|Der Ring des Nibelungen|
Live recording in stereo from
Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe
1993 - 95
|Conductor: Günter Neuhold|
November 20, 1993 - April 14, 1995
January 29, 1994 - April 17, 1995
Gabriéle Maria Ronge
October 1, 1994 - April 23, 1995
April 1 - June 25, 1995
Gabriéle Maria Ronge
|1. Norne|| |
|2. Norne|| |
|3. Norne|| |
Gabriéle Maria Ronge
|Brilliant Classics, 99625
Review by Webster Forrest|
This is likely to be the only review of this for a while, so I'll try to
paint a full picture, 'warts and all'.
This recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen is one of the biggest surprises
I've had in collecting recordings of the Ring (eleven to date). There is a
great deal to recommend it, not least of which is the incredible price.
Just to confirm - this is the complete Ring, not highlights.
Here's why I like it:
The Badische Staatskapelle is lighter in weight than
the average Wagner orchestra, and the sheer reduction in noise (though
never by too much: they turn out some fantastically powerful climaxes)
means that orchestral parts which are almost always drowned out in other
recordings are here visible as clear and interesting entities. A lot of
pleasure can be derived from this alone.
Neuhold gives a clear dramatic interpretation of the music.
He has managed to extract singing and playing that is almost universally
in tune/in time, and his clear dramatic vision is very effectively brought
off. The set has a very good 'live' atmosphere, but the quality and
accuracy of the playing is fantastic. Comparing the accuracy of this
orchestral playing/singing with other live recordings (some with much more
famous and 'lasting' singers), this recording is matched only by the
Bayreuth recording by Krauss made in '53. The quality of the main singers
is, of course, not quite the same.
Brünnhilde: Carla Pohl would never be a star Brünnhilde,
but her performance is committed and vocally strong. She lacks a certain
heroic core, but she delivers all the notes and gives a very convincing,
if not eternally memorable, performance which is hard to fault on specifics.
Wotan: John Wegner has one of those hard wood-like voices which never seem
to tire-out. His Wotan is commanding and powerful, somewhat reminiscent of
Ferdinand Franz of the Furtwängler recordings for its solidity, but
Wegner has a greatly superior musicality and offers some of the most
beautiful singing on the set. His lyricism is reminiscent of Thomas Stewart
on the Karajan Ring, though it is overall not as imaginative or thoughtful.
Musically, however, it's splendid. His final Scene in Siegfried is just
mind-blowing, especially with Neuhold's rapid and very colourful conducting.
Siegfried: There are two Siegfrieds on this set (Wolfgang Neumann and
Edward Cook)- both are real Wagner tenors who are, again, not exactly the
greatest of the century, but, especially Neumann in Siegfried, are
nevertheless exuberant and memorable, as well as vocally sure, though here
indeed in Siegfried is where we see why they would never be among the best
of the best: Neumann has some trouble smashing his way though the forging
scene in Act I, but although he may sound a bit breathless by the end, he
delivers a solid and intelligent performance right through to the end of
Alberich: One of the finest on record. Oleg Bryjak's Alberich is a chilling
account with great vocal stamina and dramatic intensity. His performance in
Rheingold is truly wonderful: his portrayal mixes a horrifying dramatic
intensity with fine musicality.
Siegmund and Sieglinde (Edward Cook and Gabriéle Maria Ronge): A marvellous
pair for the roles, especially Ronge, who is somewhat reminiscent of a
Deborah Polaski or Ann Evans. Cook tends to tire-out somewhat, but he never
fails at the right moments and his characterisation is endearing and
believable. Ronge's Sieglinde is one of urgency and convincing vocal power.
Their Act I is full of energy and a warm atmosphere of spring.
Among the remainder of the cast almost all are more than satisfactory, with
the exception of Froh, who is truly appaling, but who mercifully has
probably less than a minute of singing over the fifteen hour cycle. I heard
someone refer to the Rhinemaidens on this recording as being a bit 'ragged',
and although I think that is a bit harsh, there is some truth to it.
The sound is DDD, 'live'. In general, there is practically no stage noise
at all. Throughout the whole set I heard three coughs! That's absolutely
nothing compared to the loud hacking and spluttering you get on many live
recordings. The only noise you get from the audience is tumultuous applause
at the end of each act. The phenomenon of singers' voices breaking off as
they travel around the stage towards or away from the microphones seems
entirely to have been overcome by the sound engineers. There is a very good
balance between the orchestra and singers (see note on the size of the
orchestra, above), and the orchestral parts are brought through with
clarity and a lot of 'colour'. There is a very slight weakness in the
volume of sound, but turning up the volume on the Hi-Fi just a bit more
than usual does the trick perfectly.
The set comes boxed in a rather ugly package, and contains a complete
libretto in German, and a brief synopsis in English, but no translation
of the libretto.
In short, this is the cheapest Ring on the market, and it ranks in the top
four or so of my collection of eleven complete recordings. I would
definitely recommend it as a first recording, or as an addition to any
collection. Neuhold's is a very listenable and rewarding interpretation
which has been excellently and accurately performed, and successfully
recorded with very good DDD sound. This is no second-class Ring.