|Foyer, CF 2011
Review by Steve Taylor|
As the number of Ring recordings increases the collector with a limited
budget has some difficult decisions to make. The choice of recordings is
now quite staggering. It does not seem all that long ago when there were
two or three to choose from but now there are substantially more. My copy
of Opern by Karsten Steiger lists 22. I have 14 of them plus numerous other
recordings of the single operas. I have a limited budget but I always seem
to stretch it when I come across a recording I do not have!
So, which recording would I recommend to someone new to Wagner? Probably
the 1967 Böhm Bayreuth set. The virtues of these recordings have long
been extolled by the music press and the Good CD guides. To my mind the
1953 Krauss recording comes pretty close and, if it is not the "best" Ring,
it is certainly one of the great Rings.
What makes it great? Firstly it has to be the cast of singers. I doubt that
there has been a greater cast at Bayreuth in all the years since World War
II. Astrid Varnay is nothing less than outstanding as Brünnhilde. She
clearly has an intimate understanding of the role is an absolute pleasure
to listen to.
Wolfgang Windgassen sings Siegfried. It is his first appearance in the role
and he is heard to better advantage in other recordings. The thing that
makes him special in this recording is his youthfulness. He is at his best
in the first two acts of Siegfried but is also able to portray well the
more mature character in Götterdämmerung. This is the performance
of a major star in the making.
Towering over them both vocally as well as physically is the Wotan of Hans
Hotter. He is at his prime here and it is worth buying the set for him
alone. His singing in this set often astounds me. To my mind the best Wotan
recorded. By the time he recorded with Solti he was past his peak. Listen
to this and you will know exactly what I mean!
All the other singers are equally fine. Josef Greindl (Hagen), Paul Kuen
(Mime) Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich) deserve special mention. Only the
Sieglinde of Regina Resnik fails to impress but this is a minor problem.
The conducting throughout is solid and Krauss gives the work the full
structure which is needed. If there are any weaknesses in his reading they
show up in Götterdämmerung. This was the first and only Ring
which Kraus conducted at Bayreuth and he was clearly out to impress. His
Parsifal of the same year was a record breaker. It was 23 minutes quicker
than the previous record holder, his friend, Richard Strauss. No such haste
with his reading of the Ring! It is a tragedy that he was to die the
following year and we do not have any more Ring recordings by him.
The sound on the set is acceptable. There are some annoying stage noises at
some points most problematically in the Immolation Scene. These do not,
however, detract from what is a magnificent and desirable set.