The Complete Ring Cycle
Apr 17, 2006 at 10:01 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 28

humanflyz

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I'm interested in acquiring the complete Ring Cycle by Wagner, and so far, based on reading from the Internet, there seem to be two popular versions: the George Solti version and the Karajan version. I just want to know if anyone here has ever heard either one, and if so, which one do you prefer?
 
Apr 17, 2006 at 4:26 PM Post #2 of 28

bigshot

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There are a lot more than just two to choose from...

The bargain version that's still very good, is Mike Richter's $10 El Anillo Ring
http://www.mrichter.com/ae/anillo.htm

For a high production value and theatrical soundstage, there's Solti

For a Bayreuth ring, there's Bohm's ring, which has no footdragging; and Boulez's, which has beautiful orchestral textures and is available on DVD.

Furtwangler's La Scala ring on Gebhart is the best historic ring, and Walter's Act 1 from Walkure is indispensable.

Goodall's ring in English provides extra insight into the drama and the best Siegfried/Brunnhilde combination in modern times.

The recent remastering of Kraus's Bayreuth ring on Music & Arts is quite good with some of the best singing ever, and it comes at a bargain price.

I like Karajan's Rhinegold, but I wouldn't recommend the Siegfried.

Janowski's ring is sold, espcially the Siegfried.

Barenboim's ring is wonderfully conducted with great sound.

There are lots more too... There is no "best ring". You just pick somewhere to start.

My recommendation would be the low impact Mike Richter disk or M&A Krauss ring, because if you only listen to it once, you're not out a lot of money- and the performances are good. And I would also recommend the DVDs of Boulez's cycle, because it's better to be able to follow the drama the first time through. If you want a full price CD version, go for either Bohm of Solti. They're both good... Bohm is live and Solti is studio.

See ya
Steve
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 1:38 AM Post #4 of 28

Absorbine_Sr

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Calling PSmith08..... PSmith08, are you out there? Your suggestions are needed!
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A_Sr.
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 2:34 AM Post #5 of 28

Doc Sarvis

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Solti is still my choice for a first Ring. Vinyl theater at its finest; compelling playing, (mostly) epic singing, sound effects and still jaw-dropping sonics.

I also have and like the Goodall set, although be warned: the English is still hard to understand. Tempos are slower - which can be both good and bad.

Having said all this, I think a DVD Ring is as good a place as any to start. The Boulez mentioned is a good one (I've been really getting into it lately); I also like Levine (although some here hate it) since it has traditional costumes and staging. Singing is better in Boulez. Not sure if there are other complete Ring cycles on DVD.

Ring preferences are a hotly debated subject!
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 5:28 AM Post #6 of 28

bigshot

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The conducting is the problem with the Levine. The Rhinegold is so leaden, I can't imagine a newbie with the endurance to get to the second opera.

See ya
Steve
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 6:21 AM Post #7 of 28

PSmith08

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There are, to be entirely frank, three choices for someone getting into Wagner who wants a complete Ring:

Janowski: Probably the best sung and best conducted of the modern Rings. The Staatskapelle Dresden has an orchestral clarity reminiscent of Von Karajan, but the singers and Janowski keep the drama there. The cast was as good as a 1979-1981 Ring could want. The one error was casting Altmeyer; she lacked the heft for a good Brünnhilde; she is sweet and endearing, but not the ideal Brünnhilde. I have grown to appreciate her interpretation, but it took some time. The early digital sound is a little brittle, but no worse than any of the Golden Age sets.

Levine: His plodding Rheingold aside, and that isn't a problem if you like rich orchestral textures, this cycle is a good second choice. However, he is marred by weak singers. Reiner Goldberg had no business singing Siegfried, and Hildegard Behrens is many things, but an ideal Brünnhilde she is not. He does have Jerusalem singing Loge in Rheingold, which is a change from the Zednik/Clark school. If you can get past his tempi, Levine creates a very appealing soundscape.

Barenboim: Now that his cycle is out on a budget Warner Classics set (which doesn't cost that much more than what I paid for the Teldec Die Walküre), he probably makes the best compromise. He is solidly in the old German school of conducting, which is a nice plus. He isn't as driven as Solti, as slow as Levine, or as neurotic as Böhm; however, his casting suffers from Wolfgang Wagner's absurd body-casting tendencies. The DVD is of Harry Kupfer's production, which is interesting, but NOT what a neophyte should start with as far as filmed sets go.

Now, to the fun stuff:

Herbert von Karajan's Ring suffers from uneven casting, an over-emphasized orchestral role, but has its moments. His Rheingold is really quite excellent.

Solti is very nice nice, but he is too bombastic and driven at times. It is, overall, probably the best Ring done yet for most people. Had Furtwängler lived, I doubt that Solti would have gotten the chance or the cast. It's a classic set, and worth a listen; however, what Solti has in drama, style, and flair, others have in sensitivity and overall concept.

Böhm's Bayreuth set is excellent, but a touch neurotic. His concept is a restless hurtle toward the Immolation Scene, which may or may not be your taste. Golden Age singers, the Bayreuth band was in good form, and Böhm was a great Wagner conductor, despite his Mozartean credentials.

Wilhelm Furtwängler's 1950 La Scala Ring, out on various labels, with various degrees of absolutely execrable sound, is probably the best conducted and best conceived Ring ever. It is a shame that the sound isn't very good, because he captures Flagstad shortly after her peak. The La Scala band isn't up to Berlin or Vienna standards, or even Bayreuth, but is still inspired under Furtwängler. He managed to create an overall concept of the Ring that has yet to be bettered. Every serious Wagnerian has to reckon with these recordings sooner or later.

I suppose that one must simply listen around and decide what he or she likes. I don't think that there is a definitive recording of the cycle, but I do think that Furtwängler came closest to a perfect concept; however, starting with Furtwängler - especially La Scala, or even RAI-Roma - is a mistake. Any of the first three would serve you well.

P.S. A_Sr., be careful what you wish for...
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Apr 18, 2006 at 9:26 AM Post #8 of 28

bigshot

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The La Scala ring sounds fine on Gebhardt. Modern rings are never sung as well as older ones. I wouldn't advise looking for the DDD label.

See ya
Steve
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 3:09 PM Post #9 of 28

PSmith08

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bigshot
The La Scala ring sounds fine on Gebhardt. Modern rings are never sung as well as older ones. I wouldn't advise looking for the DDD label.

See ya
Steve



That's a common, but ultimately wrong, sentiment. Allowing a handful of singers to rose-tint the entire era is nice; however, with one notable exception, the great singers today are every bit the equals of their predecessors. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a great Wagnerian heldentenor since Melchior.
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 9:31 PM Post #15 of 28

bigshot

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Replying to two at once...

It costs so doggone much!
It costs so doggone much!
It costs so doggone much!
It costs so doggone much!
It costs so doggone much!
It costs so doggone much!

It's not just Melchior... There aren't many Brunnhildes or Sieglindes that can equal Varnay, Lehmann, Traubel or Flagstad. There were a lot of singers in the fifties that are unequalled today too.

See ya
Steve
 

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