Studio recording in stereo
December 6-28, 1967
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Wotan Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Donner Robert Kerns
Froh Donald Grobe
Loge Gerhard Stolze
Alberich Zoltán Kelemen
Mime Erwin Wohlfahrt
Fasolt Martti Talvela
Fafner Karl Ridderbusch
Fricka Josephine Veasey
Freia Simone Mangelsdorff
Erda Oralia Dominguez
Woglinde Helen Donath
Wellgunde Edda Moser
Flo▀hilde Anna Reynolds
Berliner Philharmoniker
Deutsche Grammophon, 415 141-2 3 CDs ADD
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Review by Charles E. Muntz

Herbert von Karajan made a studio recording of Der Ring des Nibelungen in conjunction with live performances given at Salzburg over four years. The live performances were taped, but the sound is mediocre and the demands of the live performances only serve to emphasize many of the flaws in the casting. Karajan gains a bit in dramatic bite, though.

Drama is sorely lacking in the studio. Karajan is so inflective that the drama simply does not come through. The theft of the Rheingold, Donner swinging his hammer, and other episodes are just plain dull. Compared to the intensity and unity of Solti, or the power and sweep of Furtwängler, it just does not bear for repeated listening. The recording itself lacks the spatial placing and effects that add a extra dimension to Solti. The one redeeming virtue is the brilliant playing of the Berlin Philharmonic.

The cast is extremely variable. The best part is Gerhard Stolze, an intense, well thought out Loge who seems to flicker like the magic fire itself. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is badly miscast as Wotan and his intelligence does not make up for his lack of weight and authority. Thomas Stewart in the later operas provides a firmer, more authoritative Wotan. For a truly great Wotan, listen to Hotter for Krauss or London for Solti. Josephine Veasey provides a good Fricka, but pales alongside Flagstad or Ludwig. The Rhinemaidens are quite good, as are the giants. Kelemen is a decent Alberich, but Gustav Neidlinger for Solti, Böhm and Krauss is greatly superior. The rest of the cast is good, but not remarkable.

To sum up, this recording does have a few redeeming virtues, notably Stolze. But it simply does not hold up in terms of conducting and singing to most other Rheingolds on the market. Solti provides the best cast of all, excellent sound, and vivid conducting. Krauss provides a wonderfully lyrical recording with an outstanding cast, but mediocre sound. Barenboim and Boulez both provide vivid digital recordings of this work. Any of these would be preferable to Karajan.

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.