Studio recording in stereo
September 24-October 8, 1958
Conductor: Georg Solti
Wotan George London
Donner Eberhard Wächter
Froh Waldemar Kmentt
Loge Set Svanholm
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger
Mime Paul Kuen
Fasolt Walter Kreppel
Fafner Kurt Böhme
Fricka Kirsten Flagstad
Freia Claire Watson
Erda Jean Madeira
Woglinde Oda Balsborg
Wellgunde Hetty Plümacher
Flo▀hilde Ira Malaniuk
Wiener Philharmoniker
Decca, 414 101-2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Charles E. Muntz

In 1958 the Decca Recording company embarked on one of the greatest recording projects ever: the recording of all 15 hours of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The mastermind behind this project was John Culshaw, who was determined to use the new stereo medium to its maximum effect. The man on the podium was a young conductor named Georg Solti. A year earlier they had made a "practice run" by recording the third act of Die Walküre with Kirsten Flagstad and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Now they turned to Das Rheingold. Solti and Culshaw ran into the head of EMI, Walter Legge, during the recording. He told them that they would not sell ten copies. But when Rheingold was released it quickly became the best selling opera in history. When it was released in the United States it made the top ten and stayed there for several weeks.

Part of the reason for its popularity is the special effects. Culshaw scoured Vienna to find 18 anvils of the exact size specified by Wagner for the interlude between scenes 2 and 3. Eventually he found an "anvil school" which provided the necessary anvils (If anyone knows what is taught at an anvil school and what career people go into when they graduate, please email me). The thunder in scene 4 was provided by a huge metal sheet.

Decca booked an all star cast for the recording. Wotan was sung by the bass-baritone George London. He has a strong interpretation and the sort of virile voice the Rheingold Wotan requires, although he does not have the depth of Hotter (whose voice was less suited for the role by that time). Loge is sung by Set Svanholm, who had been a leading Siegfried in earlier years. He sings the role well and never lets it turn into a caricature, although he could be a bit more charactful at times. Fricka is sung by the great Kirsten Flagstad in one of her last recordings. She learned Fricka especially for this recording and is, suffice to say, as close to perfect as we are ever likely to hear. The other gods and goddesses are all very admirably taken as well, as are the giants.

The crowning glory of the cast, however, is Gustav Neidlinger's Alberich. Perfectly sung, malevolent, and evil, he is perhaps the greatest Alberich ever. When he sings the curse it will send shivers down your spine.

To top off this magnificent cast we have the great Vienna Philharmonic, vividly and dramatically conducted by Sir Georg Solti, the greatest Wagner conductor since Furtwängler and Toscanini. This Rheingold will probably remain unsurpassed for decades to come.

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.