Studio recording in stereo
May 8-November 5, 1962
Conductor: Georg Solti
Siegfried Wolfgang Windgassen
Mime Gerhard Stolze
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson
Wanderer Hans Hotter
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger
Fafner Kurt Böhme
Erda Marga Höffgen
Waldvogel Joan Sutherland
Wiener Philharmoniker
Decca, 414 110-2 4 CDs ADD
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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.