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Customer Review

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another glorious guise for this titanic achievement-worth the money??, 23 Oct. 2012
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This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Deluxe numbered limited edition] (Audio CD)
Volumes have been written about this recording of the Ring which defined a new era in stereo recording. Despite my love and admiration of other sets by the likes of Keilberth, Karajan, Bohm and the undervalued if imperfect Levine, the Solti Ring was and remains my first love for these works. I am not blind (deaf?) to its faults-I regret the casting of a Hans Hotter well past his best, it would have been good to have had a fresher voiced Siegfried, though I love Windgassen in the role-and Stolze's Mime is not my favourite-but this cycle has the fewest "dud " castings.
As for Solti as conductor, I don't think he ever mastered Wälkure, and his emphatic conducting style doesn't suit everyone's taste. I recall critic Michael Tanner asserting that the Solti Ring was the best to choose for "dipping" in and out, for no matter what the excerpt being played, there would be an exciting climax along in a few minutes!
I love the excitement, drama and grandeur he brings to the score overall.
With the passage of time, most of the mysteries have been de-mystified, rumours confirmed or debunked, and secrets revealed.
Decca recouped most of its initial production costs on the sale of sets in the late 50's and 60's-most of which were in Mono! Since then it has been a veritable "cash cow" for Decca reappearing in various guises and remasterings. Rheingold was first remastered in 1968, to bring the sound to the levels of the later sets released under Decca's "SET" Sonicstage" imprimatur, and it upgraded from SXL to SET with a consequent increase in price. With the advent of CD, Decca's first transfer was neither satisfactory nor cheap-they even released Rheingold on 3 Full Price CD's, though this was later reduced to 2. The main problem was an inordinate amount of tape hiss. James Locke wrote at length about how disappointed he was with the end results. It was inevitable that when the technology permitted, a new improved version would emerge which it duly did.
The1997 Reconstruction by Jimmy Locke was not universally well received. It was far more than the application of Cedar 2 Filtering. When the team went back to the original EMI manufactured master tapes, whole sections had disintegrated-very careless of Decca! However, they did have a plethora of out takes /alternative takes, many of which had been rejected purely for minor artistic reasons-they were not necessarily flawed, so they were able to reconstruct a new pristine master tape, which was not of course identical to the original recordings. They did however omit a whole semiquaver in the second scene of Rheingold! Not only did they remaster it at 20bits-and Cedar 2-but they remixed it, providing a far less artificial balance than the records had given. For the first time, with Nilsson in a truer perspective for example, her singing sounded less steely and more radiant. More importantly, orchestral presence was detectable in the sounds of scraping chairs, a dropped bow-a door closing, podium squeak from Solti etc.
Personally, I loved it-but others moaned that it had changed the character, was too compressed etc.
My view is that in domestic as opposed to "lab" conditions, it was such a huge improvement over the first release that no-one could or should complain. Too many correspondents are listening to the recording, not the music!
For this new release-they have reassembled a new master again based on the 1997 version-and have restored the missing semi-quaver, eliminated some obvious edits, re-balanced yet again -and transferred at 24 Bits. On CD alone the difference is immediately palpable-the bass is firmer and tauter, even more detail is revealed, it is certainly less compressed and sounds as though it could have been recorded last week. Rheingold in particular benefits-the cellos and basses don't sound like revving motorbikes any more, and a slight edgy quality to the upper strings and brass has gone. I have detected none of the edits I could before!
The Blu-ray is a step further-the music leaps out the speakers like having the VPO in the room, and you feel as if you could reach out and touch the singers, such is their presence! Quite astounding-well worth me extricating my Blu-ray player from the TV set-up to the hi-fi! I've now bought a second player which of course plays CD's also!
The presentation is sumptuous with lots of whistles and bells, though I'm keeping my 97 set because the original box covers!
The additional inclusions are beautifully presented and are all worth having if you don't have them already, and certainly provide a great insight both to the Ring itself and the philosophy behind the recording as well as the history and gossip!
As this is Decca's biggest classical cash cow I have no doubt that they will release the new Ring separately for 2013, the big anniversary year, so that would be the time to get a copy unless you want the books, the Deryck Cooke audio guide, the earlier Solti Overtures-I'm pleased to have the Kinderkatechismus at least ! Whether they will release the audio Blu-ray separately I cannot say, but that IS a real revelation.
I was lucky enough to be given set number 6444 of 7000 as a Birthday Present-would I have spent around £200 for it?-probably not, but only because I already have all the extras except the Gramophone cuttings, but I am delighted to have such a sumptuously presented set and for anyone who may not already have the collection here assembled, it is an unreserved recommendation and IS in my view worth the outlay.
When, as I predict, Decca release the Ring alone in time for 2013, the cost may not be significantly less than the present set, and who can say if the Blu-ray will become available-and at what cost for the entire Ring on a singled disc? I leave it your judgement!!!!
Stars are irrelevant and unlimited. Stewart Crowe.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 69 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Oct 2012 08:07:41 GMT
Last edited by the author on 31 Oct 2012 08:08:53 GMT
J. Manger says:
Stewart: I always read your comments with great interest and usually a good deal of agreement. I too have this amazing box, even though I already own virtually all the ingredients separately except, strangely, the Rienzi performance and the totally gorgeous Siegfried Idyll - which I had on vinyl but long since gone. That was one of the most beautiful things Solti ever did, in my view, and has rather slid under the radar in this monumental set. I do not yet have a Blu-Ray player, and will get one now, but it is worth emphasising that the remastered CDs in this collection are revelatory in their own right: the internal balance seems smoother, richer and more coherent, the voices set very well against the orchestra and, somehow, the excitement of the original releases has returned, despite, in my case, having had them in all formats since they first came out. Solti's energy is all there, but somehow less abrasive and more complete. How much of all this perception is all in the mind, I don't know - and I don't care. This is a great set.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 09:49:50 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Thank you for your kind comment! You have got it exactly right-the technical spec etc. is irrelevant-it only matters that we think that it sounds better-and it does. From the opening of the Rheingold-if you compare it ti the 97 version-no longer are we assaulted by the buzz saw double basses as before, with the higher strings, when they enter, rather struggling to make them selves heard. Now the basses are strong and firm but in the right balance, and the higher strings soar radiantly when they enter! This harks back to the 1968 re-master of Rheingold on LP-my understanding that is that some type of oscillator was added to the sound picture to create more bite! Now everything unfolds as it should-and that continues throughout. The Solti Rienzi/Tannhauser was the only recording he ever made of "concert overtures" by Wagner-he did produce thei ll-advised "bleeding chunks" of the Ring as a sonic spectacular, and that's included in the other Wagner Box that Decca have released-there are NO remasterings in that by the way-I was hoping that they would improve the sound quality of the Vienna Meistersinger. As far as the Blu-ray is concerened-WOW! I'm not a "techie" but it is worth the modest outlay-however, be sure to check your amp for compatability-most don't have an HDMI input, and you need to be sure that there is either an Optical input/output on both, or that you can use standard phono! You may know more about this than I do, if so sorry, but I do have a friend who could not connect his fairly modest cost player to his venerable but still excellent Quad amp.
At the end of the day, £200 is a decent night out for 2, and more modest one for 4! Seen in that perspective, this thing of real beauty and quality has to be worth it to those so inclined. They'll soon be gone-I wonder if when people start trading them, the price will rise or fall?
Very Best Regards As Ever, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 13:20:56 GMT
J. Manger says:
Yes, 200 pounds: just what I paid for one Stalls seat at the recent ROH Ring. Which was better in the flesh than on the radio, by the way. Unlike you, I am a Bayreuth fan - of the place and the sound more than some of the recordings that have come from it of late! But I have to disagree with you about Hotter in the Solti Ring. When the recordings first came out, he was the greatest Wotan of a generation and Culshaw had to include him. Most of us at that time had never heard him and only knew his reputation. His voice is a bit worn in Walkure, but it always was: listen to the Keilberth or Krauss Rings from ten years earlier - more or less the same. That is what his voice was like!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 17:25:28 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
I'm a great admirer of Bayreuth, up to and including the mid 80's. However, productions have become increasingly " Regie Theater" in the worst sense, and while orchestral standards and in general conducting have risen exponentially, vocal standards have declined by the same ratio! But, you are right-like Richard Strauss, Solti and Karajan I prfer a "proscenium" performance, Vienna being my ideal. I've had many a fine Wagner evening (and afternoon of course-4 pm starts for the Ring) there. Ironic the Solti NEVER conducted in the Staatsoper! Hotter was a towering interpreter of Wotan -in every sense-but I don't agree that his voice has not deteriorated in the Solti compared to the Keilberth and Krauss. Have yu heard is Walkure Act 2 from the 1940's under Seidler-Winkler with the Berlin Staastskapelle? 20 years earlier he WAS the Wotan of your dreams! I'm used to Hotter now, so I don't sit through iton edge in case he breaks down, but I did at one time. Culshaw was ALWAYS going to cast Hotter, even if London had been available which he sadly never was again. I'm glad your enjoying the ROH Ring-you are right-it sounds generally dire on the radio broadcast. Best Regards As Ever, S.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Oct 2012 17:49:17 GMT
J. Manger says:
No, I don't know the Hotter of the 1940s, so may do a bit of research. Even given the shortcomings (few) of the Solti casts, it is difficult to imagine a better line-up today. Terfel is becoming great as Wotan, Kaufmann is a fine Siegmund, and so on. But Brunnhildes? Erm, where? Not Voigt, for sure. Maybe Stemme? And Siegfrieds? The ROH chap was good, but where are the great ones? Or is this just nostalgic nonsense: every generation bemoans the lack of Wagner singers. In the end, if you come away from a performance or recording feeling better about life than when you started, you win. And that is certainly true of this Solti reissue.

Posted on 9 Jan 2013 16:35:15 GMT
A superb review - and having started out thinking I'd never need to buy this as I have all the constituent parts on LP and CD, as well as the original edition of Ring Resounding, you have persuaded me that I need to buy this immediately. Blimey, that was an expensive little moment....

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jan 2013 18:38:35 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Sorry about that, Marvoid. It's a very pleasing item to own, very satisfying aesthetically, and I'm sure that you won't regret reading my review...and its consequences!! Please let us know you opinion when you've had a chance to sample its delights! Best Regards, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2013 15:31:27 GMT
Well, it arrived and I've had a chance to sample its delights. I might even call it a bargain. What a wonderful box of music and supporting materials. Even the slightly awkward way you have to access the discs and books takes me back to the old days when the original set I had (and still treasure) came in its monstrous green and gold box. Pure joy. Thanks for the recommendation!

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2013 20:26:16 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Phew! I'm so pleased that you like it as much as I do. Even my wife thinks that it is beautiful and for once has not threatened to give it away to a Charity Shop while I'm out. now you need to visit the Celestial Audio website and buy the 1983 Bayreuth Ring conducted by Solti which is superb artistically and as a recording-it does cost a small fortune but is worth it, trust me! Sorry! Best Regards, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Jan 2013 12:37:47 GMT
I did buy a copy of the Solti "live" Ring from Covent garden c1965 with Amy Shuard, Windgassen etc, which is surprisingly good. Having read the book about all the shenanigans that went on over the Solti/Hall Bayreuth ring I'm not sure I actually want to hear it!
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