Rheingold
Studio recording in stereo from
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
1991
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim
Wotan John Tomlinson
Donner Bodo Brinkmann
Froh Kurt Schreibmayer
Loge Graham Clark
Alberich Günter von Kannen
Mime Helmut Pampuch
Fasolt Matthias Hölle
Fafner Philip Kang
Fricka Linda Finnie
Freia Eva Johansson
Erda Birgitta Svendén
Woglinde Hilde Leidland
Wellgunde Annette Küttenbaum
Flo▀hilde Jane Turner
Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
Teldec, 4509-91185-2 2 CDs DDD
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Review by Henrik Boman

The 136 E flat cords come to Wagner in a dream in the aftermath of seasickness. With the first bars, the heavy strings make the Rhine enter Your living room. The modern listener might be seasick too, overwhelmed by the waves of the drama.

The Rhine maidens, one young and innocent, one a mature women, the last, old and raged, teases Alberich, and one understands his frustration. Alberich magnificent portrayed by Günter von Kannen, snatches the gold and the modern capitalistic civilisation, in Wagner's disguise, is at hand.

John Tomlinson always Wotan in control, maybe a little too old and experienced for being a young god in his prime. More than in any other recording of the Ring I've heard, Wotan is the main character, the lead role making the drama move on. In Götterdämmerung, when the gods are absent from the drama, the director of the Bayreuth performance Harry Kupfer still puts Wotan on the stage, of course not possible to 'hear' on record, but a tribute to the god who watches his destiny materialise around Siegfried - the ever present Wotan. And Fricka, later the person who actually causes the death and destruction of the gods by forcing Wotan to withdraw his help from Siegmund, is already in the Rhinegold his conscious, reminding him, unknowing, of the destiny of the gods.

If Wotan is the fuel that pushes the drama to an end, Fricka is the sparkle that ignites the fuel. Erda, resurrecting from earth at suitable moments, usually the old lady of the lake, but in Barenboim's cast a beautiful lady, as young as the gods. Masterly sung by Birgitta Svendén, a soft and beautiful voice, and not the hard and hash interpretation so common for Erda. Wotan is surprised by Erda, not because the female rising from below, but because of her beauty. A motion which later resulted in his beloved child Brünnhilde with Erda. This moment is underestimated in most interpretations of Wagner but not in Barenboim's interpretation. The intercourse between Erda and Wotan is essential for the continuing development of the opera tetralogy - without Brünnhilde - no Ring.

Fafner and Fasolt, the giant threatening the gods by physical mythological power, a situation solvable by the oldest method of all, the use of pure gold. The trickster Loge controls the situation, excellently portrayed by Graham Clarke. The payment to the giants results in the contact with the treacherous Rhine Gold, and nothing becomes the same after that. Destiny rules the gods and Wotan finally looses his love and meaning in life. This is the development in the later operas, but it is present here to, the entry into Walhall is not as magnificent as it should be, Wotan knows the bell of fates has stricken, not for the last time but for the first. Barenboim makes the music follows this path, the giants are gigantic but they do not rock the earth, they are just a means for the gods to show who is superior.

Wagner as truly beautiful music, a reincarnation of the muses on Parnassos. If air is necessary for all human being, this recording is necessary for all Wagnerians, and for every body else to by the way.