Rheingold
Studio recording in stereo
September 24-October 8, 1958
Conductor: Georg Solti
Wotan George London
Donner Eberhard Wächter
Froh Waldemar Kmentt
Loge Set Svanholm
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger
Mime Paul Kuen
Fasolt Walter Kreppel
Fafner Kurt Böhme
Fricka Kirsten Flagstad
Freia Claire Watson
Erda Jean Madeira
Woglinde Oda Balsborg
Wellgunde Hetty Plümacher
Flo▀hilde Ira Malaniuk
Wiener Philharmoniker
Decca, 455 556-2 2 CDs ADD
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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 (ha-ha).

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.




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