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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not without its flaws... but overall a success! Dec 5 2009
By Jukeboxtheater - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
We may as well make peace with the fact that the "Silver Age" for Wagner singers which occurred in the 1950's and 1960's is long gone, let alone the even earlier "Golden Age" represented by Flagstad and Melchior. Every subsequent Ring recording since the 1960's has been burdened with casting flaws, and unfortunately this recording is no exception. The question remains whether the casting flaws are of such severity that they effectively gainsay the merits of a particular recording, as was the case in the Barenboim/Bayreuth ring cycle.

Let's start with arguably the biggest casting weakness in this recording. Linda Watson has neither the notes nor the stamina for the role of Brunnhilde. Her voice is burdened with an unpleasant wobble and an uncomfortably wide vibrato. She also can be pitchy at times. She's not a disaster, but I much prefer Anne Evans in the Barenboim recording.

Next, Albert Dohmen gives a kind of Jeckyll/Hyde performance as Wotan. At times, such as in Wotan's Farewell, he can be quite moving and effective. Unfortunately, he tends to lose steam during the difficult passages such as in the confrontation with Erda (Siegfried) and can sound taxed. Basically, Dohmen possesses a light voice which, though adequate for the role, is not particularly memorable.

Despite these two questionable casting choices, I'm happy to report that the remainder of the cast range from more than acceptable to very good indeed. Special mention must be made of Stephen Gould as Siegfried. This may be the most satisfying portrayal of Wagner's hero I've heard since Windgassen! In fact, Gould's voice has an almost Windgassen-like timbre, but Gould is far more pleasant to listen to. No, he doesn't quite possess the great heldentenor's effortless range or zen-like understanding of the role, but he sings heroically in an appealing, youthful voice and (more importantly) has the necessary stamina.

Even more impressive is Eva-Maria Westbroek's moving performance as Siegliende and Endrik Wottrich's powerful, yet lyrical Siegmund. I enjoyed them even more than my previous favorites, James King and Leonie Rysanek on the Bohm recording. And judging by the Bayreuth audience's thunderous applause at the end of Die Walkure Act I (applause is included at the end of each act in this recording... a dubious decision), I'm not the only one who thought so!

Just a quick comparison with the other modern Bayreuth cycle, Barenboim from the early 90's. Barenboim has the (arguably) better Wotan in John Tomlinson and a much better Brunnhilde (Anne Evans). Thielemann has the superior Siegfried (never was a big fan of Jerusalem) and a night and day better Sieglinde and Siegmund. Then there's Hans-Peter Konig's show-stealing performances as Fafner and Hagen, among the best since the Silver Age. Kang for Barenboim is merely adequate. Other cast members again either strongly favor Thielemann or it's a toss-up. Overall, the nod has to go to Thielemann.

What of Thielemann's conducting? I have to admit this took some getting used to. Most unusual is Thielemann's bizarre ritards, the likes of which probably haven't been heard in Bayreuth since Knappertsbusch. But even Knappertsbusch wasn't this severe, the music at times seeming to come to a complete standstill (check out the Forging scene in Siegfried). But after repeated hearings, one tends to adjust to the tempo changes and they come to sound almost natural. Apart from this eccentricity, Thielemann conducts the music with a sure hand and possesses the ability to bring out seldom heard details in the score (undoubtedly helped out by the recording). Overall, I'd give the maestro a B+ for his effort, but I prefer Barenboim in this music.

The recording itself, like most modern recordings, is excellent. The only flaw is that the imaging can sometimes be erratic. At times the actors voices are apparently picked up by the far mike so it sounds like they've briefly teleported to the other side of the stage. (At first I thought that this was simply the actors moving about the stage, but later came to realize that the location changes were too abrupt for anything but Olympic sprinting.) But all in all, the recording presents a crystal clear window on the proceedings, and the Bayreuth acoustic is once again proven to be the only 100% correct one for staging the Ring.

Summing up, no modern Ring cycle is going to be perfect. The Thielemann Ring is never going to be judged one of the great ring cycles of all time. However, compared to all the other recent cycles I've heard (particularly the Barenboim recording), it must be judged a success. Your mileage may vary...

***Update 08/04/2013 I have just finished listening to the live Ring cycle conducted by Simone Young on the Oehms label. What a surprise! The casting is superior to Thielemann's cycle with NO glaring weaknesses in principal roles! Ms. Young's conducting is among the most sensually beautiful I've ever heard for Wagner, yet despite her occasional slowish tempos, there is almost no lapse in requisite tension. Outstanding! The Hamburg Philharmonic also distinguishes itself as a great Wagner orchestra. IMO this cycle eclipses Thielmann's achievement in nearly every particular and replaces it as the modern Ring cycle to own!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some Shortfalls, Naturally, But Thielemann Tips the Scale! April 14 2010
By Gregory E. Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
As my reviews usually run on and on, I will try to make this one very short, sort of "black and white" versus my lengthy (Wagner-like) Sturm and Drang!

1. We are in generally sad times for Wagner today, due to a really sad short fall of singers who can navigate the parts written for them, and we know this, coming to this or any new recording.

2. Further, as we all know, with the mobility today of singers, there are many places where they can go to and sing for more money than the old traditional houses can afford to pay them...there no longer exists the "loyalty" and "honor" displayed in earlier days when accomplished singers would not think of not gracing Bayreuth's "Boards" with their presence, for the good of "Art"...it was a given...Nilsson, Windgassen, Konya, Grummer, Varnay...they simply would not disappoint the masses who gathered there every summer...it was unthinkable. Thus, even Bayreuth feels the sad pinch of accomplished singers willing to appear there.

3. So, we come to this recorded document of the Ring presented in 2008 at Bayreuth, with Christian Thielemann at the helm....

The man is a true genious, certainly nobody would doubt that. He is most assuredly the brightest star on the horizon, actually he is no longer on the horizon, but is streaking upward to becoming perhaps the first great German conductor of the new millennium. Everything this man touches becomes brilliant, shining like new again, whether it be a work of Strauss or of Wagner, he seems to be a great visionary...a great renewer, and we must be thankful for that, surely.

That said, the state of the singers is not the same story. We have a certainly somewhat uneven cast here, the saddest parts being the Wotan and Brunnhilde, sort of letting the sides down on this monumental work. However, I find on repeated listening that things are really not nearly as bad as one's first impression would lead them to think....remember, we are listening to this set with thoughts/memories of Nilsson, Windgassen, London, Hotter, etc., in our minds, always in sight, and we seem to ceaselessly always compare to them. In truth, these artists represented are singing and doing their jobs under conditions far different than those singers of the recent past. Today we have UGLY productions, Nasty Designs pervade the world that they populate and inhabit on the stage, and I for one refuse to believe that this does not have an effect on what a person's interpretation of a role may be. Plus, the sheer magnitude of maneuvering through something as difficult as Wagner's great multi-part work with today's ideas or "insights" certainly do not have the coherency of past generations. Luckily, on CD we do not have to be subjected to the visuals of productions.

On an overall standpoint, I would suggest reading other reviews here and elsewhere, and if you can, perhaps, listen to pieces from this set.

It is certain that Thielemann "has it" thumbs-down with this recording...you will not hear a better conducted or more beautiful sounding Ring. The singing certainly has its shortfalls, but truthfully, over all, this is still a darned good ring and it has its place in any staunch Wagnerian's collection.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor June 26 2013
By J. S. Crow - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The mp3 download of all 14 discs was being offered for $5.99 - a super deal - so being a big fan of opera and Wagner, I jumped on it. Now after downloading it I am finding that some of these tracks are all mixed up and completely out of order. You can see in the list how it has Siegfried Act III tracks before Act II and so forth. And for example, when you click on the track that is titled 'Siegfried: Act III: Vorspiel' it's not that at all. Other tracks such as 'Stark ruft das Lied' and more are similarly mistitled and out of order. Gotterdammerung also has similar issues but not as bad as Siegfried.

I am not sure yet of the extent of the problem as I just discovered it while skimming and listening to excerpts so it could only be limited to this handful in Siegfried. But, I just wanted to warn that it's going to take extra work to sort this problem out and get these titles arranged correctly and change all the metatags to get them in the correct order in our digital music players. *grumble* I wonder if this is one of the reasons it's only $5.99...LOL
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an orchestral Ring Aug. 17 2010
By Renato Baserga - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The best part of this Ring is Thielemann's conducting. Superb. Heard things that I had not heard for ages, from the times of the Keilberth and other past glories. Listen to the woodwinds and the drums how nice they sound.The singing is not up to Thielemann's level, but then Ring singing has not been great for quite a while. The last Brunhilde I liked was Gwyneth Jones. And the funny part is that with very few Wagnerian singers around,everyone wants to have a Ring. I would not be surprised if next will be the turn of Peoria,Illinois to stage a full Ring. In this Ring, Stephen Gould has a nice timbre, but he has a tendency to alternate piano and ff, that sometimes makes him sound like a dog barking. Albert Dohmen is uneven, he is especially weak as the Wanderer, much better in Die Walkure. Buy it for the orchestra, there are better Ring singers on record.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this Ring Nov. 13 2010
By Kinho - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I've been listening to this ring for about 2 months now. The more I listen, the more I love it.The conducting is first rate. I have 8 other sets. Historical to modern. As far as modern recordings go, This is the best I've heard so far.A great job was done to record this. To each his own when it comes to the Ring, but for me, this recording is most satisfying from begining to end.

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