Studio recording in stereo
December, 1993
Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi
Wotan Robert Hale
Donner Eike Wilm Schulte
Froh Thomas Sunnegårdh
Loge Kim Begley
Alberich Franz Josef Kapellmann
Mime Peter Schreier
Fasolt Jan-Hendrik Rootering
Fafner Walter Fink
Fricka Hanna Schwarz
Freia Nancy Gustafson
Erda Elena Zaremba
Woglinde Gabriele Fontana
Wellgunde Iidiko Komlosi
Flo▀hilde Margaretha Hintermeier
Cleveland Orchestra
Decca, 443 690-2 2 CDs DDD
Back Find any errors?

Review by Graham Clark

Though many still consider the Solti "Ring cycle", recorded by Decca (London), to be one of the greatest achievements of music recording history, new cycles have been released and are being bought by the dozen. Faced with all of this younger compepetition, Decca has decided to begin a new cycle, with another Hungarian conductor, Dohnányi.

The cast is generally very fine. The only singer I have problems with is the steady, not at all wicked Alberich of Kapellmann. I find him sympathetic in Scene 1 when I'm really in the mood, but I really prefer his Solti counterpart, Gustav Neidlinger. As with Solti's Wotan (George London), Decca here picked an American singer for the role, Robert Hale. I don't think he gives as much character to the role as his current compeditors, James Morris and John Tomlinson, but he is still very good compared to some of the stuff you see (and hear) on stage these days.

In smaller roles, Hanna Schwarz as Fricka (a role which she has become a regular in) and Kim Begley as Loge are very good, though the latter could be more involving (he's a little thin-voiced for my taste). Most of the other singers produce a fairly typical affect, but Peter Schreier crowns the recording with his wild reading of Mime (he can be heard in the role in Siegfried on Janowski's "Ring"), and Sunnegårdh brings unusual warmth of tone to the role of Froh.

Dohnányi's approach to conducting the work is less dramatic than Solti's, and the speeds sometimes lag. Therefore, the first three scenes scurry to closes without any feeling of momentum, and episodes such as the storm scene lack weight. The Cleveland Orchestra is convincing enough, but certainly no match for the Vienna Philharmonic, used on Decca's first Das Rheingold. The sound effects are also not at the level of the Solti's recording. The hammerblow of Donner is a disappointing "bang" on a board (though it is followed by a fine thunder crack, and something that sounds like a mix of high winds and something sparking from the lightening), for example.

In the middle of 1997 (Das Rheingold was released in '96) the Die Walküre of this cycle was completed. I have sadly not yet had a chance to listen to it. The cast sounds promissing, with Gabriele Schnaut as Brünnhilde, Poul Elming as Siegmund, and Anja Silja as Fricka. I look forward to hearing it, and the rest of the cycle (scheduled for completion in 1999). Happy listening!

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.