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.
In conclusion, I would suggest that this fine disc should, at the very least, warrant serious consideration from purchasers interested in this popular program.
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