11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This review is to add a few observations to the general consensus, with which I agree. No one should be dissuaded from purchasing this because I give it, in effect, an A rather than an A-plus.
Maazel lets the music speak for itself. Nothing is over-dramatized, and there were times that I missed the extra punch that some conductors (Solti & Szell, for examples) have given various phrases. The orchestra, not unexpectedly, played gloriously. Oddly, the Philharmonie Berlin was not filled to capacity for this event.
The remainder of my comments deals with the technical quality of the audio, video, and authoring of this Blu-ray disc:
I first have to express surprise that this 2000 performance was captured in HD--I didn't know it went back that far. I would not have been surprised if this were a film transfer since 35mm film is inherently HD, but this is a direct-to-video recording, and it is quite detailed.
The audio, wonderful as it is, could have been better. This may be the only time I have preferred the LPCM stereo track to DTS-HD-MA, the latter adding almost nothing to a sense of space, while slightly muffling things, especially the first violins. The volume adjustments and balances in the microphone mix from the various sections of the orchestra, while too subtle to notice in themselves, had the overall effect of preventing crescendos and climaxes from reaching their full dynamic potential.
The Blu-ray mastering is slightly botched in several ways: (1) in spite of the disc's relative austerity of features, it seems to have been authored with Java, unnecessarily slowing its load time. (2) The authoring language prevents any kind of resume capability should you turn the player off; likewise, there is no bookmarking feature, although one can resume by going to a specific chapter from the menu. Along with this, the disc provides the player with no memory of its audio setting, should one happen not to listen to all of it at once. (3) Time, chapter, and title information are not made available to the player for display either on-screen or on the device's on status window. All this makes it rather inconvenient to divide one's viewing of the 75-minute performance into shorter listening sessions; but considering that the cumulative effect is greater when hearing it all in one seating, these limitations could be considered a good thing. Certainly the audience gets few breaks in the Ring operas themselves, Das Rheingold, for instance being one 2-and-a-half-hour bladder-testing act! Better though, to give the home-theater audience a choice.
I hope that these comments may be of interest to some and that they may somehow filter through to EuroArts, who needs to clean up their act a bit, although I must express profound appreciation to them for stepping in where DG, London, Philips, EMI, & Sony have all failed, namely in providing an adequate number of classical-music Blu-ray releases. From that standpoint, and others, we are very lucky indeed to have this disc.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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As a lover of Wagner's music was inescapable the acquisition of the Blu Ray synthesis of the Ring conducted by Maazel with Berlin. Maazel has also distinguished itself by making orchestral version of Tanhauser (Maazel, Tanhauser Without Words, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, 1990, Sony). These versions have led to opposing views that reject (pure Wagnerists) although welcome for other people. I think that in general are welcome, as the first step in attracting new audiences to the Wagnerian operas, which length and complexity can be frightening to the uninitiated.
The Ring without words have few precedents. A version of Leopold Stokowski (partial recording in: Stokowski, London Symphony, 1966, Decca) and José Serebrier ( symphonic fragments of the Ring, edited by Stokowski, on a Naxos recording of 2006 with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, with support from the Leopold Stokowski Society). These recordings are fragmented and cannot be compared in magnitude with the Maazel synthesis.
Maazel himself offered his The Ring Without Words in 1988 for Telarc, conducting the Berlin Philharmonic. This is a recording of almost 70 minutes filled with energy and strength, impacting sound. The video version of 2000 (Blu Ray) has the advantage of offering more music, lasting 83 minutes (13 minutes longer than audio version), in addition to see the director and the orchestra, in high resolution of video.
However, the orchestra is not the same of 1988, now with several new players. Several passages do not have the same force and impact of the audio version. Maazel seems very rigid, even at very expressive moments of the Wagnerian saga. As another reviewer said, striking is the many empty seats in the auditorium, in a country with many wagnerians.
In general, this Blu Ray are welcomed by the work and the synthesis that can attract new interested in the powerful music of Wagner, but this version does not have the force and charm of the audio version of 1988.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Lorin Maazel considered requests to create a synthesis of Wagner's Ring cycle as a continuous `Ring without Words' twice before finally agreeing to the request made by the recording company, Telarc, in 1987. The resultant 75 minute recording proved to be a big seller and in Maazel's opinion it helped to create a new audience for the operas.
In creating this continuous synthesis Maazel attempted to produce a reduced version which followed strict chronological order and which introduced all the main themes and motifs without adding a single note not written by Wagner. In this he reinforced Wieland Wagner's view (Wagner's Grandson) that the essence of the work lies in the orchestral score.
Weiland Wagner's view is worth considering in this context and can be quoted as stated to Maazel at a rehearsal of the Ring as `The orchestra, that's where it all is - the text behind the text, the universal subconscious that binds Wagner's personae one to another and to the proto-ego of legend ....'
As one who has known The Ring cycle for around 40 years or so this synthesis is both impressive and intriguing. It is also successful in terms of what was attempted as in paragraphs 1-2 above. It is impressive because it covers so many of the key moments and intriguing because it jumps unexpectedly from one key point to another without including what you would expect to hear next! It becomes a sort of quiz - spot the excerpt, and a rather enjoyable one too!
The whole experience is enormously enhanced by the wonderful playing of the Berlin Philharmonic at full strength. Four harps is an impressive sight not to mention vast ranks of strings and incisively burnished brass. If ever an orchestra was born to play this music it has to be this one. The visual impact provides a real advantage over audio only reproduction.
In terms of reproduction, this early example of high definition recording from 2000 is a complete success with crisp imaging of considerable clarity and fully involving camera work. The sound is wide ranging and presented in DTS-HD 5.1 as well as stereo. There is a short bonus in which Maazel says much of what is relayed above and which is even more fully covered in the sleeve notes.
As a keen Wagner Ring enthusiast, I still found this a very enjoyable experience for all the reasons above. I would expect it to give much pleasure to all but the most hardened of purists and, in addition, it might be a very useful way of getting to know the basics of the opera cycle as an introduction in miniature so to speak. For all the above reasons therefore, and in my own personal opinion, it seems only reasonable to rate this as a 5 star issue.