5.0 out of 5 stars In a class of its own
Wagner's Ring is the greatest achievement in the history of music. I'm not going to even try to describe how complex, rewarding, dramatic and gorgeous this cycle is - I wouldn't do a very good job. If you've heard the Ring before, you know what I mean. If you haven't ... get this. Now.
The problem with the Ring is that since it's so huge, every recording of it is...
Published on Dec 9 2000 by firstname.lastname@example.org
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overblown
This set had a great impact in the early 60's, but 40 years later, it certainly shows its age. The problem is the abusive editing of Culshaw, these recordings hardly feel as straight performances, but rather as highlights. Solti too is a brash, not very interesting conductor, what a pity that Knappterbusch, Szell or Reiner were not prefered. Of course there are great...
Published on Oct. 13 1999 by Gerardo Cabrera Munoz
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5.0 out of 5 stars In a class of its own,
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)Wagner's Ring is the greatest achievement in the history of music. I'm not going to even try to describe how complex, rewarding, dramatic and gorgeous this cycle is - I wouldn't do a very good job. If you've heard the Ring before, you know what I mean. If you haven't ... get this. Now.
The problem with the Ring is that since it's so huge, every recording of it is bound to be flawed in some way. There are various historic cycles from the fifties, for example Furtwängler's two, Krauss's, Keilberth's and Knappertsbusch's, that are all flawed because of bad sound and vocal and orchestral mistakes, even in extreme cases, cuts. After this cycle, the best Wagnerian singers disappeared almost immediately, so however well Barenboim, Haitink, Levine, et al conduct their respective cycles, they can't be considered first choices. Karajan's cycle from roughly the same period as this is homogenously, slickly conducted with a very variable cast. So that leaves this Solti as the indisputable first choice.
Solti is by no means perfect. There are times when he is too blunt and brash; when the orchestra is brought in too suddenly or is over-emphatic. But for the most part he is magnificent. He takes sensible, well-judged tempi, slightly on the fast side (keeping with Wagner's wishes), he gives the dramatic moments colossal impact, and he conducts the lyrical movements ravishingly. He is helped in this by the greatest orchestra in the world, the Vienna Philharmonic, who play like gods for Solti. To compare them to their nearest competitor: they are just as perfect technically as the Berlin Philharmonic for Karajan, but are so much more responsive emotionally. The choral work in Götterdämmerung is outstanding, too.
The sound effects and production by John Culshaw are perhaps the most controversial aspect of this Ring. While they sometimes obscure the music, this is not very frequent, and for the rest of the time, they are essential to the drama and to the realization of Wagner's wishes. (If you can find it, I strongly recommend Culshaw's out-of-print book "Ring Resounding", the story of the making of this recording. It is very fascinating reading.)
But the element of this recording which really makes it unique is the singing. Nowhere else on record is such firm, true and consistent singing to be heard in these hugely demanding rules. The cast is led by the silvery, powerful Brünnhilde of Birgit Nilsson, the last of the great Wagnerian sopranos. She has fine diction, excellent acting and above all, a beautiful, stunningly powerful voice. Her Siegfried is Wolfgang Windgassen, who does not have the vocal power of Melchior, but who has a liquid-toned, mellifluous voice and excellent interpretative skills. Hans Hotter, Wotan in Walküre and Siegfried, has the bass-baritone voice of the century and a warm, humane, solemn temperament. I can't understand people's reservations about him. Further highlights of the enormous cast include Neidlinger's absolutely stunning Alberich, Flagstad's glorious Fricka, King's silvery, ringing Siegmund, Frick's black Hagen and Stolze's sly, scheming, evil Mime. The only vocal disappointments are Claire Watson as Gutrune and Freia, the Rhinemaidens in Rheingold, and the Erda of Jean Madeira. Casting is not quite consistent between operas, but it is far less a problem than in the chaotic Karajan set. This cast is about as perfect as we have any right to ask for.
So when you put Solti's magnificent conducting, the sublime Vienna Philharmonic, crystal clear sound and an outstanding cast, you have the greatest Ring cycle ever recorded. It's not the cheapest one, but it's beautifully packaged with extensive notes, and is the greatest artistically. If you're looking to invest in a complete Ring cycle, this is the one to buy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only version worthy of Wagner,
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)I own a number of recordings of this work: this one, one conducted by Karajan, and a very bad recording with Flagstad from a live performance from La Scala. This one tops the list all the time. Though I enjoy the Karajan version, there are things he does which I think are completely wrong, even if they are tradition. Wagner wrote certain crudities into the score (like the steerhorns in Gotterdammerung) and hearing them played by the mellow and very musical trombones removes the ruggedness Wagner was looking for. Solti, on the other hand, tried to be faithful to Wagner, even by using the crude and unmusical steerhorns. The result was electrifying. One of the things that make this RING better than most all other version is the fact it was recorded not to make music, but to make drama. Other recordings are faithful to the music, but the real drama is lost.
Some critics disapprove of some of the "sound affects" that were used in this recording. True, hitting a piece of railroad track with a hammer to give us the impressive sound of Donner's hammer in Das Rhinegold may be over the top, but it adds super great theatre to the work, and I think it is what Wagner would have approved of, since we were meant to hear that hammer (and after all, it is the hammer of a god, shouldn't it have more of a ring than a mortal blow would?).
The sound affects while Siegfried is forging his sword only add to the tension of the scene. We are not just hearing great singing, we are hearing great drama. All the forging sounds are written into the score (Wagner even indicates where large heavy hammers are to hit the anvil, and when small ones are) and for once we actually hear them clearly. In performance, they usually fade into nothing. Then there is the exciting sound of the anvil being cut in half and falling to the ground. One never hears that in performance, nor on any other recordings of the ring. Yet, Wagner wanted us to hear and see it, and he wrote as such in his score.
Sometimes Solti is accused of being too brash and noisy, well, this is Wagner's noisiest opera (excepting Rienzi, where the entire chorus of soldiers are to be hitting their shields with their swords during one scene, a thing one NEVER sees or hears in performance), and his most exciting work. The RING rushes forward, even though it is very long, pulling us into a very different world from our own. Solti never loses momentum.
The little touches, or sound affects, add to the drama before us. We hear Woton strike the rock calling forth Loge on Brunhilde's rock. We hear his spear break. We sense the entire world burning up and being renewed at the end of Brunhilde's immolation scene.
All recordings of the RING are fabulous, it is hard to find a bad one, but this one towers over them all because it makes the work a whole. I guess in some ways it is closer to what Wagner hoped with his idea of drama, music, and words getting equal treatment. This recording is musical, it is dramatic, and the words are heard. It is the only one out there that gives us a complete work unifying everything into a wondrous whole.
It is expensive but well worth the price.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bohm or Solti?,
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)Tough choice. Nilsson is more passionate and exciting here. Bohm's speed is faster and (in my view) this works better for the opera. I love the "live frisson".
BUT the Solti is overall better cast. For instance, you miss out Christa Ludwig's incomparable Fricka and waltraute in the Bohm set. You miss Gottlob Frick's stunning potrayal Hunding and Hagen, his voice ringing out gloriously and thrillingly dark. You miss Fischer Dieskau's incredible portrayal of Gunther. You miss out Joan Sutherland's ravishing woodbird. You miss out the most disgusting Mime of Gerbard Stolze - yes, he portrays it in the most odious fashion (I mean in the good sense that he characterizes well). You miss out Kirsten Flagstad's Fricka. You miss out the legendary Hans Hotter.
On the other hand, the Solti is missing Leonie Rysanek's thrillingly intense Sieglinde (not that Crespin is bad, Crespin is absolutely ravishing - but Crespin is less intense than Rysanek). The Solti's Walkure is too slow I think.
What should I say? Buy BOTH....
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overblown,
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)This set had a great impact in the early 60's, but 40 years later, it certainly shows its age. The problem is the abusive editing of Culshaw, these recordings hardly feel as straight performances, but rather as highlights. Solti too is a brash, not very interesting conductor, what a pity that Knappterbusch, Szell or Reiner were not prefered. Of course there are great individual performances by many singers here, but it is very interesting to note that Birgit Nilsson never liked this cycle. I much prefer the live Bohm on Philips, or the recent Sawallisch on EMI.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Treasures of the Classical Catalogue,
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)This is one of the great treasures of the classical catalogue!! Forget criticisms that this is a studio performance and therefore inferior to "live" performances. Forget criticisms that this Ring depends on its reputation as the first studio recording. Forget criticisms that the orchestra is too prominent here - yes, it is prominent compared to a "live" performance but who cares, the music is gorgeous and sumptuous here, like you will never hear in the concert hall - on the contrary, be GRATEFUL that Solti, Culshaw and Parry took the effort to make the details of the score audible. And the sound quality is stunning!! I mean stunning!! If you don't look at the date, you would think this was made in the 1990s or even 2000s. Decca's engineers really supassed themselves. Frankly, this analogue recording sound better than some digital recordings which can sometimes be somewhat "brittle".
The orchestra produces the most glorious and sumptuous sound conceivable. The Vienna Philhramonic Orchestra is INVINCIBLE in this recording. The cast - incredible - there is virtually no weak link. You might quibble about the singing in some small parts but hey, casting the Ring has always been one of the, if not THE biggest headache in opera. You couldn't get the quality of the cast here today in a studio recording, let alone a live performance. Let's look at the list.
Rhinegold - George London : fabulous young Wotan. Neidlinger : Classic Alberich. Svet Svanhom - wonderful Loge. Then we have Kirsten Flagstad, the great Brunnhilde from the 1930s to 1950s as Fricka. Don't be misled by her age. Her voice is in marvellous condition. She puts sopranos half her age to shame. Kurt Bohme is a famous Fafner.
Walkure - James King' voice is splendidly virile ringing out heroically. It's not true that he's not "involved" as critics like to claim - he's fabulous. Besides, with a voice as virile as his, it doesn't matter, you have to hear it. Crespin is even more stunning as Sieglinde - beautiful voice. Then there's Christa Ludwig's legendary Fricka (searingly dramatic). Birgit Nilsson - I needn't comment - too good to be true. Gottlob Frick is as always the most dependable performer and glorious as always.
Siegfried - Windgassen and Nilsson are incomparable. Stolze's a Mime without peer. Sutherland sings beautifully as woodbird - she does sound like one. Neidlinger repeats his classic potrayal of Alberich. Bohme as fafner too. Hotter is the Wotan of the century.
Gotterdamerung - the pinnacle of this set. Not a single weak link again. Gottlob Frick manages to make Hagen into a character you want to listen to over and over again. Fischer Dieskau does wonders with Gunther. Lucia Popp is a ravishingly beautiful Rhinemaiden. Gwyneth Jones as a Rheinmaiden? yes!!
Everytime I look at the cast list, I'm incredulous. And when I listen to the singing, the starry cast does not let me down. This is indeed one of the 100 greatest classical recording of all time, and it deserves to be on that Grammophon list.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Ring,
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)I agree that Wotan is rather past his best. The voice is not as it used to be. But this ring is superb!! Birgit Nilsson is incomparable as Brunnhilde!! Nobody can compare with her. I have the Bohm Ring. Comparing the Solti Birgit Nilsson and the Bohm Birgit Nilsson, I can say that she is superb in both - unbeatable - no one can compete with her laser beam voice. As for which Birgit Nilsson is better, I think she is just astonishing in both and whichever one you get, you will not be disappointed. I can't stand reviewers who say that she is better in the Bohm Ring. I would say this. The Ring is a HUGE operatic masterpiece. It is impossible for any singer, especially the huge role of Brunnhilde to be 100% better in one version. In some parts, she is better in the Solti ring, in some parts, she is better in the Bohm ring. I dislike it when reviewers say that she sings better live. Birgit Nilsson declared that she prefers her Bohm interpretation. That is understandable. In the Bohm version, the orchestra is more in the background. So Birgit Nilsson is a degree clearer (in fact all singers are a degree clearer). In the Solti, the orchestra is very prominent and she is less "highlighted" because she has more orchestral sound to compete with. But honestly, when I compare sections of the 2 rings, she sounds just as splendid in both. The only difference is the balance - one with more ochestral sound, the other with less. So sometimes, it gives an illusion that she sings better in the Bohm version when in fact, she is just as good in Solti and in some instances, even better in the Solti version.
The advantage of the Solti is that you can hear all the orchestral details. In Bohm, the details are somewhat obscured. I first bought the Bohm version. So when I bought the Solti version, it was a revelation to me. Many details which I missed suddenly jumped forth at me. Having said that, there are sections in which the live version actually has the clearer orchestral detail (very very surprisingly). The one good example would be the famous Ride of Valkyries at the start of Walkure Act 3. Bohm balances the violins so that you actually feel that the Valkyries are riding in the air - there is a sense of being in the clouds and floating above the ground. The tempi is faster. The Solti on the other hand, emphasizes the brass to the detriment of the violin strings. It is exciting in its own way, no doubt. But the violins get drowned out somewhat by the brass so that you have less sense of floating in the air. In this passage, the Bohm is actually clearer in the orchestral detail simply because the Solti brass section was given too much prominence and drowning out the strings. Well, you can hear the strings but you need to concentrate somewhat whereas in the Bohm version, the strings jump out at you in this particular passage. Another example would be the string passage just before Brunnhilde's first entry in Walkure Act 2. the Bohnm version is nicer in conveying the flying through the air feeling. In Gotterdamerung, on the other hand, the Solti final immolation scene is more exciting. The orchestra is stunningly superb. So is Birgit Nilsson who sings with searing passion. The Bohm orchestra is somewhat less exciting here.
In a work as long as the Ring, there can hardly be one version which is superior to all others in all respect. It will always be the case that ecah recording has its strengths and weaknesses. I have the Bohm and Solti versions. Honestly, I can't decide which I like better - that's why I have BOTH. And I couldn't live without one or the other. But the Ring as it is is an expenseive investment. So if you press me to make a recommendation, here's what I will say to you - buy the Solti (the Solti was the second version I bought - I lived with the Bohm version only for quite sometime).
Here are the reasons that I recommend the Solti over the Bohm:
1. Orchestral details are clearer in the Solti version (with some exceptions as noted above). To enjoy the Ring, you must be able to hear the motifs clearly - the Siegfried motif, the Walkure motif, the Rhinemaiden motif. I realized after buying the Solti version that these motifs, though clear in the Bohm version did not leap out at me like it does in the Solti. Also the Vienna Philharmonic is gorgeous and superb. No matter how much one criticizes the Solti Ring, one thing is always irreproachable - the incomparable playing of the Vienna Philharmonic.
2. Birgit Nilsson is in both. So it makes not too much difference. She is searing in both versions. As I said, she is clearer in the Bohm version because the orchestra is less prominent.
3. Windgassen as Siegfried has the advantage of being in better voice in the Solti version since the Solti was under studio conditions and Windgassen was also younger. The Solti Siegfried was done in 1962 and Solti Gotterdammerung in 1964. Bohm was done in 1966. That is another reason for the Solti.
4. The third opera in the cycle Siegfried is better done then by Solti than Bohm. In general, Siegfried is somewhat "harder" to listen to because of the absence of female voices until the end when Brunnhilde wakes up. Solti's conducting is fabulous - he keeps things going - the tempi never sags. In Solti's Walkure, the tempi sags sometimes.
5. Christa Ludwig as Fricka and Waltruate beats the Bohm Fricka and Waltraute hands down!! You perk up whenever Christa Ludwig comes in. That lady has the ability to capture a person's attention with her searing dramatic sense and beautiful voice.
6. I actually prefer Rysanek's Sieglinde than Crespin's. Rysanek is more thrilling especially above the stave. So I truly regret "giving up" Rysanek.
7. Theo Adam is in firmer voice than Hans Hotter. But Hans Hotter was THE Wotan for so many years. I think Hans Hotter does sound a little "woofy" as someone put it. But the singing is not bad at all. You are comparing Hotter with his older-self at the peak, of course you don't get singing as good as his older self. But the singing is still excellent - better than most can sing it. Anyway, decide for yourself.
8. Joan Sutherland is woodbird!!!!!
9. Stolze is a fabulous Mime. Slimy and digusting as he should be. Some people complain he exaggerates but I think it's a marvellous characterization.
10. Gootlob Frick is incredible as Hagen and Hunding.
So there you have it. If you can, BUY BOTH. Otherwise, I recommend the Solti for the reasons above.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the definitive Ring,
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)This Ring set has always been the standard by which all other Rings are judged, and rightfully so. Solti's set boasts the greatest overall combination of cast, orchestra, and conducting. This recording has defined Wagnerian performance since its creation, and it is undoubtedly the definitive recording of Wagner's masterpiece.
These daunting scores are among the most difficult in all of opera to analyze, interpret, and perform, and Solti's performance is very strong. His rather slow, punchy approach has been criticized by many, but I found it to be very appropriate. Solti brings great lyricism when required, but also tremendous power and volume. Both most be equally convincing, and Solti does just that.
The Vienna Phil is undoubtedly one of the top orchestras in the world, and it shows on this recording. The cleanliness and full sound of this magnificent ensemble are unmatched in any other Ring (the Berlin Phil comes close, but Karajan's chamber-like approach lacks the full sound that I loved in this set).
Nilsson's huge, steely voice projects like none other, and she brings life and intensity to the role of Brünnhilde. She lacks the warmth of Flagstad, but is more intense and has better high notes. Windgassen, a little light-voiced for my heldentenor tastes, is a very strong, youthful Siegfried, though he was in fresher voice on the 1953 Krauss set. George London's Rheingold Wotan is very lively and beautifully sung. Hans Hotter, the greatest bass-baritone of the time, was in his later days and not in his freshest voice, but his interpretation of Wotan in Walküre and Siegfried is unimaginably powerful. I think this is his finest performance as Wotan, despite fresher-voiced accounts elsewhere. Neidlinger's Alberich is the greatest interpretation of the role by some margin. He is absolutely frightening.
The smaller roles are equally well taken. King and Crespin shine as the Volsung twins, as does Böhme as Fafner. Gottlob Frick is Hunding and Hagen, and I must say that I've heard better performances of these but they are still strong. Fricka is split between two legendary singers: Kirsten Flagstad and Christa Ludwig. Flagstad had seen better days but does rather well considering her age, and Ludwig absolutely shines. Gerhard Stolze's Mime in Siegfried is somewhat over-characterized, but he is very much true to the spirit of the role. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is an unusual choice for most Wagner roles, but his Gunther is intelligently portrayed and well sung. Claire Watson sings beautifully as Gutrune.
No Ring recording is perfect, and this one is no exception. However, no one can deny the great power of this performance, and the amazing cast, orchestra, and conducting it contains. I encourage Wagner enthusiasts to explore other recordings, of which there are many good ones. However, if you want only one copy of the complete Ring, look no further. This is the best one out there.
5.0 out of 5 stars An utter masterpiece.,
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)No conductor does Wagner like Solti. I've heard numerous recordings of the Ring and this one tops them all. Solti brings not only beautiful music, but tension and drama to this recording of the grand epic. The sound effects are a large part of what makes the drama. Examples are:
-"Das Rheingold" - Donner's hammer.
-"Die Walkure" - Wotan striking the rock.
-"Siegfried" - forging of the sword.
-"Gotterdammerung" - crackling of the immolation fire.
I first became introduced to the Ring through Levine's rendition. I was only focused on the music, as I knew nothing of the story, and I must admit that Levine's recordings of this work are musically perfect. But as I became more familiar with the story, I expanded my listening repertoire to other recordings, seeking to hear more than mere music as I went. Solti's recording offers everything a Ring fanatic could wish for, including a cast of some of the best singers in operatic history. Through this superb combination of sound effects, creative tempo variation, brassiness, and singing voices that are as powerful as they are accurate, we sense, as Wagner intended, the world burning down before us--a sense that we do not get while listening to Levine's version. I highly recommend this recording not only for Wagner fans, but for anybody with an appetite for serious drama.
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to call.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)I feel that the tempo, casting and general style of Solti's Ring is great. The performances and the quality of recording are of a particularly high standard. Of course there is Nilsson but I think Gerhard Stolz is great, as Mime, as Aegithus in Solti's 'Elektra', as Herod in Solti's 'Salome'. He always plays the revolting characters with great drammatic effect.
For me the first act of Siegfried embodies all that is great in Solti's Ring Cycle, appropriately paced with the drammatic tension created by the discourse between Siegfried and Mime keeping you totally hooked.
Solti's Ring also has problems. When it comes to the big scores such as 'Ride of the Walkyries', 'Siegfried's Funeral March' (in particular) and the finale to Twilight of the Gods, Solti's bombastic style can be quite irritating.
So, in some respects I think this is a brilliant recording but for the big scores Solti completely messes up. Whilst I have not heard any other of the 'classic' recordings I would imagine Bohm's rendition is worth its salt if his 'Tristan und Isolde' is anything to go by. I feel that Bohm produces a better orchestral balance than Solti on the whole.
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous Music, Tremendous Bargain,
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen Comp (Audio CD)You can argue about the best version of the Ring Cycle but no reasonable individual can disagree with the proposition that the Solti Ring is superb. The cast is simply incredible, featuring the incomparable Birgit Nilsson as Brunnhilde and a wonderful Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried. A galaxy of other great singers give outstanding performances. These recordings were made over a period of years but Solti maintains a remarkable consistency of style and interpretation. The great Vienna Phimharmonic has ravishing sound. Transferred to CD from the original stereo recordings, the engineers did an excellent job of preserving the wonderful sound. These recordings have a bit more noise than modern digital recordings but the quality of the music is appropriately preserved. A bonus is that this is the most reasonably priced Ring set available.
Most Helpful First | Newest First