|Decca, 414 110-2
Review by Charles E. Muntz|
Following the success of their recording of Das Rheingold, Sir Georg Solti
and John Culshaw turned to Siegfried. Well aware of the shortcomings of
the only good Siegfried at the time, Wolfgang Windgassen, they embarked on
a search for the next great heldentenor and found Ernst Kozub. They began
to make the recording with him, but found despite his excellent voice he
had no real understanding of the role and had to fire him and book
Windgassen at the last minute.
Windgassen lacks the heroic ring and baritonal qualities of the traditional
heldentenor (Melchior being the archetype) but he brings much lyricism and
intelligence to the role that many of his successors sorely lack. In the
opera house he would be forced to conserve his voice in places and would
still be vocally nearly exhausted by the love duet at the end of the opera.
But in the studio, with time to rest his voice and to redo imperfect takes
he manages to sing consistently throughout the opera. His Siegfried here
is better than any other since and better than his other, live recordings
of the role. Anyone who would like to investigate what a true heldentenor
sounds like should seek out some of Lauritz Melchior's recordings. He
sings almost all of the role in Pearl's release of HMV's partial recording
of the Ring from the late '20s (Pearl GEMM 9137).
As Siegfried's foster father we have the remarkable Gerhard Stolze.
Unlike most Mimes, who tend to be portrayed as a sort of Grumpy style
dwarf, Stolze shows Mime for what he really is, an evil, calculating and
desperate villain who will stop at nothing, even murder, to get the ring.
Stolze is easily the best Mime on record.
Hotter is in better voice here than he would be for Die Walküre. His
Wanderer is noble and witty in the scene with Mime. With Alberich he is
more laid back, as one who knows to what ends fate is working to and is
content to watch events play out. And in the third act his despair and
final resignation to his fate have never been bettered.
Gustav Neidlinger is the most evil Alberich to have recorded the complete
role. One can feel his desperation and determination to regain the ring.
Joan Sutherland is a seductive woodbird. Kurt Böhme is excellent as
Fafner, as is Marga Höffgen's Erda.
And finally, we have the incomparable Birgit Nilsson, whose Brünnhilde is
as close to perfect as we are ever likely to see.
As with the rest of the cycle, Solti gives an intense, dramatic reading
of Wagner's score. The Vienna Philharmonic plays like gods. The use of
stereophonic placing is better than any other Ring and the sound is
better than all but the best digital recordings. Heartily recommended.
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.