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Enjoying Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung with Speight Jenkins
Clemens Krauss, Speight Jenkins
Enjoying Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung with Speight Jenkins
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
  •  Track Listings (44) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (30) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #4


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CD Reviews

An interesting set
Ray Barnes | Surrey, British Columbia Canada | 01/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Overall, I enjoyed Mr. Jenkins' analysis on the Ring cycle and gained some insights. I think it is better suited for a buyer who is already quite familiar with the music rather than for someone who is not. There was no explanation as to why the Clemens Krauss 1953 Bayreuth Ring cycle was chosen for the musical illustrations. This is one of my favourites, but for those who are not big fans of classic live Wagner in mono, it might not be the best version for this kind of album. Astrid Varnay's assumption of Brunnhilde brings a somewhat flawed vocal technique; she was better known for her fine acting and characterization on stage than her singing. To the uninitiated listener, this might be disconcerting.The set consists of 4 CDs, one per opera, with each playing from about an hour to just over 70 minutes. Mr. Jenkins provides brief plot synopses, detailed commentary on the development and interaction of the characters, and explanations of the construction of the orchestral scores. I especially enjoyed his comments on the autobiographical nature of the character of Wotan. He also discusses how Wagner developed as a composer over the course of 26 years, in which the orchestra ultimately became the primary component of his concept of music drama.Overall I thought Mr. Jenkins' exposition was well presented. I share his criticisms of some of the scoring of Das Rheingold, and he makes a very good case for Siegfried being an effective and successful opera. I think in some areas he went into details perhaps more than the average listener would want to hear - such as his preference for using a live bear cub in Act I of Siegfried - and did not delve into other aspects of the Ring which perhaps could have merited greater attention. For instance, at the end of Act I of Gotterdammerung, he did not discuss the problem in production of Siegfried, in disguise as Gunther, having to also sing in Gunther's voice. None of the music of Siegfried's Rhine Journey, Siegried's Ascent of the Valkyrie Rock in the preceding opera, or even the Ride of the Valkyries, was played. This is regrettable.Mr. Jenkin's voice was recorded at a higher volume than the musical illustrations. This resulted in making several volume adjustments up and down as the CDs were played to make for comfortable listening. This might have been avoided by using a modern stereo recording of the Ring. I'm surprised frankly that none of Mr. Jenkins' Seattle Ring productions over the last 20 years were either available or chosen. Having attended the 1982 cycle, in which Ute Vinzing sang a marvellous Brunnhilde, it would have been wonderful and nostalgic to hear some of these artists in this set.I cannot compare this to the John Culshaw Introduction to the Ring, accompanied by the classic Solti set, because I have not heard it.Overall, with minor reservations, this set can be recommended."
Perfect for the lay listener
Pitti-Sing | Titipu, Japan | 11/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"For the lay opera fan who, like me, was trepiditious about aproaching the much-hailed, heavy work of Wagner, this is a perfect introduction. I am horrified to find that it is no longer available, as it is a much cheaper and more reasonable way to explore the Ring operas than purchasing a full set recording of them. However, if you can get ahold of this, do give it a try! Speight Jenkins gives a captivating (and easily understood) analysis, while the excerpts, taken from a historic performance, are excellent. My timid and vague distaste for anything Wagnerian was immediately turned into enthusiasm for the masterful story and stirring music of the Ring."