|Decca, 455 556-2
Review by Graham Clark|
There have been many seperate recordings of Die Walküre, Siegfried and
Götterdämmerung, but seemingly none of Das Rheingold. The legendery
recording of Sir Georg Solti is no exception.
While Solti's Götterdämmerung has been called "one of the greatest
achievments of the grammophone" and "the best recording of anything",
I personally prefer his reading of this opera.
The cast is even finer than the other operas in Solti's "Ring", with
special attention given even to the small roles of Donner and Froh (with
Eberhard Wächter and Waldemar Kmentt outshining all competitors). Here
we find George London singing a superbly dramatic Wotan, and Gustav
Neidlinger a finely calculating Alberich (though it is nothing like his
achievment for Böhm 9 years later). The giants are also very fine,
though Walter Kreppel's Fasolt is not the most sympathetic on CD.
Otherwise, Set Svanholm makes a fine Loge, more dramatic on this recording
than he has sometimes been, and Claire Watson is an attractively urgent
Freia. The chief vocal highlight is, however, the unique casting of
Kirsten Flagstad in the role of Fricka. She delivers a weight and feeling
that one would not have believed possible.
There is good to be said of the conducting, too. Solti could not have
wound up with a better orchestra. The Vienna Philharmonic plays here with
a dashing power in the strings, and the brass has an added soft totch.
Solti's conducting has been criticizied for being simply too dramatic,
but this is only true if one has grown up on mono Knappetsbusch recordings
Solti in fact conducts very well throughout the whole opera, but seems to
be more in his element in scenes II and IV. As for the sound effects,
they have never been bettered. John Culshaw's Decca team out do themselves,
and Donner's hammerblow, the ascent to Niebelheim, and the thunder machines
would be enough to make this recording immortal.
Both sound effects and quality come off better in the new remastered
version of the recording. If you, however, are in the mood to get the
remastered version, I say jump off the deep end, and buy it in a box set.
Otherwise, purchase Das Rheingold alone, in its original form. There is a
considerable price advantage, and less background noise, such as Solti
stomping on the podium. The singers also sound more magnified at times.
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.