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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 11-20 of 25 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 17:55:14 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2010 18:48:41 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Dear Filippo-I've had the Fura dels Baus ring on Blu-ray since it was released! It's magnificent-often totally daft visually, but more often stunning. Rheingold is absolutely jaw-dropping-I wanted to stand up and cheer in my own living room. The only real vocal let-down in the cycle is ironically the "biggest name"-Peter Seiffert's Siegmund is 10 years too late-it's liveable with though. Uusitala is the Wotan of your dreams(Hotter-who he?) and Jennifer Wilson is simply sensational. Salminen appears to be immortal and gives us the Hagen he gave us 25years ago despite the "extreme" costume. The Siegfried, Lance Ryan is the best I've heard since Jerusalem retired, and has been engaged by Bayreuth. The biggest surprise is Mehta and the orchestra. He is possibly the conductor I like to hear least in-well, anything! Here he thankfully uses his undoubted experience to give an unfussy Kapellmeisterish Ring of beauty and drama-aided by an astonishingly virtuoso orchestra (built and trained by Maazel, so it should be no surprise). This knocks Rattle and the BPO into a cocked hat-who knew? (Their Walkure Blu-ray from Belgium is dull, dul, dull.) Bits of the Fura Ring don't work visually, and some of it is plain daft (though always fun), but overall it is a triumph. The documentary extras are for once informative and revealing. Enjoy!!! Best Regards As Ever, Stewart Crowe (MY Ring preference order is Gotterdammerung/Siegfried joint top, closely followed by Rheingold then after a small distance, Walkure. Currently re-enjoying the delights of the Bohm ring re-released on Decca. Just wonderful, and I think Adam is superb on this set (not later performances though-worthy but dull). Wish that prompter would shut up though!.)

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 18:43:27 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2010 18:51:16 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Richard! Your nagging doubts about vocal soloists is certainly a well taken point. A couple of years back, Sir Mark did a wonderful concert here in Nottingham-it could have been planned just for me-Fliegender Hollander Overture, Tristan Prelude and Liebestod with Anja Kampe followed by Elgar One. I was in tears (of joy) virtually the whole way through. The point is that at that time she was Anja who? Now she is singing in Bayreuth and I saw her in September at the Staatsoper in Vienna as Elizabeth in Tannhauser under Welser-Most where she (and the whole production) were superb. Having given her "the big break",what with the Liebestod recording, I wonder if he could afford to engage her again? I suspect not. We do still get excellent instrumental soloists, with Andras Schiff, Artur Pizarro, Pascal Roge and Elizabeth Leonskaja coming to mind in the last couple of years, and there is a concert coming up with Leif Ove Adsnes so it's not all bad news. Maybe Susan Bullock will be indisposed...is that cruel? Fillipo Secondo suggests Jennifer Wilson-yes please!!
I'm a devout Elgarian (but not devout otherwise), but I cannot abide Gerontius. It's not the religious nature of the piece-it's the cloying music. There are moments-but not for me. The Music Makers is another matter-it would be on the desert island with me, and Sir Mark's Halle recording is breathtaking , dramatic and moving by turns-and what a recording-the bass organ pedal registers on the Richter scale! I'm quite sure you are right that this combination would have overshadowed the Rattle/CBSO combo had they been contemporary, and in my view it overshadows the Rattle/BPO combo NOW, which in my view is dismal-and I've seen them live in Mahler 5!
Thank God (notionally!) for the proliferation of "own labels." By the way, try the recent BR Klassik release of Sir Colin Davis and the BRSO live in Elgar Enigma-and RVW6. It will make your hair rise on end-I've reviewed it, but on further hearings the RVW is even better than I thought initially and is a first choice.Finally, we don't get all the Manchester concerts here, so I will have to make a pilgrimage for the Walkure (I did't know about the Gotterdammerung until too late-I was away). Fingers crossed. Great to hear from a fellow Wagner-and Halle-enthusiast! Best Regards as Ever, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2010 20:51:07 GMT
rjmcr says:
Hi Stewart

Yes, it was vocal soloists I had in mind more than instrumental soloists really. That said, hearing Gerald Finley's Pater Ecstaticus ringing around the Bridgewater back in May was a truly stunning experience and a rare privilege! Cleveman was due to take the tenor role but he pulled out late on, possibly as a result of the Icelandic ash cloud, and I would have loved Dalayman to have sung Gretchen; the two lead sopranos were a slight disappointment, I remember. We're pretty good with instrumentalists though, yes. Already this season, we've had Znaider's Elgar Violin Concerto with Sir Mark (the one work of Elgar's I still tend to struggle with) and Dmitri Alexeev in DSCH's Piano No. 2 under Lazarev. Let's see what Arts Council cuts leave us with in the future, but I have faith in Sir Mark's ability to unearth new talent.

Goodness, I'm surprised at your response to Gerontius! I adore it, and I think the new Halle recording is outstanding, with due allowance made for Terfel's slightly odd delivery. Perhaps you favour The Apostles (which I consider the even greater work), in which case you may be delighted to hear that John Summers confirmed last month that plans were afoot for a performance and recording, hopefully next season. This should be a terrific occasion. Dare I suggest that you haven't really heard Elder's Halle properly until you've heard them at full pelt in the Bridgewater? I will never ever forget the sheer jaw-dropping volume and visceral impact of the Mahler 8 this year (when they teamed up with the BBC Phil). The sound of the choirs, orchestra and that mighty organ - I thought I was going to burst! I can't wait to hear the final chorus of The Apostles in there - it'll be extraordinary, I'm sure.

I'll investigate The Music Makers forthwith - it's not a work I know yet - and I'm toying with the idea of buying the Wagner disc with Kampe. I tend not to buy Wagner in bite-sized chunks but, after hearing their Gotterdammerung, I feel the urge to hoover up any more of their Wagner I can get my hands on! I know the team take great pride in their own record label and the artistic freedom it gives them. I've yet to come across a dud, which is more than I too would say about Rattle and his Berliners. I haven't seen them live - nor do I really feel a strong desire to any longer - so I can't compare them to the Halle but, based on their recordings, I'm increasingly of the opinion that Rattle should never have left Birmingham. I can probably count on one hand his Berlin recordings that I own (I don't think EMI can get a good sound out of the Philharmonie to save their lives) and he's becoming incredibly affected these days. I took a bit of heat from someone on here for my uncharitable review of their Mahler 5 recording; I wonder if it sounded any better in the hall...? (By the way, you must have heard the Halle playing Bax's Tintagel in Nottingham last month; did they sound as majestic as on their recording?)

Anyway, thanks for the recommendations and sharing your considerable knowledge of Wagner singers. I'm still splashing around in the shallow end in comparison! I'd love to be able to write a good comparative review of this recording but I just haven't heard enough recordings to do that properly. Still, it fills me with immense pride that my hometown band can pull off something as ambitious as this, and to such acclaim.

Kind regards, Richard

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2010 12:42:41 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Richard. You are indeed correct, the concert opened with Tintagel and was followed by Chopin 2 with Pizarro. Tintagel was a tad faster than on the recording, but possibly even more blistering as a result. The Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham has superb acoustics and is a big hall-we were one of the first halls to have the huge adjustable canopy suspended above the stage which can vary the acoustic-so ya boo sucks Manchester! Seriously, I have yet to experience the glories of The Bridgewater (shame on me-too much time spent in Vienna), but I know the acoustics are amazing-you can hear that on the recordings. The Elgar Violin Concerto is one of my absolute favourite pieces. I am currently in thrall to the Shaham/Zinman version, and was a bit disappointed by the Znaider/Davis/Dresden version as my review indicates. How ironic that Elder/Zehetmair gets nominated for a "Grammy" and the Znaider didn't-wonder what they said about that!!! It's a superb CD by the way, and you'll be fascinated by "The Kingdom" reduction. The Elder/Kampe CD is not a priority away from the concert hall unless you MUST have it because it's the Halle-if you want a "bleeding chunks" version particularly then Maazel/Meier/BPO is superb-and BMG did/do know how to catch the best sound from the Philharmonie. The Rattle Mahler 5 in concert was ill-balanced, superbly played and dull, dull, dull!
The Music Makers was formerly regarded as a pot-boiler-now it is rightly regarded as one of Elgar's most deeply felt and inspired works. I have all the current recordings-Sir Mark's is up there with the best, though I do have affection for Bryden Thompson, Hickox and of course Boult with Janet Baker-avoid the Andrew Davies! Sir Mark's is an exalted performance and if you love Gerontius, you will go overboard for this work.
I notice from other reviews that our views differ a lot on Mahler-especially the 9th.
the versions you advise as the best allround are to me the least effective. Abbado misses the point on both versions-there is no frisson of dread in the first movement at all, Haitink is reliable but not inspired etc. My first choices are Maazel VPO, Sinopoli Dresden (on Profil-totally different from his Philharmonia misfire), both Karajans and the re-released Bernstein BPO.All of these performances to me catch in different ways the "dreadful" sense of the work,whereas the ones you favour don't-as I stress-to me. This is what makes forums like this so interesting and valuable as it can open our eyes to the wide divergences in appreciation, and reinforces the fact none of us hear the same performance from a concert or disc.! Fascinating to hear from you as ever-many thanks.Oh, are there any places for a recording of the 8th-I have not heard Elder in Mahler but can surmise that it was great. Did you see his ENO Wagner in the 90's -Lohengrin and then Parsifal, both musically superb. Best Regards, Stewart

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2010 16:36:20 GMT
rjmcr says:
Hi Stewart

I consider myself well and truly corrected re Nottingham's hall!

I have to say I did a double take when I saw Znaider's name on the concert programme rather than Zehetmair's. There were moments of quite extraordinary virtuosity and beauty and I sensed we were witnessing something rather special at times but, as I've said, I struggle to gain a foothold with this particular piece and the performance itself (dare I say it?) started to outstay its welcome, for me at least, although it was rapturously received by the vast majority. I'm sure my reservations are because I've just not taken enough time with it yet. I only have the Kennedy/Rattle disc at present and I haven't played it that often. Having just read your review of the Znaider/Davis disc, your description sounds very much like the performance I saw with Elder, and also that I might find Elder's own recording perhaps more exciting...? I've tended to neglect my recordings of English music over the years in favour of exploring the Austro-Germans but I think it's time to go back and explore Elgar, RVW, Bax etc. in far more detail.

Talking of the Austro-Germans... Mahler: my passion! Bernstein is actually my favourite Mahler conductor with Tennstedt a very, very close second, so you can guess the style of performance I like. I have all three of LB's M9s, but I'm not sure I could recommend them to a relative newcomer (I tend to assume longer-standing listeners, like us, will want to hear everything!). I love his BPO account (despite The Mystery of the Missing Trombones in the last movement), but I'm almost embarrassed to admit that my personal favourite is his critically-mauled Concertgebouw recording. I know his interpretation is spectacularly off kilter and the DG engineers managed to make the Grote Zaal sound like the hold of a supertanker but I do love it and I kind of get what Bernstein was aiming for, however far of the mark it eventually lands.

It's probably self-atonement, therefore, as much as admiration, which usually leads me to recommend Abbado or Haitink as a 'straighter' alternative (I love Levine's first recording too but it's so hard to find). I didn't 'get' Abbado's Mahler at first, finding it too reserved and cool, but now I rate his second series very highly indeed. In the first movement of M9, where 'Death approaches' (if you will) Bernstein gives us the terror and dread (and brilliantly), but Abbado seems to stand toe to toe with Death and stare straight back into his soul. It's hard to explain but when the penny dropped with his Berlin recording I was utterly gripped by it and have been ever since. I like Rattle's second recording for the same reason, even though both he and Abbado are the polar opposite to Bernstein and Tennstedt. The Ninth fascinates me and I love hearing different interpretations. I spotted Sinopoli's Dresden disc the other day and will investigate (an underrated but highly individual conductor, even though his account of Mahler 5 with the Philharmonia in London in 1993(?) left me baffled!). I'm afraid I can't abide Karajan's Mahler and had a rather testy and lengthy exchange with someone only last week who took (justifiable) exception to my admittedly rather too glib review of his Mahler 6. I just think Karajan misses the point. We did conclude by agreeing that the exchange of views was interesting, however, as is this exchange with you.

My concert-going career only started as a student in London in the 90s and Wagner was still something of a closed book to me back then, so I didn't see the ENO performances you mentioned. I was lucky enough to see Tennstedt's last ever concert, however, and Christa Ludwig sing in Mahler 3 with Levine as her farewell to London. Elder's Mahler, I think, is work in progress. He did 5, 8 and 9 last season. His 5 underwhelmed me a little, especially in the Finale, although the Halle strings were sublime in the Adagietto. The Eighth was extraordinary; he really nailed it and his control of the forces in front of him was remarkable. To a lesser degree, the same is true of the Ninth, although the first movement was a little tepid and the third movement not savage enough, but the Finale was superb - it was like the entire hall was holding its breath. I think Noseda is the more instinctive Mahlerian of the two though; his 6 and 10 were just rivetting. On each occasion, I don't think I moved or blinked for 80 minutes!

I'm not sure that the Elder M8 was recorded for release. I'm 20% certain that I heard a comment that it was, but that's all. They seem to have a turnaround of 10 months from concert to release, so keep an eye out next Easter!

Best wishes
Richard

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2010 12:16:04 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Richard-Now you really have opened a can of worms!! I am a Karajan loyalist to the death!! I'm joking of course, because although I am an unrepentent admirer,I am not blind (or deaf!) to his duds, and there were quite a few! For my taste, his Mahler is superb but I can fully understand why you do not like it, given your admiration for the Bernstein Concertgebow Mahler 9. I enjoy the structured coolness of his approach which lets the drama overwhelm you insidiously. In the 6th, the fulcrum of the work is the 3rd movement (in the correct order!) and the finale is almost a relief-he has really thought it out. Similarly his 9th is a beautiful sad lament interjected with moments of hope and frustration-I actually prefer his earlier 9th as it is more beautiful. I do not recognise Abbado's 9th's-either of them- in your description. My feeling is that the opening movement does not register with him at all-he is out of sympathy with the writing, and for me the first movement is the key. Things do improve in the later movements, I grant you, but he misses it entirely -twice- in the opening movement. The rest of his Mahler is reliable but often worthy and dull, a criticism of the Chailly set also except for the 10th reconstruction which is the finest of all for me. Abbado's 7th is very fine however, especially the Berlin recording. All this just shows how we each respond differently. In the 5th and 6th Bernstein Vienna is my absolute first choice-I would be happy if the whole of written music were recorded by the VPO. The Abbado Berlin 6th is very detailed and catches fire a couple of times, but is otherwise "frigid." For the 9th, I love Maazel withe VPO-no one catches the dread and awe better, it is magnificently played and recorded, and I especially love the way Maazel highlights the dissonances-he relates the work firmly to the sound world of Berg and Schoenberg rather than back to Bruckner or Brahms. I actually prefer the earlier Rattle to the Berlin 9th-but neither are amazing. Other favourites are the Sinopoli Dresden recording-his earlier Mahler recordings with the Philharmonia were a work in progress, very hit and miss, and you are right about the 5th-it was either revelatory or misconceived and I still don't know which!
This 9th is scary, and in a different league. You will also get the finest Strauss Tod und Verklarung you could imagine. As you respond to the eccentricity of the Lennie Dutch 9 , I feel sure you will love these 2 performances. The first 9 I bought was in 1968-the Bernstein CBS in its beautiful black box with the Raven on the lid. It was the ONLY recording available-the debate was still raging as to whether the Mahler revival was a a "flash in the pan." How things have changed. The Boulez 9 is daft-and I love it! He makes it almost a chirpy cheerful work-but makes his view work. If you want a shock, try the new Roger Norrington SWR Sinfonie on Hannsler-you will know he completely eliminates vibrato as a point of religion. I'm glad I've heard it-but it doesn't work for me. I thought he'd re-scored it! Others rave about it! For the 3rd, I love many but Boulez works the best for me, and I didn't expect that!! I have 24 recordings of Das Lied von der Erde=we'd need a whole website for me to discuss that. If you get the chance, listen to the live Giulini recording with the VPO and Araiza and Fassbender on Orfeo-it is a revelation and the recording (digital) and playing are stunning-you would never guess it was Giulini on a "blind hearing." Totally different from the contemporary studio Berlin recording-better sung and played too.
My great musical loves are Wagner, Richard Strauss, Bruckner, Mahler-and Elgar whom I include in the Austro-Germanic group where he belongs. I don't like the 3 big oratorios because I don't respond to the music or the cloying sentiment-I love the violin concerto but not the cello , despite Jacqueline Du Pre! But I love all music-I'm currently enjoying the new live Gounod's Faust from Vienna in 2009 on Orfeo-I was there during the recording-I'm sure it's me leading the cheering! I hope some of these recommends are useful-they will all add to your appreciation of the works in question even if you don't enjoy them as much as I do, so I hope you can give them a try.
Have you got the Bohm Ring? It's probably the most enjoyable, warts and all and at under £30 now from amazon it's a "must buy" for any Wagnerian. No libretto books-but you'll have those anyway. It's certainly the best sung overall, and the best live Ring in modern sound. I'll keep a lookout for the Elder 8th-the Davis BRSO is very fine as is of course, the Solti still sounding amazing.
Best regards as ever, STEWART.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Nov 2010 16:38:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 10 Nov 2010 18:34:22 GMT
rjmcr says:
Hi Stewart

This is in danger of becoming a very lengthy exchange but what the hell! I'm finding it very interesting. I was reading some of your Bruckner and Wagner reviews yesterday too.

It's funny how you hear in Karajan what I hear in Abbado, and vice versa. I suppose there's a tacit agreement there then that neither of us believe 'the BPO is not a Mahler orchestra', as is often said...? We agree on a fair bit more besides.

Abbado's BPO 7th is the best I've come across so far (the gung-ho flamboyance of the Finale is fabulous) although either of Lennie's accounts run it close. I love Levine's set too although the timpani are very prominent, especially in the Scherzo. I'm with you too on Lennie's VPO 5th and 6th. His 6th is staggering and I don't think I've ever heard the VPO let rip like that. It's one of my favourite recordings of any work and - I think - the zenith of his recording career in Vienna. It's always been my favourite 6th, with Tennstedt's live 1991 account on EMI a close second. With the 5th, I've recently reversed my preference in favour of Tennstedt (live 1988 on EMI) over Bernstein but I waver constantly between the two (you'll gather by now I have a huge affection for both conductors). I do like Barbirolli in these two symphonies too. His 5th is more conventional than his 6th (and I too like the Andante Moderato placed third) but his integrity and musicianship radiate from both. I see from another of your reviews that neither of us have taken to his famous BPO 9th, which has always left me feeling short-changed when I return to it (as I did only last week).

I also prefer Rattle's Vienna 9th to his Berlin, despite the back-to-front sound balance. It strikes me as altogether more spontaneous although neither of his recordings come close to an account he gave in the early 90s at Birmingham Town Hall which I taped off the radio (long since lost). I rate his Berlin 10th very highly and it's well-recorded (for once!) but Chailly is on my list to investigate too, despite his Eighth leaving me far from convinced of his Mahler credentials.

I've always overlooked Maazel and Sinopoli's Mahler recordings thanks to the influence of Gramophone and Penguin when I was younger. I'm more confident in my own ears now though so it's time to explore, and Maazel is doing Mahler 1 with the Philharmonia up here next year. Initial listenings of Sinopoli's Third and Seventh are encouraging but he's up against some stiff competition (for the 3rd I favour Levine, Lennie's DG and Bertini currently). I've literally just got hold of Maderna's Ninth on BBC Legends, about which I have read much. I suspect it won't be to my taste but I'm looking forward to finding out! I haven't read many kind words about Davis' Eighth. He isn't the first name you think about in Mahler, is he, but he's an accomplished musician. In the Eighth I favour Bertini, who seems to strike the right balance between excitement and romance. He also has a fabulous solo line-up and sound engineering that is more successful than any other in presenting a very natural aural picture of a large-scale performance. I loathe the famous Solti, I'm afraid; far too hysterical.

I'm a Bruckner fan too and I was particularly interested in your review of the Thielemann 8th. I currently have Wand/BPO, Karajan/VPO, Tennstedt/LPO (which I think will be offloaded soon), and Giulini/VPO. The latter is my favourite, with Wand second. I'd been considering acquiring the Haitink/Dresden and wondered what your thoughts were on both that and Thielemann in relation to my current favourite? Also the Giulini/Phil on BBC Legends if you've heard it...?

I don't have much Strauss yet. I love Salome and Elektra (I have Sinopoli/Studer in the former and Ozawa/Behrens in the latter), Tod und Verklarung and Four Last Songs (both Karajan) but I'm not enamoured with the likes of Heldenleben or the Alpine Symphony.

I added the Bohm Ring to my wishlist last night after I saw it had been re-released for £30. I have the Solti (surprise, surprise) but want to add a couple more. I'm thinking Bohm and Barenboim at present, and maybe the Levine Gotterdammerung (my favourite of the four). I'm also looking for another couple of Parsifals (Barenboim, Kubelik or Solti...?) to sit with my Karajan, and Tristans (Kleiber, Solti or Barenboim...?) alongside my Bernstein, so I'd love to hear your opinions. I've loved Wagner for many years now but I struggle to find the time to listen to what I've got now, let alone to fully explore other sets. As I get older though, I find myself more likely to put the CD player on than the telly! I feel a New Year's resolution coming on (other than my perennial 'no new Mahler recordings this year!).

Best wishes
Richard

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2010 12:47:11 GMT
Last edited by the author on 11 Nov 2010 12:52:53 GMT
D. S. CROWE says:
Hi Richard-Just a quickie so as not to bore other users too much. 1) do NOT buy the Haitink Dresden Bruckner 8-apart from a dull performance, it was recorded ,when the Semper Opera was flooded, in a modern hall with acoustics worse than pre-improvement Barbican. The applause at the end has one strangled cheer (a bit like Nottingham-terrible audiences!) but it deserves no more. His RCO version has beautiful sound-but yawn!! I correspond with 2 ardent Brucknerians-and I mean ardent in way that makes us look like mildly interested-both of whom were going to pass on the Thielemann. At my urging (nagging) they have both bought it and I am now basking in the glory of praise and thanks. Seriously-it isthat good! My 8th favourites until now are the same as yours-if you mean the Wand Munich tecording on Profil, with Giulini topping the list despite it being Nowak. His 9th with the VPO is one of the greatest recordings in history-BUT-have you heard the live Berlin Phil 7&8 on Testament?-They are contemporary to the Vienna recordings (1985) but amazingly different performances. The Tennstedt Berlin 8 is also available, but the sound is not as good as with Giulini-still great. These are MUST HEARS!
2) Mahler/Maazel.-I started buying this set on LP, CD arrived and bought all again. The First was for many years the Penguin Top recommendation and the 4th has never been surpassed and only nearly equalled by the stunning Ivan Fischer Budapest recording last year. All of the recordings are superb, maybe not to the latest standard, but great nonetheless. Briefly: 1-still my favourite-when I first heard the tempo in the second movement my jaw dropped-after a minute I realised that only he gets it right.2-a very different take and interesting performance3-slow and monumental-MASSIVE sound, with great explosions of power-the offstage posthorn sections are so beautiful they bring tears at every listening-finale a tad long drawn out.4-Sublime-never equalled 5-as fine a version as any with more "extrem vehemenz" in the 2nd movement than any other-heartbreakingly beautiful playing 6-straight,finely executed dramatic performance with no neuroses-great hammer blows (only 2).7 Rob Cowen's favourite-in the Kubelik mode-finale either works for you or doesn't-I love it.8 Monumental-great singing and playing. 9 The most chilling and effective of all for me-playing to die for. 10-only the Adagio sadly , but superb.Maazel seldom gets good notices in the UK. He has thought these works through and none are routine. The Sinopoli set is more variable-3 and 7 are very fine, but Dresden 9 is the one to hear. Like you i am a great Levine admirer-his Mahler 9 with Munich PO on Oehms is very fine and the Gurrelider-a favourite work-is one of THE great recordings of the modern era-forget the Rattle, this is STUNNING!
I have been buying Levine's new Boston SO recordings direct from the BSO in the USA-they are not available elsewhere. The recording and playing are superb. The Daphis (with chorus) complete is the finest available-the Brahms Requiem too slow for me-and the Mahler 6 is earth shattering sound, fine interpretation. By the way, Noseda and the BBC Phil gave us a superb 6th last year-Manchester scores again.
Ring Cycles-go for the Bohm at this stage. No cycle replicates the sheer visceral impact of the sound of the Solti even after all these years-the Levine Ring is very underrated though Behrens has the usual problem of sopranos who up their game to heroic roles and find difficulty sustaining legato in the middle register, the Barenboim has stunning highly engineered sound , not accurate of Bayreuth- but does that matter ?-and some truly great performances-but also some truly dire ones, plenty of just about adequate ones-and Danny's conducting is not as seamless as his Tristan or Parsifal-plenty of tempo changes mid-bar, tempi pulled around-irritating! Siegfried would be truly great-but Kang as Fafner sings this and Hagen with NO expression whatsoever-and the Woobird is atrocious, painful to listen to. The Bohm is the perfect antidote to Solti, with King and Nilsson surpassing their performances for him, Windgassen a joy to hear, Neidlinger and Greindl ARE Alberich and Hagen. In my lengthy review I neglected to mention the brilliance of Erwin Wohlfart's Mime who is the personification of evil and elicits no sympathy. He died tragically young the same year. At the risk of heresy, I think this a better Ring than the Keilberth even if sound differences are eliminated-though the Keilberth is a "must hear." Tristan-go for Solti, still amazing. Karajan's is in a class of its own , despite some recording anomalies-but it is SO intense (Vickers in particular) that it is totally draining. Kleiber-hopelessly overrated. The Bohm is still wonderful-leave the Pappano alone! Bernstein eh?-on 10 CD's. Hmm. You are DEFINITELY going to love Maazel's Mahler.
Finally, Davis is as you rightly observe not noted as a Mahler conductor, but he did a fine BRSO 4th with Blasi-really very good indeed-and his 8th is beautifully played and recorded-certainly the best solists since Solti-and if you find Solti too neurotic this is a fine alternative, but most of the 8ths work pretty well. Parsifal-go for Kubelik or Solti as they are an alternative view to Karajan (Barenboim is very similar) The Solti differs the most and is his finest achievement-he treats it as a dramatic theatre piece, not an oratorio.
The recording and casting are beyond belief, and the Vienna Boys Choir in the Grail scenes will bring a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. However,the Kubelik can lay claim to being the finest of all for different reasons, but is nearer to Karajan in conception and is also better sung. Recording also superb. Stauss-you like Bernstein-his Vienna Rosenkavalier is a bargain (I've reviewed it) and i will secretly confess it's my favourite (as with Rings and Parsifal etc-I've got them all!)
Try Karajan 's Salome and either Solti or Sinopoli for Elektra and you will think they are different works. The Ozawa Elektra ain't good, believe me and heavily cut too.Phew-did I say this would be a quickie? A deductive person could surmise that "stewart dot crowe at bee tee internet (one word ) dot com might be an alternative way of communicating without boring the amazon public. Just a thought. Hope this helps. Best Regards, Stewart

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2011 19:48:38 BDT
Just been listening to this perf again and, yes, it is a great one. I'm not sure Elder has quite the grasp of the longest of long paragraphs that Goodall displayed, but he has a better orchestra (of his own making) at his disposal. Elder's Funeral March (despite the appalling disc change in the middle) is quite overwhelming, probably the best I've ever heard. By the way, I too remember that David Ward Valkyrie - or in his case Walkure. He was a great Wotan, who I heard many times at the Garden - it's such a shame that only his Hunding and, I suppose, his Kardinal Raimondo of his Wagnerian roles are preserved on disc - though I'm lucky enough to have his Marke (with Thomas and Nilsson in Solti's Farewell from the Garden) on tape - superb!

Can I just put in a word for another Gotterdammerung I find all-powerful - Kna at the re-opening Bayreuth Festival in 1951. When he retained his focus and concentration (which he does throughout this performance, indeed throughout that entire Festival) Kna was a special Wagner conductor and his cast are superb. This is significantly better than his later runs at the Festival. Even the sound is not bad for its day - I think it was recorded by Culshaw and the Decca team.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Feb 2013 13:20:42 GMT
Roberto56 says:
The presence of Peter Coleman-Wright as Gunther concerns me rather. I heard him at the ROH in that role last November and he was totally out of steam: felt sorry for him. Hopefully, he is at least acceptable here - given that it was recorded some 3 years ago

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D. S. CROWE
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