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Wagner: The Ring
Wagner, Krauss, Vinay
Wagner: The Ring
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #4
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #5
  •  Track Listings (8) - Disc #6
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #7
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #8
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #9
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #10
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #11
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #12
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #13
  •  Track Listings (7) - Disc #14

Unavailable for several years, this classic complete Ring recording now returns triumphantly to the catalogs at budget price! Ring groupies and enthusiasts, who are a very active and vocal subset of opera lovers, argue vi...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Wagner, Krauss, Vinay, Windgassen, Fischer-Dieskau, Varnay
Title: Wagner: The Ring
Members Wishing: 0
Total Copies: 0
Label: Opera D'oro
Original Release Date: 1/1/2006
Re-Release Date: 2/14/2006
Album Type: Box set
Genre: Classical
Styles: Opera & Classical Vocal, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 14
SwapaCD Credits: 14
UPC: 723721192952


Album Description
Unavailable for several years, this classic complete Ring recording now returns triumphantly to the catalogs at budget price! Ring groupies and enthusiasts, who are a very active and vocal subset of opera lovers, argue vigorously over which are the best complete recordings of all time. Most will agree that this is one of the finest ever, and many rate it the best of all! Wagner performances recorded in Wagner?s own theater in Bayreuth, Germany always have a special appeal due to the unique acoustics, which Wagner took into account when composing. His music dramas just seem to sound better there than anywhere else. This recording caused a commotion when it came out in 1953 due to its palpable excitement in comparison to the relative sedateness of previous recorded performances. Clemens Krauss was one of the great Wagner conductors (and a personal friend of Richard Strauss), but what really sets this recording apart is the cast. Overall, it is arguably the greatest cast assembled for Der Ring at Bayreuth in the last 60 years. Although the great bass-baritone Hans Hotter sang Wotan in the Solti Ring years later, here his voice is in far better condition. Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried is also much more youthful. Astrid Varnay was one of the outstanding Brünnhildes of all time, and the other singers are equally fine. Even small parts are taken by major singers of the era, such as the famed coloratura Rita Streich as the Forest Bird. The sonics on this set, although monophonic and not up to modern standards, are quite acceptable and have been digitally remastered. A magnificent set including plot synopsis and track listings, absolutely essential to the serious opera lover, especially the Wagner fan and Ring aficionado! Live performance, Bayreuth Festspielhaus, 1953.

CD Reviews

A Miraculous Ring!
The Cultural Observer | 02/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"By general consensus, many Wagnerians will tell you that the greatest Ring available is the grandieloquent Solti ring recorded by John Culshaw and the Decca team during 1958 to 1965. While I have nothing to say but praise for the several merits that constitute that great project, I cannot deny the fact that it lacks the realism brought to life in the confines of the theater. While many would steer you towards Karl Bohm's recording, I'd say that you should turn to this Ring conducted by Clemens Krauss with Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde, Hans Hotter as Wotan, Gustav Neidlinger as Alberich, Josef Greindl taking the bass roles, Ramon Vinay and Regina Resnik as the Walsung twins, and a well seasoned veteran cast of well-trained Wagnerians under the baton of an excellent conductor who conducted with Furtwangler's philosophical perfection, Karajan's transparency, Boulez's fluidity, and Solti's drive. I'd say that among the aforementioned conductors, Krauss brings the most out of Wagner's score, and if it were not for the less than satisfactory yet entirely listenable sound, I would rank this as the best Ring on the market.

In my opinion, the best studio after Solti's already praised to the roof Ring would be James Levine's New York recording due to the godlike and very lyrical vision of the Ring he brought to Wagner's score. I need not expound on the Solti Ring, but the Levine Ring is glorious. The singers are very committed to text and produce some of the most compelling ensemble work even if they aren't the most fantastic Wagner singers in the world. That said, James Morris' Wotan is exemplary in every way, as is Matti Salminen's Hagen, Hanna Schwarz's Waltraute, Ludwig's Fricka, Moll's Fafner and Hunding, and to an extent, Hildegard Behrens' Brünnhilde. In Krauss' recording, you hear the Brunnhilde of the magnificent Astrid Varnay, who is in my opinion, one of the century's greatest Brunnhildes. In my opinion, she surpasses even Nilsson in terms of interpretation and dramatic committment. Hers is a large voice of pure black marble, and she can move you to tears like no other Brunnhilde can (except perhaps Regine Crespin).

Hans Hotter is Wotan in this recording. Where he was noble and tragic in the Solti Ring, he is captured in better voice here minus the vocal problems he encountered later in his career. I need not expound on the greatness of this artist as enough has been said about his definitive performances as the head god of Walhalla.

Wolfgang Windgassen sings a most youthful Siegfried and gives a thoroughly dramatic and exciting performance of this heldentenor role. I'd say that this is his best recorded performance of Siegfried, since the one he repeated for Solti years later was recorded when he was beginning to lose the bloom of his voice.

Siegfried's parents, Siegmund and Sieglinde, are taken by Ramon Vinay and Regina Resnik. Resnik's Sieglinde is very underrated, and I think she gives an excellent performance here, the peer of Rysanek many years later. And while Ramon Vinay's Siegmund is nowhere near the greatness of James King's, he makes one of the most convincing portrayals next to Vickers. I think he surpasses even Melchior in the sense that Vinay is quite the impassioned singer.

The rest of the cast, from Maria von Ilosvay's leadweight Erda, the youthful Rhinemaidens, the happy-go-lucky Valkyries, the aviary and playful Waldvogel of Rita Streich, the neurotic Mime of Paul Kuen, Ira Malaniuk's Fricka and Waltraute, Hermann Uhde's magnificent Donner and Gunther, Erich Witte's outstanding Loge (he really is outstanding, but is to be replaced by Ludwig Suthaus in the latter rings), and the mysterious Norns of Ilosvay, Malaniuk, and Resnik are all excellently weak links, in other words.

The only quibble I have with this recording is the balance of instruments. In certain portions, the bass instruments would drop such as in the prologue of Walkure Act II and certain portions where voices are covered like the entrance of Siegfried and Hagen's horn call. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with this Ring. It is beautifully packaged and well-remastered by Opera D'Oro with a booklet accompanying this magnificent set.

Mark E. Farrington | East Syracuse, NY | 11/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"How to describe this RING without going over-the-top?

CONDUCTING: Krauss had the lyricism of Bruno Walter, the fire of Toscanini, the clarity and linear tension of Reiner, the pacing of Muck, and the depth and transitional instinct of Furtwangler- plus a few qualities of his own. And within 9 months of this RING, he would be dead. (He was engaged to conduct the '53 Bayreuth RING & PARSIFAL- only because Knappertsbusch got into a spat with Wieland & Wolfgang Wagner and stayed away, that year.) That is to say, we are very fortunate to have him in the RING.

Now, there IS the '55 Keilberth/Bayreuth RING (taped in stereo by Decca, with most of Krauss's cast), which is being released, piecemeal, at over-the-top prices. Granted, Keilberth was unjustly underrated (or, to quote a certain Politician, "misunderestimated"). But Krauss was even greater.

SINGING: On the Krauss RING, we hear several of Solti's singers, in younger and fresher voice (Wolfgang Windgassen's Siegfried, Hans Hotter's Wotan and Gustav Neidlinger's Alberich, to name only three). Not to mention Astrid Varnay's Brunnhilde- one of the greatest performances of anything by anyone (and, until recently, commercially unavailable ! ). She had an intensity and a grandeur all her own- even if her "instrument" may not have been as steely as Nilsson's or as "warm" as Flagstad's.

THE ORCHESTRA: The first post-war Bayreuth Festival was in 1951. And for the next five years (or so), the orchestral playing at Bayreuth was, overall, better than it would ever be again. Within a decade it got rather slack, for at least three reasons:
1) Increased costs led to less rehearsal time.
2) In 1961, the Berlin Wall went up and, on-again off-again, Cold War tensions escalated. This meant that during the political "cold snaps," the best (and reasonably-priced) players from Prague, Leipzig & Dresden (who had earlier been lured to Bayreuth by hard Western currency) encountered greater restrictions in crossing the Iron Curtain.

3) The better players of the West were lured away from Bayreuth by higher-paying, more comfortable "gigs" with the other big Festivals- which expanded enough, in terms of scheduling, to overlap with the Bayreuth calendar.

If you think this is an exaggeration, then compare the '53 RING orchestra (especially in GOTTERDAMMERUNG !) with the '67 Bohm.

"PROBLEMS": With any live Wagner (even under "Bayreuth conditions"), you must factor-in a degree of human fallability and fatigue. So, in the course of this RING you may encounter little moments of not-so-razor-sharp ensemble. Still, you will be amazed at how clean and in-tune the playing is, throughout. Yes, in the SIEGFRIED sword-forging scene, Windgassen misses a verse and rhythmically goes all over the place before "righting" himself . (But "live" , this passage is almost always a mess.) Yes, at one point, the whole trumpet section forgets to play the "sword-motiv." And yes, in the few lines of her entrance, the Guntrune leaves something to be desired; still, by the time of her little scene just before the Immolation (a passage that was often "cut" in later years- even at Bayreuth) she acquits herself honorably.

These are all fleeting problems, gone in a flash, and no more of an obstruction to the overall "vision" than the occasional pigment blemishes on the restored Sistine Ceiling.

SOUND QUALITY: For 1953 radio broadcast tapes, the sound is first-rate. Bayreuth's acoustic is faithfully captured, and (barring a few stage entrances & exits) the voices are always well-placed. In fact, it's hard to believe that microphones weren't obtrusively suspended within audience sight-lines (which the Brothers Wagner would never permit). Whatever the sonic limitations of the original tapes, the ear adjusts quickly, and it becomes easy to lose yourself in the performance (i.e., "good enough 4 me"). That being said, however, I find the sound quality of the Foyer-Laudis version to have greater clarity, while this Opera d'Oro transfer sounds "smoother" and has less abrupt-seeming "side-breaks" between discs. (Life is full of little trade-offs, so take your pick.)

Sadly, the Gala edtion, which had excellent sound AND well-calibrated "side-breaks", has been withdrawn. One problem with it was the dark bluish-green dye which ate through the discs to cause mis-tracking or bit-rot. (I reluctantly got rid of my Gala edition, when an old teacher of mine gave me the Foyer Laudis...Perhaps Gala might re-release this RING, minus the harmful dye?)

"AFFORDABILITY CRISIS": Imagine that, traveling alone, you were up for a 2007 jaunt to Bayreuth for a complete RING. Per ticket/per performance, you would have been looking at perhaps $3000 (a RING totalling at THAT, times 4 - even with a discount for the one-act RHEINGOLD). Plus air-fare, hotels & meals...So, having parted with the requisite $15,000 (and even THAT might have been slumming it, with the US dollar's pitiful performance against the Euro), and you were really and truly THERE...What would you have HEARD? I have never been to Bayreuth, but recent Bayreuth broadcasts are not encouraging. Safe to say, for quality of singing, conducting and playing, you wouldn't get within a wide sea-mile of the Krauss RING...Which you can now have for the price of a reasonably nice dinner for two (drinks & dessert included)- AND minus the silly-a** staging with which latter-day RINGS are often afflicted (Vahalla = Brooklyn subway toilet or stock-exchange or both: yada-yada-yada).

At this price, HOW COULD YOU LOSE?

The One True Ring
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 04/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Source: Live recordings from the 1953 Bayreuth Festival.

Sound: Excellent 1950s live mono. Naturally, the sound is limited by modern standards, but it is crisp, detailed and capable of providing pleasure to all but the most jaded audio purists.

Cast, "Das Rheingold": Woglinde - Erika Zimmermann; Wellgunde - Hetty Pluemacher; Flosshilde - Gisela Litz; Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger; Wotan - Hans Hotter; Fricka - Ira Malaniuk; Loge - Erich Witte; Erda - Maria von Ilosvay; Donner - Hermann Uhde; Freia - Bruni Falcon; Froh - Gerhard Stolze; Mime - Paul Kuen; Fafner - Josef Greindl; Fasolt - Ludwig Weber.

Cast, "Die Walkuere": Siegmund - Ramon Vinay; Sieglinde - Regina Resnik; Hunding - Josef Greindl; Wotan - Hans Hotter; Bruennhilde - Astrid Varnay; Fricka - Ira Malaniuk; Gerhilde - Bruennhilde Friedland; Ortlinde - Bruni Falcon; Waltraute - Lise Sorrell; Schwertleite - Maria von Ilosvay; Helmwige - Liselotte Thomamueller; Siegrune - Gisela Litz; Grimgerde - Sibylla Plate; Rossweise - Erika Schubert.

Cast, "Siegfried": Siegfried - Wolfgang Windgassen; Mime - Paul Kuen; The Wanderer - Hans Hotter; Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger; Forest Bird - Rita Streich; Fafner - Josef Greindl; Erda - Maria von Ilosvay; Bruennhilde - Astrid Varnay.

Cast, "Die Goetterdaemmerung": First Norn - Maria von Ilosvay; Second Norn / Waltraute - Ira Malaniuk; Third Norn - Regina Resnik; Bruennhilde - Astrid Varnay; Siegfried - Wolfgang Windgassen; Gunther - Hermann Uhde; Hagen - Josef Greindl; Gutrune - Natalie Hinsch-Groendahl; Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger; Woglinde - Erika Zimmermann; Wellgunde - Hetty Pluemacher; Flosshilde - Gisela Litz.

Conductor: Clemens Krauss with the Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele.

Most of the writings about the early days of the revived post-War Bayreuth Festival focus on the ground-breaking, minimalist productions of the Wagner brothers, grandsons of Richard, who had taken over control from the Nazi-tainted Winifred Wagner. With no money to speak of and a pressing need to break all ties, they offered a nearly bare stage, few props, non-specific costumes and elaborate lighting. Their productions wowed audiences by their sheer difference from the grandiose, realistic and expensive offerings of the--ahem--deplorable past. (I suspect, though, that a modern viewer might regard their productions as cheesy and immensely dull.) Less often acknowledged is that the revival of the Festival coincided with the flowering of a generation of Wagnerian singers, the like of which is not to be found anywhere in the world today. The arid productions of the Wagner brothers are confined to the dusty pages of theatrical history, but their magnificent singers, larger-than-life conductors and wonderful orchestra can still thrill us in recordings.

These recordings capture one of the triumphs of the reborn Festival. For more than fifty years this "Ring" under the hand of Clemens Krauss has been held in the highest regard. Many to this day still hold it to be the greatest of all recorded "Rings." The strength of the uniform cast is simply extraordinary. Hotter, Varnay, Vinay, Resnik, Greindl and Neidlinger are all caught in top form and, surely, this is Windgassen's best recorded Siegfried.

The Austrian conductor, Clemens Krauss (1893-1954), was a slightly dubious character who made something of a career out of snaffling up plum assignments abandoned by conductors who found themselves at odds with the Third Reich. Nevertheless, he was an absolute master of German opera. He conducted the premiere of "Arabella" in 1933. In 1942 he did the same for "Capriccio," as well as writing the libretto for that final opera of his close friend, Richard Strauss. This "Ring" displays him at his best as both technician and musician.

This is a captured set of live performances. It has imperfections but it also has a vitality that is not to be found in any artificially assembled studio product. Recorded at the very theater designed and built by Richard Wagner, these recordings offer the sound that the composer intended and demonstrate the underlying fallacies inherent in the overblown and over-hyped Solti-Culshaw production.

Five stars!"