22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
EMI reissue the great Furtwangler Rome sessions,
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Audio CD)If I were running back into a burning building to rescue one of my three (soon to be four) Rings on compact disc, it would have to be this one. Now that EMI have reissued it again at an even more affordable price I'll reiterate why for anyone who cares to read on.
Furtwangler. The Mighty Furtwangler. Greatest of Wagnerians? Greatest of conductors! He didn't return to conduct Wagner at Bayreuth after the war. With his projected studio cycle hardly begun when he died and his La Scala broadcasts of 1950 subject to cuts, woeful sound and inadequate casting, this live studio project from Rome, broadcast act by act over about a month is invaluable. Sound quality is excellent, at its poorest in Das Rheingold where you might want to supplement with the incandescent La Scala version Das Rheingold.
One of the great joys of this cycle is the sense of the ensemble growing, maturing, becoming more confident as the task progresses. For example, the principle trumpet screws up at the end of Rhinegold when Wotan conceives his big idea, but thirty seconds later the leitmotif returns and he nails it. Yes! Even if the Rome Rheingold is a bit slow it is still marvellously involving and superbly cast. The first act of Walkure is sublime, but by the final act the RAI orchestra are playing with such passion that I never fail to be moved to tears. Things just keep getting better.
No question of live or studio, theatre or concert. In the second act of Siegfried the atmosphere is so vivid we are simply THERE, in that forest, at the mouth of that cave. The Gotterdammerung is quite simply the greatest on record. Only the miraculous appearance of Furtwangler's 1938 Covent Garden performance could better it.
What is his secret? None have fathomed it. None have been able to assume the mantle. He simply has all the best qualities of the most admired Wagnerians, all rolled up into one intellect. He involves himself and us in the physicality of the drama, in its psychological and spiritual natures, from the human and the divine pov, all in the same moment. And his singers? A superb blend of the very young and the very experienced. Windgassen impulsive as Siegmund, Suthaus noble as Siegfried, Frantz masterful as Wotan, and all the subsiduary characters in this grand narrative ideally chosen, right down to the Rhinemaidens and minor gods.
But standing proud of them all is the truly heroic performance of Martha Modl as Brunnhilde. She is sensational in a way that even such glorious singers as Flagstad, Varnay or Nilsson are not. The very palpable feeling that comes of her singing above and beyond her natural resources, hence my saying a truly heroic performance, for Furtwangler, is emotionally devastating. Her immolation scene is transcendental.
I have read that some prefer Gebhardt's transfer of this radio cycle over EMI's so you may want to research that. Even if you need a plush stereo Ring as first choice, if you truly want to know what Wagner was about, you need to hear this music in the hands of a master, and none are more inspiring and elating than Furtwangler.
Should be in a more celebratory livery. A Great Recording Of The Century issue. Snap it up.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Apr 2011 13:23:34 BDT
Thomas Plotkin says:
Excellent review of the strengths of this one of a kind Ring;
but here's the question on everyone's lips. I have the early '90's EMI digital mastering of this set, which gave new meaning to the word "compression;" the flat, trebly, artificial soundstage had the remarkable effect of making the problematic RAI Orchestra sound even worse than they actually were (a sack of wounded cats comes to mind); only with the rawer but far more naturalistic Gebhardt recording was air and space allowed to give some bloom to the proceedings, and the orchestral performance was rescued, as the remaster caught the sound of performers in an actual room.
So is this new EMI version the same as the old EMI version, or is is something new? And if so, how generally does it sound? Given that the differences between the two prior remasterings were such that I used to give a guarded recommendation for the old EMI (for aficionados only) but now give an unstinting recommendation to the Gebhardt (would recommend to a Ring neophyte, essential), it would be nice to know where this hugely cheap edition falls on the spectrum. It's been out several months, and no-one is talking. Try Google and you'll see what I mean.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 May 2011 03:48:19 BDT
Neil Ford says:
According to the MusicWeb review, this is still the old 1990s mastering.
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Feb 2012 16:15:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Feb 2012 16:16:39 GMT
There is a 13 cd version of this recording on the Document label at £15. Well packaged but no libretti. May be more suitable for those with a tighter budget.
Posted on 18 Nov 2012 13:49:24 GMT
Dag Kyndel says:
Gebhardt's is much better
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