29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2009
I was at Bayreuth for this production of the Ring and was, like virtually all of the audience, transfixed by Thielemann's extraordinary grasp of the entire score and the orchestra's quite stunning realisation of Thielemann's vision. At the end of the Cycle, it was the orchestra that received the greatest ovation - and justifiably so. It was, therefore, with keen anticipation that I sat down to play this set. Orchestrally, I was not disappointed, not at all, in fact: the playing and Thielemann are as fine as I recall and probably the finest on record. Every dramatic turn is delivered with appropriate weight; pacing is near ideal throughout; sonically the recording has the depth and richness I recall from the performances - and is less 'engineered' than the Barenboim Cycle. If I could, I would give orchestra and conductor at least six stars.
But the cast is just too variable for this set to be singled out as 'the' Ring for all time. Rather as in his 'Tristan' recording, Thielemann's cast is the weak link: of those who are good, Mime, Hagen, Sieglinde, Fricka, Loge, and Gutrune stand out; of those who are acceptable, Wotan, Waltaute, most of the Rhinemaidens and Norns, and Hunding qualify. Which leaves some pretty important problem areas: Gould's Siegfried is a 'nice bloke', perfectly harmless, not remotely heroic, and often struggling to be heard. Linda Watson's Brunnhilde is just terrible - and she didn't seem so on stage - the vibrato is painful and consistently pumped out well beyond the listener's pain threshold, and utterly relentless. And she screams, just to give us an extra dose of pleasure all round. On top of which, she sounds strangely old-fashioned and 'wobbly' in the more sotto voce sections.
In sum, no Ring recording can have real lasting merit if the three principal actors, Wotan, Brunnhilde and Siegfried all fall below acceptable standards; if Alberich and Siegmund don't deliver the goods either, then there are real problems. That is, unfortunately, the case here. So, why even give the recording four stars? The answer is that when Brunnhilde isn't singing, the rest of the cast is just tolerable at worst and at times very good: but always the music is more consistently epic and overwhelming than I have ever heard it before - either on record or on stage.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2010
I hesitate to disagree with the other reviewers of this set. I do not find any of the performers "unlistenable to" nor do I find any of the singers inadequate. I do not expect any recording to be anything more than a record of what was expressed at a particular time. There is no such thing in my view as a definitive recording. One can try can compare this with previous recordings but that is likely to involve some highly subjective views which as readers of reviews we are unable to interrogate. I will simply say that, as other reviewers found, the sound is extremely beautiful, the detail in playing exceptional (lots of things I had not heard before - many notes given their correct value for the first time). If you have other sets of the ring this will be a performance whose insights and range will sit worthily alongside them. If this is your first ring then you will not be disappointed nor will you be misled or given a false idea of this great music drama. It is perhaps a set for playing straight through rather than choosing favourite passages as Thielemann seems to think about long term structure rather than making it a series of strung together highlights.
I listen to the rings of the 40 and 50s with a sense of what I missed and I thrill at the voices of Frida Leider, Melchior et al. but there were many singers singing this music at that time and there were other approaches to singing Wagner (Traubel Leider Flagstad surely dont interpret the music in the same way, nor do they sound the same). My listening tells me that current singers and conductors have just as many interesting things to say about this music as ever they did in the past. It is a testament to the depth and richness of the music that there can be so many different approaches. Rather than bemoan the inadequacies of modern singers ( a trope itself as other reviewers have acknowledged) let us celebrate the achievement of this set. In my view Thielemann and his cast presents this very human work in a powerful and illuminating way.
I think that the price may put people off and if you are thinking of buying a ring for the first time you might want to consider the fine recordings conducted by Hartmut Haenchen which are available separately.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2009
Reviewing a ring cycle is always a slightly comical task because they're such immense undertakings and, forsooth, it takes a long time to soak up and analyse the great expanses - longer than almost any reviewer actually spends before reviewing; this is especially the case with new recordings.
I have several cycles, I have two Levines, which are saggy but pretty, a Boulez, a Barenboim, a Keilberth, and this. I've also heard many others.
So I'll give a basic impression for all the kids to read and take in their stride.
The first thing which struck me about this Thielemann cycle, which is recorded live (with an audience, unlike Barenboim's), was "jeez, the singing's pretty awful". I went to the old tester spots: Alberich burgles the Rhine, Donner's hammer, the flamin' rock, Siegfried meets a bird, Brünnhilde deals some scorn on the boys, and the nuclear strike at the end. The most positive thing was the conducting, which seemed to be a beautiful mix of Bayreuth bombastics and HvK's beautiful sound.
Having listened to the set much more over the past few weeks I've come to think this: The singers are generally weak and ugly (voice-wise), but they sing very beautifully in a dramatic and textual sense. I'm sure Thielemann is aware that he ain't got Hotter, Nilsson, or any other of the 1950s prime singers, but it seems that the people he HAS got have been well clued up in how to sing the Ring with gusto and meaning, despite their physical limitations. Once you get used to the different sound this cast makes as a whole, you stop hearing its shortcomings. You then begin to hear the beautiful flow of dramatic story telling and musical development which unravels over the four `evenings'.
Thielemann's conducting now sounds to me not just apt and comfortable (Barenboim's ring sounds a little pretentious to me, like a mocked-up `Furtwängler meets vintage Bayreuth Toot `n' Clash'), but also ingeniously paced and expressed (on a larger scale, rather than from second-to-second).
This is, probably at least for now, how Wagner is going to sound in Bayreuth -- not bad, just pragmatically interpreted.
Once you get used to it, this is a brilliant ring cycle, exquisitely conducted and with a high dramatic element in place of substantial voicing. I already place it alongside my Keilberth (with its screwy Rheingold) as my reference ring. I don't listen to the others much anymore; this one in effect replaces Barenboim's (being digital), which always seemed to me a little contrived and unnatural in terms of conducting - it seemed purposefully `correct'.
I think this cycle will, in the long term, grow in popularity, but it may be badly reviewed in the press. Buy it if you have the guts.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
June 2010.I first posted this review in Nov 2009, but having lived with this set now for some months, and a lot more reviews and comments having appeared, I felt I had to update it. As a regular opera-goer, Wagner lover and owner of (I think!) all the current commercial Ring recordings, I looked forward to receiving this from amazon with relish. I am in the excellent company of Richard Strauss, Furtwangler, Karajan, Solti et al. in preferring a "proscenium" balance and sound to the drier, more recessed orchestral sound of Bayreuth-heresy perhaps-and categorise Bayreuth recordings separately-but here this set must stand comparison with "all comers". On this recording, the orchestral playing is excellent, the recording balance is less opulent than the last Bayreuth Ring, the Barenboim on Teldec, but very fine and perhaps more realistic of what the Bayreuth balance is like. I am not an unalloyed Theielemann admirer-I dislike more of his recordings than I like-but his reading of the Ring is absolutely superb-almost revelatory.It is a real joy to hear his interpretation-he has changed the orchestral place setting, with for example, timps now very forward and this really works.Interpretatively, this set is a total joy!Now we come to the singing-in Nov 09 I described it as for the most part veering from the barely acceptable to atrocious!
My view has now deepened, especially since hearing such great Wagner singing on the Blu-ray set of La Fura dels Baus which I bought on amazon. On this set, Mehta is as ever no better than reliable, but the singing is a revelation, with the exception of Seiffert as Siegmund, who is sadly past his best on this evidence.
The incomparable Testament reissues of the 1955 Keilberth Ring capture the voices perfectly, and the singing and interpretation on those 1955 recordings is simply wonderful, with few exceptions ( Loge, Siegmund being two less succesful ones).Matched by Keilberth's magnificent conducting, that set does this one no favours!
Do not be swayed by the allowances made in other reviews-this Ring starts off with wobbly Rhinemaidens, a lightweight barking Alberich with none of the menace and legato of the great Alberichs-Neidlinger, Kelemen, - and I shudder to describe what follows throughout this and subsequent works , so I shan't go into much detail.Simon Gould ends phrases with a bark too often, and has run out of what voice he had by Gotterdammerung-the "Zu Neuen taten" in Act 1 makes me cower! The basses are excellent-Youn is always magnificent, and Konig actually matches Salminen , Frick and Greindl in the ranks of truly great Wagner basses. He is almost worth the price of this set alone!
The main remaining parts range from reliable, adequate then distressingly poor to awful!!!
I decline to comment on the Brunnhilde except to say that Linda Watson's singing is for the most execrable!!!!
The sorry state of affairs is that this is apparently the best that Thielemann and Bayreuth could produce in the way of singing-I've heard better in London, and Vienna especially (although the dreadful Gould struggles there too with Siegfried!)so it doesn't say much for Bayreuth! Lance Ryan from The Fura set has now been engaged by Bayreuth-they should follow up with Uusitala (on a par with Hotter-yes, that good!) and Jennifer Wilson (a revelation as Brunnhilde. The Thielemann recording has been taken from actual live performances rather then the last Bayreuth ring recordings which have been recorded during filming sessions with no audience.
This should actually lead to BETTER results-but alas no. This recording can only be recommended to those who really want to have Thielemann's reading or a live modern Bayreuth Ring recording no matter what the drawbacks. Do not be misled by other reviewers-there is much for the ardent Wagner lover to enjoy-but more that is likely to make them cringe! The orchestral playing and conducting are the best feature of this Ring-and that surely won't be enough for most buyers especially at the now inflated price! Almost any other set is a better recommendation.Shame! STEWART CROWE
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
Any version of the Ring will have pros and cons. You only have to ask the question - Who is the best Doctor Who? and you will be bombarded with credible reasons for each. For alot of people, there first experience of a piece will be their particular one!
For me you cannot beat Janet Baker in Mahler's Kindentotenlieder or Solti's epic Mahler Symphony Cycle with the Chigaco Orchestra. Or ... you get the point!!
Instead of people just slamming a recording, shouldn't we treat it as part of the learning curve in our listening journey?! Take from it what we want and discard what we don't! There is no bad recording of any work. especially as majotr as the Ring Cycle!! Record producers do not sit in a room and go "Yeah, that'll do!" or " It's OK if you ignore Gotterdammerung!"
GET REAL PEOPLE
There are recordings we like and those we don't - it is SURELY a matter of taste!
And the best Ring Cycle - is the one in your head!!
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 5 July 2013
I should have known better. The UK tax dodgers have made a mess of encoding these mp3s, and of labeling them too. Even if you resolve the mp3s to PCM files and then edit out the digital silence from the beginning and end (no, it should not be there but it is) the results still do not play seamlessly. Some of the audio simply has not been encoded, just dumped.
So, how does one get a refund from amazon.co,uk for faulty mp3s which are not fit for purpose?
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
Missing at least this one and no warning anywhere on the Amazon mp3 pages:
(Disc1) Das Rheingold Track 9. Das Rheingold : Scene 2: Nur Wonne schafft dir, was mich erschreckt? (Fricka, Wotan)#
Tried downloading from the cloud but it makes the downloader crash.
I haven't gone through the whole lot yet, there may be others. Canot find a link to report the problem. It looks like mp3 downloads are a lottery, nowhere to go for help if something goes wrong with the purchase or downloads
Besides, the files are poor quality, the sound is completely flat and the volume much too low for Wagner. Even for a live recording one would expect better. The problem is the actual mp3, not the original recording.
Very disappointing, I wish I had downloaded this from somewhere else.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 July 2013
My knowledge of Wagner's Ring Cycle has, up until now has been limited to well known excerpts. This recording gives me the chance to hear all of it, I believe. What I have heard so far is well performed and recorded to a high standard. I am looking forward to hearing the rest. Thinks! Perhaps I should learn German.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2013
This recent Bayreuth Ring sounds wonderful and has some great singing and conducting. The current price for the mp3 version is outstanding and makes the purchase a non-brainer. As a more expensive disk set I'm not sure if this would be my first choice, given the stiff competition on the "Ring market".
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2010
The Thielemann Ring cycle was greeted with modified rapture, the main reservations being about the singing. I am sure like many other Wagnerians I hesitated - 14 CDs is quite a big layout for a duff set, even though I had been to a Strauss concert conducted by Thielemann and had been very impressed. However, Wagnerians must take risks and I would like to reassure potential waverers not to be put off. Nothing can replace the classics sets ( among which the Moralt set which used to be available at a ridiculously cheap price and is of a live performance in post-war Veinna with Furtwangler in the audience ,must be included. That has the classic effortless Wagner style - with the artists able to project the words semi-conversationally yet with intensity and musicality. That is so rare that one cannot expect it to be recreated. What you get here is a mixture of weight of tone, rhythmic precision and convincving tempi from the orchestra and a really fine recording which allows the climaxes to expand. The singing is vibrant and rises to the occasion - from some of the reviews it seems that it will be dull or squawky - but that is just not the case - it is characterful and one is aware of the drama throughout. Wagnerians, please don't put off from having the intense experience that awaits. The five starsa are not for vocal perfection or evenness - but for the authentic Wagner sound and experience ( an additional consideration is that by looking around the price is about Naxos level!)