Review by Charles E. Muntz|
Herbert von Karajan made a studio recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen
in conjunction with live performances given at Salzburg over four years.
The live performances were taped, but the sound is mediocre and the
demands of the live performances only serve to emphasize many of the
flaws in the casting. Karajan gains a bit in dramatic bite, though.
Drama is sorely lacking in the studio. Karajan is so inflective that
the drama simply does not come through. The theft of the Rheingold,
Donner swinging his hammer, and other episodes are just plain dull.
Compared to the intensity and unity of Solti, or the power and sweep
of Furtwängler, it just does not bear for repeated listening. The
recording itself lacks the spatial placing and effects that add a extra
dimension to Solti. The one redeeming virtue is the brilliant playing
of the Berlin Philharmonic.
The cast is extremely variable. The best part is Gerhard Stolze, an
intense, well thought out Loge who seems to flicker like the magic fire
itself. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is badly miscast as Wotan and his
intelligence does not make up for his lack of weight and authority.
Thomas Stewart in the later operas provides a firmer, more authoritative
Wotan. For a truly great Wotan, listen to Hotter for Krauss or London
for Solti. Josephine Veasey provides a good Fricka, but pales alongside
Flagstad or Ludwig. The Rhinemaidens are quite good, as are the giants.
Kelemen is a decent Alberich, but Gustav Neidlinger for Solti, Böhm and
Krauss is greatly superior. The rest of the cast is good, but not
To sum up, this recording does have a few redeeming virtues, notably
Stolze. But it simply does not hold up in terms of conducting and
singing to most other Rheingolds on the market. Solti provides the best
cast of all, excellent sound, and vivid conducting. Krauss provides a
wonderfully lyrical recording with an outstanding cast, but mediocre
sound. Barenboim and Boulez both provide vivid digital recordings of
this work. Any of these would be preferable to Karajan.
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.