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Customer Review

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Achievement-a MUST for Wagner Lovers!, 19 July 2010
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This review is from: Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung (Audio CD)
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
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Showing 1-10 of 25 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Jul 2010 12:18:28 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Commenting on my own review, I would just add that for a variety of reasons, if forced to have only one set of this work, it would be the Solti for me. I am not in general a Solti admirer, but his Ring really works for me. Having said that, they would have to prise this set from my hands and I'd put up a good fight!!
Oh, and one last thing-PLEASE let us have the rest of the Ring with the same forces!!!!
Stewart Crowe

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jul 2010 15:34:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jul 2010 16:09:31 BDT
Hello, Stewart Crowe. The rest of this 'Ring'? I hardly think that's possible, since the Halle 'Gotterdammerung' was a one-off instalment performed in concert on two separate evenings, but (who knows?) the same team might collaborate on the other parts of the cycle. Anyway, I thought that there were moments which misfired (eg the Siegfried-Brunnhilde confrontation wasn't as explosive as I'd expected it to be): sometimes I felt that something went wrong in the orchestra, other times the singing wasn't absolutely stunning (the absence of stage effects is another drawback: a couple of dramatic interjections would have helped). It's difficult when listening to a new performance (especially of a favourite work) not to recall interpretations that you've heard before and admired. But I guess we had to be 'there' in order to appreciate this performance fully: it must have sounded and looked different over 'there'. Having just listened to Goodall's version of the ending of Acts 1 and 2, I have no doubt that Elder was a great admirer of Goodall (did they meet?): the passages in question conducted by them are so similar in their tempi that you can hardly tell which recording is conducted by whom. I have no objection to slow tempi, which can be eye-openers to buried treasures that most conductors don't allow to surface, but on certain occasions (eg the final bars of Acts 1 and 2 of this opera) concluding climaxes fail to rise to the occasion: Kna, Karajan and Levine, though famous for their slow tempi, avoided stretching the bars that end razor-sharp climaxes (such as Act 1 of 'Walkure'), while other conductors tend to elongate them as if they (conductors such as Goodall and Elder) wished they (the concluding bars) were longer. In addition to Dalayman, I'm impressed by Cleveman's Siegfried, far superior to that of Treleaven's dire assumption of the role in Barcelona and London; having seen clips of his ROH Gunther on Youtube, I think that Coleman-Wright in Manchester is better than in London. Bickley's superb Waltraute has now convinced me that Handel singers CAN handle Wagner fearlessly.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jul 2010 11:25:07 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2010 14:27:39 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Filippo-once again we are discussing great-and otherwise- Wagner recordings and performances. Thanks for your most intersting comments. Firstly, Elder was actually Goodall's protege in London in the early 70's as a very young musician, and has obviously absorbed some of his mentor's approach to Wagner conducting. Having said this , I saw Goodall's ring in London over the years of its creation-I was actually at the performance of Valkyrie when Norman Bailey was indisposed and David Ward stepped in as a last minute replacement and sang the role-magnificently-in German! Goodall was not THAT slow in those earlier years-listen to his ROH Parsifal on BBC discs (with Vickers)-at times he is a positive speed merchant. By the time the cycle was recorded, he'd slowed down a lot and much of that recording does not work for me-the musical argument disintegrates.
Elder in the theatre is not noticeably a slow Wagnerian on the other hand-this is his most measured reading. What Goodall DID have that Elder has in spades-is "the right sound". The rich dark sound that the great Wagner conductors can elicit from their orchestras, and that is what we get here. I personally am not troubled by Elder's tempi in this recording-of course, we all find passages where we think, "that's not how it should isound!", or" Solti does that better" whatever performance we listen to-in creating a review I try to minimise my own subjective preferences and consider a wider view. You are of course right-there are orchestral slips, not always together etc., but that occurs on the Karajan, Solti etc and these are revealed in Digital Re-Masterings-it doesn't bother me much if at all. As a side comment, Karajan was not in fact in the "slow lane" of Wagnerians overall-Solti, in the 60's when his Ring was recorded, was slower-especially in this work! Solti seems faster because of the dynamism and emphasis on each and every note, but certainly in Europe, he was more measured than HvK. His Chicago Wagner is unlistenable for me.
The combination of great sound, a fine and detailed reading, massed ranks of chorus, and the best Wagner singing on CD for 20 or 30 years at a bargain price makes this such a strong recommendation.
Some moans-Siegfried's Death and Funeral March are split in a stupid place over 2 CD's which is INFURIATING!
John Treleaven-he looks llke a retired Bank Manager and sings like one. I don't wish to be unkind, but he is appalling! Why the ROH engaged him is beyond me-even Christian Franz or Simon Gould would have been better, and there are now a whole raft of genuine heldentenors who would grace any performance-Lance Ryan and Clevemann for 2, and Christopher Ventris is about to assume the role next season.
Treleaven was just recently involved in a furore when he walked out of a new LA ring stating that the sets were too dangerous-LA had a lucky escape if you ask me-in a city not known for its opera loving public, you don't want to put them off! Incidentally, I'm not a fan of Pappano's Ring conducting either-I'll get hate mail now for sure.
Sadly, it seems we are unlikely to get a great Siegfried from Heppner, whose health issues and vocal problems seem to have overwhelmed him. He was the original scheduled Tenor for this event, but as so often recently had to withdraw late on in the day. There is a live Act 3 Siegfried love duet with Voigt (before she lost weight and voice) live with Munich PO conducted by Levine on OEHMS-a tantalising snippet of what might have been.
Thank goodness we have his incomparable Gurrelieder from the same source, same forces which is the best available!
Finally, I had hoped that Sir Mark would do the whole cycle over a number of staged events like this-I KNOW he wants to do the Ring, but cannot abide modern theatre prductions (has he seen La Fura? he might think differently). I'll ask him at the next Q&A pre-concert talk in Sept! We can hope-meanwhile, let's continue to enjoy this magnificent set. Best Regards-thanks again, I really enjoy these open forums. Stewart Crowe

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jul 2010 15:49:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 May 2011 17:25:34 BDT
Dag Kyndel says:
It could be of interest to know that Miss Dalayman for the moment sings Elektra at the Savonlinna Festival and in Stockholm.
Lars Cleveman will sing Tannhäuser in Bayreuth 2011.

Posted on 3 Nov 2010 20:42:37 GMT
Stephen Kass says:
Hello D.S. Crowe, could you please check if Cd 5 plays on your Cd player. It doesn´t on mine, On Amazon.com a number of listeners have submitted comments to say that the set has a manufacturers error. I have alread contacted the seller and they will take my set back and issue a refund. Before ordering it again I would like to know if all sets have this problem.
Thanks, Stephen Kass

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Nov 2010 09:31:28 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Stephen. I bought this set from amazon as soon as it was released, so mine will be a "first batch pressing". CD5 Certainly plays on my all my players, so no fault there. It's a shame that the Funeral Music was split, starting on CD 4 then stopping inopportunely. Obviously you won't have heard its conclusion or Dalayman's superb "Starke Scheite.." and the colossal climax yet.
I'm sorry to hear of your problem-it seems that I had a lucky escape. Hope this helps and I sincerely hope that you get a replacement ASAP. Best Regards, Stewart (DSC).

Posted on 6 Nov 2010 22:51:02 GMT
rjmcr says:
The Halle and Elder are doing Die Walkure over two days next July as part of the Manchester International Festival and it will be recorded for commercial release (details and cast are on the Halle website). I'm pretty sure John Summers (the Halle's Chief Exec) went on to say that the intention was to record a complete cycle, but I may have imagined that in the moment of delirious joy which followed the first announcement! This team has certainly given themselves a tough act to follow with this recording. A truly incredible achievement, especially considering the state this orchestra was in a decade or so ago.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 12:10:16 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Dear rjmcr-this news came as a mixed blessing-hurrah! the cycle continues, but shame it is Walkure not Siegfried-but I understand the commercial imperative as this is certainly the most popular segment of the Ring (despite the potential longeurs of Act 2) and was bolstered by the prospect of a whole cycle eventually. I took your advice and checked out the Halle website-then my heart sank.
Stig Andersen as Siegmund-not my idea of great casting, but worse-Susan Bullock as Brunnhlde-check out her Salome in English under Mackerras-I'm afraid I think she is awful, Jane Eaglen mark 2-wobbly legato, uneven top notes. This is a crushing disappointment after the truly superb Dalayman and excellent Cleveman. Dalayman is now Rattle's Brunnhilde replacing the equally squally Eva Johannsen-give me Sir Mark any day! Don't know the Wotan, but he may well be excellent-I didn't know Uusitala and he is the Wotan of your dreams. The rest of the cast has a number of veterans about whom there might be some concerns also. What a pity. Your comments about the Halle in the last 10 years are a complete understatement-they were an AWFUL band under Nagano who did not seem interested in them at all, especially disappointing after the good work of Skrowaczewski in his all too brief tenure. Sir Mark has worked nothing short of a miracle-and in the face of opposition from the BBC Phil stealing their thunder!
What an exalted musician he is-his Prokofiev 5 which I heard in Nottingham last month was electrifying, and the playing as ever, World Class. Sorry this posting is otherwise a dampener-Best Regards, Stewart Crowe

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 13:33:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2010 16:56:45 GMT
Stewart, I'm glad I'm not the only one who was awaiting 'Siegfried' (or 'Rheingold') next: the reasons for the age-old popularity of 'Walkure' are still a mystery to me (my favourite 'Ring' opera has always been 'Gotterdammerung'). If only the Halle Brunnhilde were Jennifer Wilson, who sang the role in Valencia... (The complete Valencia 'Ring' has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray, and I'm looking forward to it, having watched extracts on YouTube.)

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 16:38:56 GMT
rjmcr says:
Hi Stewart

It's nice to come across anothe Halle / Elder fan but yes, that post was something of a dampener! It also sadly confirms my own gut feeling when I hit the Halle website and saw the cast. Dalayman's name was the first I looked for and it's a real shame she won't be involved. Hopefully Sir Mark can work his magic with the rest of them, or is that a forlorn hope, do you think?

I have a nagging feeling that the Halle has a bit of a struggle to consistently attract the top solo talents up to Manchester, despite Sir Mark's extraordinary achievement. I'm sure that if we were still in the era of major recording contracts the classical music world would be raving about this partnership in the same way they raved about the CBSO & Rattle; they are at least as good. Their performance of RVW's A London Symphony this season (which will be released next year) and Gerontius in Edinburgh last year will stay with me for a long, long time. As you say, world class, and I can't resist the urge to proselytise!

Kind regards
Richard
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D. S. CROWE
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