|Decca, 414 101-2
Review by Charles E. Muntz|
In 1958 the Decca Recording company embarked on one of the greatest
recording projects ever: the recording of all 15 hours of Wagner's
Der Ring des Nibelungen. The mastermind behind this project was John
Culshaw, who was determined to use the new stereo medium to its maximum
effect. The man on the podium was a young conductor named Georg Solti.
A year earlier they had made a "practice run" by recording the third act
of Die Walküre with Kirsten Flagstad and the Vienna Philharmonic.
Now they turned to Das Rheingold. Solti and Culshaw ran into the head
of EMI, Walter Legge, during the recording. He told them that they would
not sell ten copies. But when Rheingold was released it quickly became
the best selling opera in history. When it was released in the United
States it made the top ten and stayed there for several weeks.
Part of the reason for its popularity is the special effects. Culshaw
scoured Vienna to find 18 anvils of the exact size specified by Wagner
for the interlude between scenes 2 and 3. Eventually he found an "anvil
school" which provided the necessary anvils (If anyone knows what is
taught at an anvil school and what career people go into when they
graduate, please email me). The thunder in scene 4 was provided by a
huge metal sheet.
Decca booked an all star cast for the recording. Wotan was sung by the
bass-baritone George London. He has a strong interpretation and the
sort of virile voice the Rheingold Wotan requires, although he does not
have the depth of Hotter (whose voice was less suited for the role by
that time). Loge is sung by Set Svanholm, who had been a leading
Siegfried in earlier years. He sings the role well and never lets it
turn into a caricature, although he could be a bit more charactful at
times. Fricka is sung by the great Kirsten Flagstad in one of her last
recordings. She learned Fricka especially for this recording and is,
suffice to say, as close to perfect as we are ever likely to hear. The
other gods and goddesses are all very admirably taken as well, as are
The crowning glory of the cast, however, is Gustav Neidlinger's Alberich.
Perfectly sung, malevolent, and evil, he is perhaps the greatest Alberich
ever. When he sings the curse it will send shivers down your spine.
To top off this magnificent cast we have the great Vienna Philharmonic,
vividly and dramatically conducted by Sir Georg Solti, the greatest
Wagner conductor since Furtwängler and Toscanini. This Rheingold will
probably remain unsurpassed for decades to come.
This review is from the now closed Wagner on the Web and it is published
without the author's consent. I haven't been able to get in touch with him.
If the author reads this, please contact me as soon as possible. If you
don't want it here, I'll take it of the site immediately.