Studio recording in stereo
May 20-November 24, 1964
Conductor: Georg Solti
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson
Siegfried Wolfgang Windgassen
Hagen Gottlob Frick
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger
Gunther Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Gutrune Claire Watson
Waltraute Christa Ludwig
Woglinde Lucia Popp
Wellgunde Gwyneth Jones
Flo▀hilde Maureen Guy
1. Norne Helen Watts
2. Norne Grace Hoffman
3. Norne Anita Välkki
Wiener Philharmoniker
Chor der Wiener Staatsoper
Decca, 414 115-2 4 CDs ADD
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Review by Charles E. Muntz

Wagner's Ring ranks as one of the most titanic outbursts in music history. It is fitting that it should have inspired one of the greatest recordings ever made, the Solti Ring.

Götterdämmerung was the third opera Decca recorded in the cycle. The producer was the famous John Culshaw, who, along with Sir Georg Solti, probably the greatest Wagner conductor since World War 2, worked tirelessly to ensure that the medium of sound alone conveyed as much of the drama as possible. Hence, the special effects Wagner asked for, but which are seldom used, are all here. They include the thunder in Act 1, the steerhorns in Act 2, and the collapse of the Gibichung hall in Act 3. Most controversial is the use of a throat microphone to lower Windgassen's voice when he is disguised as Gunther to a baritonal level. Some think it extreme but it certainly adds to the atmosphere.

Solti's conducting is dramatic, with a keen sense for detail. I have never heard a more thrilling Immolation scene, Vengeance Trio and Chorus. This does mean that the lyrical aspects of the work are often supressed, but the musical and dramatic aspects of the work (and this is a music drama) are no where better captured.

The cast has no weak link. Spearheaded by Birgit Nilsson's Brünnhilde, they respond brilliantly to Solti's direction. Nilsson is quite simply, the greatest Brünnhilde since World War 2, and the only one who can stand alongside Kirsten Flagstad and Frida Leider.

Wolfgang Windgassen compares badly to Melchior, but his tireless singing, lyricism and intellingence almost make up for his lack of heroic Ring. The studio recording allowed him to rest his voice and redo imperfect takes, resulting in a performance better than any of his Bayreuth readings.

Gottlob Frick is the most evil Hagen in stereo, with effortless singing and perfect legato. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is an unlikely choice as Gunther, but he makes the character far more interesting than most and his baritone contrasts well with Frick and Windgassen.

Christa Ludwig is the quintissential Waltraute, scared, desperate and determined. Her singing shows why she is the finest Wagnerian mezzo since World War 2. Claire Watson is a paragon of innocence as Gutrune, caught up in schemes and plots she does not understand. Even the minor roles are superbly cast.

In short, this is easily the greastest Götterdämmerung I have ever heard. After listening to Act 2 for the first time I sat in stunned silence for a few minutes, totally overwhelmed. In fact, it is one of a handful of the greatest recordings ever made.

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.