14 CD Box Set, Including the Complete Recording of Wagner's 'ring Des Nibelungen'.
"Schau, Mime, du Schmied! So schneidet Siegfried's Schwert!"
Eric S. Kim | Southern California | 05/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a fact that there are over thirty Ring recordings available in the Classical Market. Each recording is at least greatly different from each other. Solti focuses on the drama of the Ring, which makes his recording very explosive and bombastic. Karajan focuses on the beauty of the music: it's a very heavenly experience, but the tension and power of the Ring are taken right out of the framework. Goodall's live recording is sung in English and the pacing is VERY slow, but the small details can be heard loud and clear. Levine isn't as slow as Goodall, but his singers don't add much to his recording, though the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is superior to many other orchestras. Janowski's reading may sound a bit too neutral to some, but his complete faithfulness to the score is one of the highlights to his recording (it's excellent for beginners). Every Ring recording in general has its ups and downs. Here, we have Karl Bohm, and this is one of the ultimate Ring recordings of all time.
As a live recording, I wouldn't call this a delicious treat. It's more like a gigantic, scrumptious feast for the ears. Bohm gives the Ring the red-hot treatment. The sheer intensity and horrifying drama that he brings to the work is a classic example of his musical genius. His tempi are some of the quickest (the entire recording is about 30 minutes shorter than the average running time), but they still don't seem rushed at all (except maybe Rheingold Prelude and "Wotan's Farewell"). I especially like his "Flight of the Valkyries" & "Forging Scene"; both are some of the most energetic on disc.
The ultimate Wagnerian orchestra, Bayreuth Festival, gives it their all. The brass both high and low are the most powerful, while the woodwinds are some of the most delicate. The strings are muffled only a few times, otherwise the eighteen anvils are perfectly loud and clear. Scenes involving Erda and Three Norns aren't as effective as Janowski's, but the entire Walkure is more successful than Janowski's when it comes to the amount of vigor and nervousness that's been added here. Overall, this orchestra in general is the liveliest out of all.
The singers are also near ideal. Theo Adam is a treat. While he is not as equally impressive as Hans Hotter (featured in Krauss, Keilberth, Knappertsbusch, and Solti recordings), he can certainly conjure up everlasting emotions. He's more of a Norse god to me (Hotter sounds either Roman or Greek), and his ruggedness is what makes his Wotan unique. Plus, he's been a Wotan for a very long time, and so this recording was made when he was probably at the peak of his expertise.
Birgit Nilsson is one the best Brunnhildes on the market. She doesn't sound like she was past her prime; she has that edginess that Ann Evans (Barenboim) and Eva Marton (Haitink) don't seem to grasp. Her Valkyrie cry is delightful, and one would probably faint in awe when she sings in the final act of Gotterdammerung. James King and Leonie Rysanek are simply divine as Siegmund and Sieglinde. Every scene they're in makes the Ring more magical than it seems. Just listen to Walkure Act One Scene Three, and Act Two Scene Three: they don't sing them like they used to. Wolfgang Windgassen may very well be the best Siegfried for the ages. Sure, we have Siegfried Jerusalem (Haitink, Barenboim, and live Levine) and Rene Kollo (Janowski) in the present day; they're equally stunning, but no one can compete with the late Windgassen. His `Forging Scene" is defiantly inspiring, and has certainly improved over the last years (In the Krauss Ring, he makes tons of mistakes in this scene, but it doesn't overpower the rest of the recording). His last scene in Gotterdammerung is celestial and overwhelming. I sure wish I could've seen him live if I lived in the 50's and 60's.
Gustav Niedlinger as Alberich has a heaviness that overwhelms a few other baritones. When he sings his only sequence in Gotterdammerung Act Two Scene One, his emotion is so pure that his son Hagen would've drowned himself in tears (Too melodramatic? Sorry about that.). The only problem is that his character sounds too one-dimensional. Alberich isn't just some cardboard-cutout bad guy. He has a very good reason why he wants to take revenge on the world. Nimsgern (Janowski) and Hammond-Stroud (Goodall) seemed to have understood it very well. Overall, Niedlinger is amazing throughout Wagner's Ring (He deserves many awards for "Bin ich nun frei?"). Erwin Wohlfahrt wins second place as Mime, after Gerhard Stolze. He gives a first-rate performance in Siegfried Act One, but loses some of his edge in Act Two. He is an exceptional Mime nonetheless (Look for him in Karajan's Rheingold, also). And finally, Why the heck would the conductor have Windgassen play both Siegfried AND Loge? The demi-god needs to sound different from a son of a Walsung. Zednik (Haitink and Boulez) and Schreier (Janowski) are much better for the eccentricities that they display through their singing voices. All in all, a Loge that's marred by lack of cunning.
The rest of the supporting cast does an extraordinary job here. Josef Greindl as Hagen is absolutely stunning, though I prefer Salminen (Janowski, Levine, and Sawallisch). Annelies Burmeister as Fricka is pretty easy on the ears, and you can tell that she gets into character almost perfectly. Colossal are the voices of Talvela and Bohme as Fasolt and Fafner; they sing without hesitation, but I wonder if they had any trouble with their costumes. Koth as the delicate Forest Bird isn't as great as Battle (Levine), but it's no fatal mistake; she's almost divine. The Valkyries are some of the most powerful here, the Vassals sing majestically, and the Rheinmaidens play their parts very well.
This Ring is essential for its pure energy, its fast tempi, and for its splendid vocal ensemble. I love it. I can't wait to hear the Knappertsbusch and Keilberth recordings."
The best Ring in the market
The Cultural Observer | 07/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most people would say that Solti's ring is the best recording of Wagner's monumental work, and while I say that it is the best studio recording in terms of authenticity (hint: Culshaw's use of steerhorns, tuned anvils, and ignots and other sound devices plus his alteration of Windgassen's voice in Gotterdammerung) and vocal performance, Bohm's ring surpasses Solti's with respect to the score's dramatic aspects. I say this because the singers in this recording are deeply involved in Wagner's complex drama, which is very essential to the composer's Gesamtkunswerks. The cast is almost similar, with some better or lesser singers in this and that role. I would say that the Valkyries, Norns, and Rhinemaidens are particularly ravishing in this Ring, more so than Solti's. You also have a much more involved Walsung pair, and while Bohm's Wotan is nowhere near as great as Hotter, he does give a most intense, heroic, and outstanding reading. Birgit Nilsson is a more convincing Brunnhilde here, and Windgassen's Siegfried is thrilling. Erwin Wolfhart is probably the best Mime on record, and Martha Modl's Waltraute has the most powerfully dramatic reading of the role I have heard. The bass roles are taken by greats such as Talvela, Bohme, Nienstiedt, and Greindl (whose Hagen is still amazing after all these years), and Anja Silja sings one of the strongest Freias on disc. Dvorakova brings a fresh insight to the role of Gutrune that I couldn't help but notice this character after it has been mangled by indifferent sopranos in the past (except Janowitz, who makes magic with the role).
This Ring is the first Bayreuth Ring officially recorded and the sound is excellent and well-balanced compared to other Rings of the era. He is also an outstanding Ring conductor in that his use of fast tempi, passion, lyricism, and phrasing that sings and sometimes almost dances creates a very theatrical atmosphere and offers amazing musical richness. Listen to the opening bars of Rheingold and his Gotterdammerung Prelude, and you will know what I mean. He and Wieland Wagner have created a stage drama that is unsurpassed in dramatic value. His Ring displays wonderful humanity and the rendering of each character's feelings has never been so alive, not even in Solti or Karajan's readings. Highly recommended."
An Extraordinary Ring
M. Mclain | VA | 07/28/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am always amazed that when Wagner is discussed, Bohm becomes that guy who always conducts too fast, and when Mozart comes up, he's the guy who is always too slow. For those of us who deeply appreciate his stunning accomplishments, Bohm was a man who always found the right time. This is an exceptional recording, the only real flaw being the brass intonation of the Bayreuther (even Boulez had to contend with this). With Bohm the interpretation (like Boulez) always began with the drama and went from there. He had a strong sense of what needed to be stressed, and what could not be stressed too much. He could maintain a tremendous intensity over long spans, and could secure a remarkable consistency from even second rate orchestras. He never enjoyed quite the fame of a Karajan or Furtwangler (he probably didn't want that anyways), but increasingly his performances are being rediscovered (his Beethoven cycle is suddenly being praised). He was 'old fashioned' in his dedication to the score, and yet radical in his openness to matters of staging. There are certainly enough reviews praising this recording and its counterpart, the Bayreuth Tristan, so one more can hardly add anything. I would only say that of all the Ring recordings I have encountered, this one is the least idiosyncratic and most true, and yet it could have been realized by noone other than Karl Bohm."
A MUST OWN
Jukeboxtheater | Georgia | 03/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Karl Bohm conducts his Bayreuth ring cycle with drive and flourish, never allowing the musical line to drop... a pleasant change from Solti's frenetic stop/start approach. Bohm also shares much of Solti's stellar cast who seem a bit more inspired here due to the presence of the live Bayreuth audience.
The gem of this cycle is Die Walkure. King and Rysanek make a magical Volsung pair (King's Siegmund is especially noteworthy, far outshining his performance for Solti) and Birgit Nilsson as Brunnhilde is in a class of her own. Nilsson exudes more warmth and humanity than she gave for Solti, likely a result of Bohm's coaching. In fact, the soprano is famously quoted as much preferring Bohm's Ring cycle over the Solti recording (I whole-heartedly agree). In any event, I believe Bohm's Die Walkure is easily the best on record.
Similarly outstanding are Bohm's Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Wolfgang Windgassen gives his final recorded performance as Siegfried and though the voice has lost some of its youthful bloom, there's no denying the commitment he brings to the role. I still get goosebumps whenever I listen to Siegfried's Forging Scene, the most electrifying account on disc. Bohm is famous for his exciting conducting and here he really delivers the goods! And one can only marvel at Birgit Nilsson's astonishingly tireless, note-perfect performance during the final Immolation scene. In fact, the only minor disappointment in the whole cyle is Das Rheingold which just never really seems to gel (and hearing Windgassen sing Loge is a bit odd...), but even it is more than acceptable. The famous Bayreuth acoustic is well caught with voices (as in all other Bayreuth recordings) favored over the orchestra. Even taking into consideration the recent release of the much lauded 1955 Keilberth/Bayreuth cycle, I still believe that the Bohm Ring remains the best all around stereo version. No, let me go even further...
I'm actually grateful now that the Keilberth recording was kept in the Decca vaults for so many years. Why? Because had it been released at the time, I have to wonder if this Bohm cycle would have ever been released at all. On paper at least, Keilberth should eaily have Bohm beat with Hotter, Windgassen, Neidlinger, etc. all captured at their youthful best. So with the "best" cycle already available, would the record company still had the good taste and foresight (not to mention shouldering the enormous expense) to even make this recording? Probably not, and as a result we would have been denied perhaps the finest conducted cycle around and one of the very best Rings period.
One further thing, this set has been digitally remastered and sounds much fresher and clearer than the original 1990 white box/clam-shell release (which I also own) thus making it a tremendous bargain! "
Get Either Keilberth, Bohm, or Barenboim first.
Ryan Morris | Chicago, IL | 09/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I find this ring cycle to be close to perfect. For those new to the opera, I discourage Solti because of Hotters vocal debilitation. I simply cant listen to acts II and III of Die Walkure[Hotter sounds like a wounded alligator-and he is my favourite Wotan of all time so I am not a hater]. IF you are new to the ring, I would recommend the Barenboim set, or this one, though I do not enjoy THeo Adam as Wotan. He is a talented singer, but I do not feel like he comes through with the depth and authority required for the ruler of the gods. Everyone else is fantastic. Bohm does a wonderful job, especially in Gotterdammerung, which I consider one of the finest available. IF you are only going to buy one ring cycle, get the recently unified Keilberth set on Testament. It is older but still in stereo and is, in my opinion, the all-around best ring cycle available."