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Wagner: Das Rheingold
Richard [Classical] Wagner, Joseph Keilberth, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Wagner: Das Rheingold
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #2

This, the third installment in the first stereo Ring (once thought lost), from the stage of the Bayreuth Festival in 1955, is as impressive and crucial to any collection as the previously released Siegfried and Die Walküre...  more »


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This, the third installment in the first stereo Ring (once thought lost), from the stage of the Bayreuth Festival in 1955, is as impressive and crucial to any collection as the previously released Siegfried and Die Walküre. Joseph Keilberth, whose devotion to Wagner was so great that he died conducting the second act of Tristan, leads an incredibly tight performance--almost jaunty in its storytelling. The opening chord, depicting the Rhine, is not played softly as marked; it does rather plunge us into the action with more energy than usual. The singing is universally remarkable. Hans Hotter's Wotan towers in its snideness and potency, while the Fricka of Georgine von Milinkovic is more subtle and alluring than we're accustomed to. Gustav Neidlinger's Alberich is, as on so many other recordings in which he sings this role, something to reckon with--a despicable but wretched character. The giants of Ludwig Weber and Josef Greindl have probably never been bettered; Paul Kuen's Mime is articulate and creepy and Rudolf Lustig's Loge is wily and clearly, cleanly sung. The only stain on this recording is the dreadful hissing noise given off by something called a "Mixtur-Trautonium," an electronic device invented to simulate the sound of the Nibelungs' anvils in Nibelheim. It's a distraction, but it can be lived with. This set is a must-have, and the extraneous noise during that scene is small price to pay for a performance this thrilling. --Robert Levine

CD Reviews

Another Great Ring on the Way!
Ralph J. Steinberg | New York, NY United States | 12/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It is ironic that a work like The Ring, which is a dauting challenge to conductors, orchestras, soloists and choruses, has been blessed with several outstanding recorded versions. Among stereo versions, the Solti has rightly been favored for its superb cast, great playing from the Vienna Philharmonic, passionate conducting, and still-remarkable engineering, including sound effects. Of course, there have been caveats, including the view that Solti, while certainly bringing forth the raw passion of the score, sometimes lacked a certain coutnerbalacing subtlety, which made for a certain brashness and lack of the gravitas and mystery also in the music. Because of this, I have always had a slight preference for the live Bayreuth versions under Krauss and Kempe, with the Krauss perhaps havng a slight edge because of certain of the soloists. Both recordings are hihgly desierable, although being mono, they lack the clarity and sonic impact of the Solti. Well, that situation may come to an end with the release of the Stereo Keilberth/Bayreuth performance from 1955.
As is well known, Decca recorded this cycle, only ot have John Culshaw veto its issue because of his prejudice against recording live performances. If this "Rheingold" is any measure of the rest of the cycle, this will be a Ring with which to contend. To begin with, Keilberth, well-known in Germany but not appreciated elsewhere, sounds like another unsung hero if the podium. His conducting is in the Krauss/Kempe manner, energetic, fiery, yet fully appreciative of the mystery of the music. The very first scene in the Rhine begins darkly, gravely, and gradually builds to swirling figures that really sound like water flowing. The Rhinemaidens are saucy and exhuberant, absolutely exhilirating in the "Rheingold! Rheingold!" hymn to the gold. Neidlinger's Alberich is even more brilliant here than other Rings, both demonic and desperate. Hotter delievers his finest Wotan, even firmer of voice than in the hallowed Krauss of three years earlier. Kuen likewise is a more musical Mime than usual, and the rest of the cast leaves nothing to be desired; I am especially impressed with von Illosvay's dark, foreboding Erda. Throughout, Keilberth maintains an unusually firm yet flexible hand on the music, taut but never rushed. How he could remain overlooked as one of the conductorial greats is mystifying. And the sound surpasses any other recording, even the Solti, because of the unique clarity and balance only found at Bayreuth. The stereo effect is entirely natural, never exaggerated. What you hear is the orchestra at your lap, supporting and never overwhelming the singers on stage. This is a "Rheingold" for the ages; if the rest of the Ring (I am soon going to purchase "Die Walkuere") measures up to this, then this will be the essential Ring."
About that "hissing noise"...
Stephan L. Burton | 02/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It begins at about 1 hour 8 minutes in, and continues for about 25 minutes. It's undoubtedly annoying - like really bad tape hiss. But at *no* point does it (even slightly) obscure the voices of Hotter & Neidlinger etc. at their absolute peak, in (otherwise) excellent sound.

Anybody who dismisses this remarkable set simply because of that is just missing the forest for the trees. But if you're in doubt, all you have to do is listen to the audio samples that Amazon has so helpfully provided: those for Disc 2, tracks 2 through 6 show off the "hissing noise" at its worst.

For whatever it's worth, I think that those who are kicking up a fuss over said "hissing nose" are being more than a bit silly. And I can't help wondering whether they could deal, even for a moment, with the much more severe audio compromises required to appreciate the incomparable recorded interpretations of Frida Leider & Lauritz Melchior & Friedrich Schorr."
An AWESOME "Rheingold" from a "RING" for the Ages!
Gregory E. Foster | Portland, ME, USA | 06/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This recording of Wagner's "Das Rheingold" recorded live at Bayreuth in 1955 is a TRUE masterpiece, a testament to the heights that can be reached when "everyone works together" for the sake of the "art" itself, not self-aggrandisement (which we have today, generally). Every aspect of this recording pales every other! It immediately, and solidly, goes to the top of the list of "Das Rheingold" choices on disc. As do the remaining three operas, also recorded at the same time, by the same cast, that make up the "Ring".

Going back over the decades of my life, I remember when you only had one choice for a "Ring"...Solti/Decca, and that was it.

Then, there came the von Karajan, and then the Bohm/Bayreuth. Then, there seemed to be a mini-explosion of "Rings" over the following years, so many that it became/becomes staggering to think about!

Two statements:
1) If you are NEW to Wagner's "Ring" do not become confused with all the choices out there. There are really only two live recordings you need consider...the Krauss/Bayreuth, and this one, Keilberth/Bayreuth, and one studio recording to think about, the Solti/Decca set. You may think this excessive, but you NEED all three of these recordings. Period.
2) If you are FAMILIAR with Wagner's "Ring", then, assumably, you want the Best recording of it. I will assume you already have the Solti set, as most people do. The Krauss set you may or may not have. It is a stunner. And, now, the Keilberth....the most awesome recording, in many ways, you will ever experience.

Think: 1955, live, Bayreuth, the Best Wagnerians of their age, assembled together at the behest of Wagner's grandsons, in Wagner's theater, and the best part....recorded in STEREO! By Decca, of all people, before the Solti studio Ring was ever thought about! Why Decca sat on these magnificent recordings just blows my mind.

Luckily for us, Testament acquired the rights to release these timeless recordings, and we now, after 52 years, can marvel at and enjoy these magnificent performances of four of the greatest musical masterpieces ever written, combining to make up the most monumental work ever written for the stage! Enjoy this (set) of Masterpiece Recordings! ~operabruin