Richard Wagner, Joseph Keilberth, Wolfgang Windgassen Wagner: Siegfried Genre:Classical This live-from-Bayreuth 1955 Siegfried, in stereo, was professionally recorded by Decca's engineers as part of what was to be the first full Ring Cycle on records. Contractual disputes and producer John Culshaw's desire to... more » produce an "ideal" Ring in the studio killed the release of this Ring, and the tapes were locked away in some dark chamber until now. The result is breathtaking: Hotter, Windgassen (playing his first Siegfried), Neidlinger (as Alberich), and Varnay at their best, with Joseph Keilberth at the helm. Keilberth was not one for "interpretation" or anything other than telling a good story with drama, fine pacing, and musical accuracy. His tempi are invariably quick without ever being rushed, and he has some of Böhm's intensity, some of Solti's visceral excitement, and some of Furtwängler's grandeur, while at the same time presenting a Siegfried that is very much its own. I'm not certain that this is the "best" performance of this opera, but if it were the only one you owned, it would be enough. --Robert Levine« less
This live-from-Bayreuth 1955 Siegfried, in stereo, was professionally recorded by Decca's engineers as part of what was to be the first full Ring Cycle on records. Contractual disputes and producer John Culshaw's desire to produce an "ideal" Ring in the studio killed the release of this Ring, and the tapes were locked away in some dark chamber until now. The result is breathtaking: Hotter, Windgassen (playing his first Siegfried), Neidlinger (as Alberich), and Varnay at their best, with Joseph Keilberth at the helm. Keilberth was not one for "interpretation" or anything other than telling a good story with drama, fine pacing, and musical accuracy. His tempi are invariably quick without ever being rushed, and he has some of Böhm's intensity, some of Solti's visceral excitement, and some of Furtwängler's grandeur, while at the same time presenting a Siegfried that is very much its own. I'm not certain that this is the "best" performance of this opera, but if it were the only one you owned, it would be enough. --Robert Levine
What was Culshaw thinking?
Howard G Brown | Port St. Lucie, FL USA | 05/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"RING RESOUNDING, Culshaw's book on the making of the Decca RING, came with the Big Box I bought back in the 70's. In it he mentions the various Bayreuth RINGS, and 'sadly' concluded none were worth releasing as commercial recordings. At one point he dissed the Green Hill for using trombones instead of steer horns in Gotterdammerung.
True, Neo Bayreuth was never about the bells and whistles, and I fear it is the bells and whistles that nearly undo the Solti/Culshaw RING.
This recording of a live performance fror 1955 is another matter entirely. The singers are at the peak of their powers -- especially Hotter and Windgassen -- and Astrid Varney IS the woman within the Valkyrie. That final scene with her nephew (let's face it, this is incest) blazes with more heat than the ring of fire that Siegried storms through to arouse her from slumber.
I intend to get this entire RING as it is released; I have already ordered DIE WALKURE. The sound is sensational. It reminds me of the Reiner/CSO Strauss benchmarks recorded about the same time.
If Joseph Keilberth was a 'Kappelmeister' we could use a dozen such craftsmen today! All concened are alert, alive and on form for him."
A Siegfried for the Ages
Philip Chase | Florida, USA | 05/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I do not mean to gush but I must confess I was so taken with this release in genuine Decca-engineered stereo of a 1955 Bayreuth performance, I have listened to it once a week in the past 5 weeks that I have owned it. Only two other recordings of Siegfried have so enchanted me and they were the Solti and the Goodall. Varnay, Windgassen, Hotter, and Kuen are in their prime, Keilberth turns in a perfectly led performance capturing the drama and grandeur of the music without indulging in other excesses enjoyed by certain conductors. In view of Windgassen's performance, it seems ludicrous that Culshaw and Solti went to extreme lengths (which in the end proved futile) not to have Windgassen as their first choice for Siegfried. And what can I say about Kuen? His exemplary Mime (so well sung) is a welcome relief from Stolze's overly-whiny contribution to the Solti set. Mind you I don't really mean to bad-mouth the Solti wich for over 40 years has been my Siegfried of choice, but the impact of this Keilberth performance is bound to win many fans for all these performers who, alas, have either retired or passed away. Varnay was a magnificent artist and should be better known today. Thanks to the Testament label we can now experience these artists of the past in glorious stereo sound."
Part 3 of the Definitive Ring
Ralph J. Steinberg | New York, NY United States | 01/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have never understood why Siegfried is the stepchild of Ring operas. This score, despite the dark moments involving the schemings of Mime, Alberich, the menace of Fafner and the ambivalent abdication of Wotan, is a joyous, spirited work which celebrates the dawn of a new, uncorrupted world, even though that illusion is shattered in Goetterdaemmerung, largely because Siegfried's freedom from Wotan and his dealings is also illusory. But for the while, we can rejoice in the promise of youth and love. And there is humor, albeit of a rather ironic nature, in the encounters between Siegfried and his pathetically villanous foster-father Miime. Siegfried certainly earns its nickname as the Ring's Scherzo. Conductor Joseph Keilberth delivers the most exhuberant reading I have ever heard of this score. At first, I found his jarring, as though it did not fit with the character of Rheingold and Walkure, but as he works his way to Act 3 and Wotan's resigned encounter with Erda, the underlying gloom is there, alright, just momentarily supplanted by the courageous young Volsung who has forged his father's sword, gained his identity, and is off to experience the one emotion he has never received from anyone, love. It is impossible to speak of all the great details and character of Keilberth's performance save to say that it tops every other in drive, sensitivity (the Forest Murmurs have to be heard to be believed in their extreme sensitivity)and profundity. This is for me the very peak of great Wagner conducting. The cast is probasbly the best ever assembled for this work. Windgassen completely surpasses himself; he is more tender and vulnerable than almost any other Siegfried (Max Lorenz is his equal, but no better, and Windgassen makes Melchior sound like a noisy bellower), but in addition, HE REALLY IS A HELDENTENOR HERE! He rings with heroic might in "Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert!" in Act 1, his musings in Acts 2 and 3 are the very height of gentleness (No Nazi, this Siegfried!) and he is freah and ardent in the great Awakening Scene. For sure, he has never equalled his sheer potency in this role. I am sure he will be at least as great in Goetterdaemmerung. Hans Hotter completes his role of Wotan, under the guise of Wanderer. He is wise, humorous, resigned in his encounter with Erda in Act 3, but then suddenly reveals Wotan's self-delusions when he reacts aggressively to Siegfried, only to be rudely dismissed when his power is shattered. No other Wotan has ever reached these heights, and Hotter remains THE Wotan of all time, even beating such immortals as Schorr, Schipper, Bockelmann, and Sigurd Bjoerling. Paul Kuen is really deliciously maliciuos as Mime, especially in his oily, poisonous attempt to kill Siegfried in Act 2; for once, there is no reason to pity this character, he is just SO nasty and slimy. Neidlinger's Alberich, by comparison, has dignity and just grievances against his counterpart Wotan ("Licht-Alberich", after all!). Greindl is frightening as Fafner, giant-turned-dragon, but dies with regret at having murdered his brother Fasolt and now suffering the same fate. Hollweg is an enchanting Forest Bird, almost sounding like a boy treble, as specified by Wagner. Von Illosvay is even more impressive as Erda here than in Rheingold, majestically implacable and outraged at Wotan's hypocrisy. And then, there is Astrid Varnay. Flagstad, Nilsson, Moedl, Leider, move over! ASTRID RULES! Has there ever been as radiant a "Heil dir, Sonne!" as Varnay's? NO! She is perfection itself. From proud goddess to a woman fearful of human emotions to ardent lover, she is right there at every moment. How she could have been so unappreicated in America is appalling to me. She is truly the great Hochdramatische! The sound is if anything even more impressive than in the previous two operss. Culshaw should be resurrected and hung byt he you-=know-whats for keeping this from the public ofr so many years. No doubt about it, BAYREUTH, KEILBERTH, WINDGASSEN, HOTTER AND VARNAY RULE FOREVER!"
A rare find from the archives--a singer's Siegfried
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Over the decades the Ring cycle has been evenly split between the two installments that have succeeded quite often on disc (Rheingold and Walkure) and the two that have succeeded very rarely (Siegfried and Gotterdammerung). When critics hailed the 1951 Bayreuth Gotterdammerung as an unearthed treasure a few years ago (also on Testament), I felt burned. The Siegfried in that performance, Bernd Aldendorff, was the epitome of a dreadful Heldentenor--beefy tone, constant shouting, no acting ability, little musicianship. Nor was I thrilled with Knappertsbusch's unimaginative, often lumbering conducting or the sloppy ensemble of the Festival orchestra. It was an expensive disappointment.
This Siegfried is altogether different. The reviews below offer the relevant praise: good stereo sound (amazingly so for 1955), workmanlike but agreeably brisk condcuting from Keilberth, whose beat provides an expressive underpinning for the singers, and above all, a cast that can sing their parts. The exemplary Mime, Wanderer, and Brunnhilde deserve only praise. However, the crux of the matter is Windgassen, because his older self sounds leathery and strained in Solti's recording. In 1955 Windgassen was a decade younger, and it makes all the difference in the world. He isn't really a Heldentenor, but Siegfried is a youth, and here we get a lyric, youthful voice put forth with infectious energy and enthusiasm. If you can forget Melchior (I certainly can, since he retired before I was born), Windgassen is every inch a musical singer and fine vocal actor in this inhumanly taxing part.
For all these reasons, one can feel secure laying out the considerable price of this set, even on the used market. If Keilberth had been Karajan, this would in all probability have ranked as the finest modern Siegfried. As it stands, it's very, very good."
What May Become "The" Ring Cycle" of Choice
A. Craig | Grand Junction,CO | 06/25/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Robert Levine I believe makes a slight mistake in his review of
the Testament release of "Siegfried" He states that Wolfgang
Windgassen did his first Siegfried in this recording.
This may have been Herr Windgassen's first "offical" recording
in this part, but not certainly his first recording. That honor
belongs to the 1953 Clemens Krauss Bayreuth recording now
available on Opera d' Oro. I find it interesting that almost the
same cast as the Krauss recording is assembled again on this
one. While this may end up being one of the most expensive
"Ring Cycle" recordings on the market. It will certainly become
the "Ring" of choice for many lovers of this cycle. Its a shame
that we had to wait so long to hear this one. Decca may wish
they had gone ahead and remastered it and released it themselves.