"This is a wonderful 2-CD set in which musicologist Deryck Cooke lays out the few basic musical themes of the Ring Cycle and gives a very clear exposition of how Wagner develops them over the course of the Cycle. This approach really added to my appreciation of the Ring Cycle and also Wagner's genius in developing and blending his themes. For me the highlight of the disk comes at the end when he presents 2 great orchestral passages from the Ring -- the Prelude to Act III of Siegfried and the very end of Gotterdammerung. After a quick review of the relevant themes, he uses these 2 excerpts to illustrate how multiple themes are brought together and really give us the ideal of "music-drama." This is a great set that anyone interested in the Ring should have; it really adds to the appreciation of the music of the Ring. This is an item that needs six stars to rate!A good companion to these CDs is the Ring Disc software which has a full recording of the Solti Ring on 1 CD (!) and has the feature of identifying musical themes as they are played, with a "click-here" approach to following them through the score. This really brings the sort of analysis Cooke gives to each single moment of the Ring."
R. Albin | Ann Arbor, Michigan United States | 03/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wagner's Ring Cycle is arguably the most complex musical work in existence. This CD set is a commentary on and explication of Wagner's basic method in constructing the Ring Cycle. This set was originally a BBC broadcast aimed at educating a broad audience. Cooke's explanations are lucid and organized well. This set is accessible to any interested individual of any level of musical sophistication.
Wagner's basic method was to develop an extensive set of musical themes, leitmotivs, associated with important characters, plot elements, objects, and motivations in the Ring Cycle, The leitmotivs are esthetically and psychologically appropriate to the things to which they are associated. The leitmotivs exist in families with many derived from a basic set of themes that reify the underlying intellectual and psychological themes of the plot. Cooke explicates a large number of leitmotivs and shows how they are related and transformed in the course of the action of the Ring cycle. He concludes with a number of examples demonstrating how Wagner combined leitmotivs in musical actions that parallel the action of the plot and reflect the underlying themes of the Ring Cycle. This gives a nice introduction to the remarkably complex architecture of the Ring cycle. Beyond its pedagogical intent, Cooke's presentation is also a nice introduction to Wagner's incredible achievement in matching the formal architecture of the music, the dramatic action, his presentation of the underlying themes, and all in powerful and often wonderful music."
A very useful Musical-Thematic analysis.
R. Albin | 05/10/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set analyses the motifs used in the Ring and especially emphasizes their inter-relationships. It describes "families" of related motifs, and also shows how certain themes are altered as the work as a whole progresses. It is the most useful preparation for listening to or seeing the Ringthat I know, short of a study of the score itself, but it requires no technical musical knowledge or ability to read music."
Absolutely essential for anyone who cares about the Ring
Klingsor Tristan | 11/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My love for the Ring was forged, like Nothung, by the Solti Siegfried about 6 months after its first release. The Solti Ring is still the definitive recorded Ring cycle...It is not perfect, but it is very likely the single greatest recording of the twentieth century. I have owned the Cooke Introduction to Der Ring des Nibelungen on vinyl since its release. It is an absolutely essential recording for anyone who cares about Wagner's Ring."
FASCINATING STUDY FOR NOVICES AND AFFICIONADOS ALIKE
Klingsor Tristan | Suffolk | 08/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This may look an intimidating, daunting and dull prospect - a 2+ hour lecture on the motifs in the Ring. Don't be put off. Whether you're a relative novice to the Ring and want to find out what it's all about, more experienced with a desire to understand the composer's methods better or an afficionado who thinks he knows it all inside out, there is great pleasure as well as elucidation to be had from this set. Originally made to accompany the Decca Solti Ring, it contains a multitude of musical illustrations taken from those recordings as well as some specially recorded by Solti just for this Introduction.
It wasn't the first time this has been tried. The famous HMV sets from the late 20's also included recorded examples of over 100 motifs. (These, by the way, are available as part of the Pearl reissue of those wonderful HMV recordings). What that set lacked was the wonderful insights as well as the approachability of the talk by Deryck Cooke. Cooke was a great and much missed musicologist - a Mahler expert responsible for the performing edition of the Tenth Symphony still most played today, a fascinating explorer into the nature of music's basic building-blocks in his excellent book, The Language of Music, and an inspiring and elucidating critic of Wagner's work as shown by the fascinating book he left unfinished at his death, I Saw the World End.
On these CDs he does much more than list the leitmotifs and identify them as calling-cards. He shows the amazingly integrated and organic growth of the musical material that Wagner uses throughout his vast work. He demonstrates how motifs can change their sense and meaning as they evolve through the drama. And he shows how the complex combinations of motifs can radically advance both the musical and the dramatic narrative of the piece. There are even places where he corrects the misinterpretation of some of the motifs that had become ingrained from early commentators' false labels.
This set should engage and enlighten anyone with an interest in Wagner's huge and inexhaustible tetralogy. Do give it a try - no matter how far down the road to Wagnerianism you are. "