|Der Ring des Nibelungen|
Live recording in mono from
|Conductor: Rudolf Kempe|
|Chor und Orchester der|
July 26, 1960
|Wotan|| ||Hermann Uhde|
|Donner|| ||Thomas Stewart|
|Loge|| ||Gerhard Stolze|
|Fasolt|| ||Arnold van Mill|
July 27, 1960
|Siegmund|| ||Wolfgang Windgassen|
|Brünnhilde|| ||Astrid Varnay|
|Hunding|| ||Gottlob Frick|
|Siegrune|| ||Grace Hoffman|
Dorothea von Stein
July 28, 1960
|Brünnhilde|| ||Birgit Nilsson|
|Wanderer|| ||Hermann Uhde|
July 30, 1960
|Brünnhilde|| ||Birgit Nilsson|
|Hagen|| ||Gottlob Frick|
|Gunther|| ||Thomas Stewart|
|Waltraute|| ||Grace Hoffman|
|1. Norne|| |
|2. Norne|| ||Grace Hoffman|
|3. Norne|| |
Review by Ralph John Steinberg|
I initally bought this recording out of nostalgia, having heard
this as my first complete Ring as a broadcast in January of 1961.
But having heard it again in its entirety, I have to recommend it
as a highly desirable version of the cycle.
First of all, there is the subtle yet vital conducting of Kempe.
He knows better than most other Ring conductors how to balance
blazing passion with mystery; next to him, Solti sounds vulgar
and blatant. Anyone who is familiar with Kempe's Meistersinger
will know what I mean. Kempe has the gift of making this music
sing and surge heroically, without ever sounding overblown or
pompous, something that Solti seems not to be able to avoid.
Part of this is the recessed Bayreuth orchestra sound, which
allows a perfect balance between singer and orchestra. This set
offers a superb demonstration of the unique Bayreuth acoustic.
This performance was the first of the Wolfgang Wagner productions,
for which he engaged an entirely new cast. Because of scheduling
problems, Jerome Hines, Wolfgang's first choice for Wotan, could
only do the "Walküre," so that Hermann Uhde had to bail him out
for "Rheingold" and "Siegfried". Likewise, Astrid Varnay did the
"Walküre" Brünnhilde, with Birgit Nilsson making her Bayreuth
debut in the role in "Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung".
Personally, I am not troubled by this casting inconsistency. Varnay
projects a fiery, youthful Brünnhilde, if anything even more
gleaming in tone than in the superb 1956 Knappertsbusch set; at
times, she resembles Nilsson! Her "Hojotoho" is truly thrilling;
what we would give to have her back! Nilsson is at her peak,
especially in "Götterdämmerung", singing with absolute security
and showing a degree of involvement not always seen in later
performances; most especially, she projects a vulnerabilty that
is touching and totally convincing!
Uhde's Wotan is strong and incisive, perhaps smaller in voice than
Hotter, but steady of tone and more scheming in character than usual;
this Wotan is clearly no saint! Hine's "Walküre" Wotan begins rather
coursely in manner, although gloriously sung; later on, his word-
shading comes into evidence, and he invests the great Act 2 monologue
with hushed intensity, building to a frightening climax at "So nimm
meinen Segen, Nieblungen Sohn!" And his Farewell is heartbreaking,
as moving as any other in my experience.
I don't understand the lack of enthusiasm that surrounds the name of
Hans Hopf. Here, he is simply thrilling as Siegfried, a true Heldentenor.
Sure, he tends to bluster, but those tender moments, such as "So starb
meine Mutter an mir?" come across with all the greater impact here.
Windgassen as Siegmund, is, unfortunately, the only negative aspect
to this set, for he tires badly in the Act 1 (Act 2 goes better, and
he ends up his usual glorious self). Aase Nordmo-Løvberg is an ardent
Sieglinde, although with some strain in the upper reaches of her voice.
Gottlob Frick is for me the perfect Hunding, and even more, Hagen.
He gives both roles a grim, dour, and yet, dignified quality, something
that Greindl couldn't aways do. (It seems strange that Greindl, for all
his qualities, was for the most part the preferred Bayreuth "Black Bass").
As Alberich, Otokar Kraus sounds like a cross between Neidlinger and
Fischer-Dieskau; his character is more desparate then merely demented.
Herold Kraus really sings, rather than shrieks, as Mime, and projects
a malevolant, rather than pathetic dwarf out to murder Siegfried (one
has to hear his laughter in Act 2 to hear sheer unmitigated evil!!!!).
Marga Höffgen is a rich-voiced and mystical Erda, Hertha Töpper a
youthful and superbly outraged Fricka. Both giants are superb, especially
The recorded sound is variable, being superb in "Rheingold", "Siegfried"
and the First Act of "Walküre", but becoming curiously distant and
veiled in the Second and Third Acts. The Prologue to "Götterdämmerung"
has a prolonged flutter, which ends by the time the Rhine Journey begins.
Still, this is a treasurable Ring, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Not being terribly fond of any of the stereo Rings, this Kempe Ring
would be my first choice, along with Knappertsbusch's 1956 Bayreuth set.