick either Karajan or Bohm for great singers and great conducting. Of note: the Karajan cycle can be found as a complete set or as individual operas recordings (Rheingold, Walkure, Sigfried, Gotterdamerung). I purchased them individually, which turned out to cost less than the set.
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have been listening to Wagner's 10 masterpieces for almost 45 years. I own close to 400 recordings of these monuments to the highest human creative urge. Every time I listen to Das Rheingold I think that THIS is Wagner's towering masterpiece of perfect genius. It is an awesome composition, for many reasons which I won't go in to now. It is also his subtlest opera and requires one to LISTEN to the text and surrender to the fantastic vision being placed before the listener.
Herbert von Karajan is a long-time favorite of mine, but NOT in Wagner, except sometimes, as with his Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde. What puts him out of the top drawer in my book is his quirky casting and utter control-freakiness that undermines the flow of the music.
And the casting here is all over the place. There are several GREAT singing performances in this Rheingold.
The giants have rarely been equaled let alone surpassed. Martti Talvela is IT as Fasolt. His broken heart very visible in his voice at the end just before the gold is stacked in front of Freia and his brother, Fafner, kills him for it. Fafner is darkly and characterfully sung by Karl Ridderbusch. There are no better giant brothers on disc. One or the other of them is usually a notch or two below the other, but not here. They are magnificent singers in these roles and keep this recording from sinking into oblivion in the memory banks.
The other very fine singing and interpretation comes from one of the great Alberichs, Zoltán Kélémann.
His voice was very beautiful but he could rough it up when necessary and achieve the malevolence of Gustav Neidlinger or Ekkehard Wlaschiha (the two best in my book). Josephine Veasey is a glamorous and attractive Fricka. When she sings her few lines the mood of the thing becomes theatrical after periods of artfulness and a sort of Disney-esque atmosphere.
Oralia Dominguez is an interesting Erda, which is saying something in a role that usually passes with a yawn unless it is bellowed out by some stentorian amazon, like the great Jean Madeira for Solti. Dominguez had a beautiful voice with a fine top register in which she could sing pianissimo without sounding like the effort was going to collapse the roof. She is not too lost in the echo chamber (I wish they wouldn't DO that to Erda) but Karajan gets slower and slower and the momentum is lost as she sinks, literally, into the ground. But her scene is one of the better ones, after the giants and Alberich's.
There are two glaring errors in casting however that are almost fatal to this recording. The first is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's completely ineffective and boring Wotan. He always sang beautifully, which may be part of the problem here, never making an ugly sound, always so tasteful. Yawn. Our current version of DFD is Thomas Hampson, who is also NOT a Wagnerian but has recorded a couple of the baritone roles, Amfortas (Parsifal) and Gunther (Götterdämmerung), both Fischer-Dieskau roles as well. Hampson will hopefully NEVER attempt to sing Wotan! Fischer-Dieskau should not have either. A major vacuum in the middle of this recording.
And Gerhard Stolze's obnoxious Loge. It is heart-breaking to think that Fritz Wunderlich died suddenly a year prior to this recording. Surely he would have been Karajan's choice as Loge. Alas. Stolze is Mime in grand drag. Simone Mangelsdorff's Freia is a shrew with a narrow Eastern European soprano voice. She may have been East German and trained by the Soviets, it sounds like it. Awful.
Robert Kerns is a pleasant Donner, but Donner is not supposed to be primarily pleasant. Under-powered is putting it politely. Same thing with Donald Grobe's Froh.
Rhine Maidens are good. Helen Donath's Woglinde is lovely, and Edda Moser's Wellgunde subtle and fine tuned. It is Anna Reynold's rather hard and aggressive mezzo Floßhilde that wrecks the mood of these watery seductions of Alberich.
Karajan brings out odd highlighting in the orchestration and accentuates too boldly in places; i.e. the timpani are too prominent in the giants' entrance. And he does some odd add-ons in the score. The anvil banging in the entrance and exit scenes from Nibelheim are 'enhanced' by what sounds to me like a tom-tom, putting me in mind of a Cherokee pre-war camp meeting than a dwarves mining camp. And in the Erda scene there are sounds like what I can best describe as dinosaur farts. I am a trained musician and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what the orchestration is. Perhaps an over-accentuated muted French horn and a nasal tuba in unison. I've never heard anything like it before in this opera. But it's things like that that make Karajan interesting. You just never know. Sometimes his innovations work. These don't.
One bit that almost never works is the shrieking Nibelheim minions. More often than not they sound like The Belles of St Trinian's fleeing from an imminent explosion in the science laboratory. Karajan's sound like electronically reproduced Borgs, identical in sound in both the entrance and exit. But this over-produced aspect is typical of this recording. Very fake for the most part. The sense of a live theater never happens.
If you are looking for a singleton Rheingold, not connected to an entire cycle (which doesn't make sense but each to his own taste), I cannot recommend Karajan's. Solti's yes, but you will want that entire Ring!
The bottom line is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's feeble Wotan rules this Das Rheingold out of the running.