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Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Knappertsbusch, Varney, Et Al


Release Date: 10/25/2005 
Label:  Orfeo D'or Catalog #: 660513   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Wolfgang WindgassenArnold Van MillAlfons HerwigGustav Neidlinger,   ... 
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 13 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

REVIEWS:
Opera News (9/00, pp.96-97) - "...At its best...this is a 'Ring' for the ages, a performance so imbued with drama and power, so full of ravishingly beautiful singing and committed orchestral playing, that it is impossible to do it justice in mere words..."
BBC Music (5/98, p.72) - "...listen to [Hans Knappertsbusch's] 'Immolation Scene' with Astrid Varnay...and you hear Brünnhilde's apotheosis unfold with an unsurpassed sense of inevitability....this Music & Arts set....is an essential supplement to the 'Rings' of Furtwängler (La Scala), Clemens Krauss (Bayreuth) and Solti (Vienna)."

Full Review from GRAMOPHONE Magazine:

Kna’s classic Ring, in
Read more some ways unsurpassed

During the pioneering post-war era at Bayreuth the conducting of the Ring was shared among the Ks – Karajan, Krauss, Knappertsbusch, Keilberth and Kempe. These conductors collectively had a knowledge and experience of the cycle not equalled before or since, with the sole exception of their contemporary Furtwängler, who returned after the war only to conduct Beethoven’s Ninth.
Although they were brought up in the same, exemplary tradition, the Ks had very different ways of treating the Ring, as you can now discover given the availability of so many cycles on CD. Krauss in his superb 1953 cycle went for a lean, dramatic, often electrifying and elating approach. He shared the cycles with Keilberth in 1953 after Karajan refused to return to the Green Hill, and was scheduled to return in 1954. His sudden death left Keilberth solely in charge in 1954 and ’55. We are shortly to have the elusive Keilberth cycle of 1955 from Testament, a version recorded by Decca but never issued. This will then become the first stereo recording.

In 1956 Knappertsbusch, who had shared the 1951 cycles with Karajan (Testament has issued his blinding 1951 Götterdämmering, 10/99) returned to give what is generally agreed to be his most successful reading, taken as a whole. Unlike Krauss, Karajan and to a lesser extent Keilberth, the older conductor took a more measured view of the scores overall, one based on his preference for the long paragraph, well defined, almost pawky rhythms, and prominent ritardandi at points not always indicated in the score. At moments he seems to lose focus and let things run their own way where ensemble is concerned but, as a whole, especially in Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, his epic view of the score is almost unsurpassed. Even in the two middle operas there are moments of alternating quiet reflection and earthy energy that are very special.

He has at his command an ensemble of dedicated singers who had built their characterisations to a peak of achievement by 1956. Practically all are German-speaking and all have the art of acting with their voices in an immediate and communicative way, not to forget that they each had voices of a Wagnerian power too seldom found today.

Throughout Rheingold I was astonished and delighted once more by the frightening power and presence of Gustav Neidlinger’s trenchantly sung Alberich and by the detail, feeling and vocal authority of Hans Hotter’s unsurpassed Wotan. Beside them an erstwhile Siegfried, Ludwig Suthaus, offers a Loge who gives every word, even syllable a distinctive colour and meaning, while Jean Madeira’s Erda emits other-worldly authority. And any Rheingold that boasts Josef Traxel, then a leading lyric tenor in Germany, as Froh has a bonus.

Four singers heard in later operas are introduced here. Paul Kuen, another familiar figure, is Mime and provides character without exaggeration. Georgine von Milinkovic introduces us to an imperiously nagging Fricka and comes into her own in the next work. Josef Greindl is a formidable if unsubtle Fasolt, later a granite Hunding and a fearsome Hagen: no wonder, given so much work to do, he sometimes tires a little. Gré Brouwenstijn, a properly worried Freia, then gives us a Sieglinde who develops, in glorious tones, from an introvert to an extrovert when love strikes her. Beside her is Wolfgang Windgassen, standing in at the last moment for an ailing Vinay, and singing a Siegmund who is at once bel canto in line yet intensely eloquent. Incredibly, the next evening he is a tirelessly effective Siegfried.

Hotter is magnificent in Wotan’s Act 2 monologue, here made to seem at the very heart of the whole cycle, and as ever deeply moving in his Act 3 Farewell, forgiving signs of vocal weariness at the start of the act. By then we have met and admired Astrid Varnay’s very womanly yet heroic Brünnhilde. She occasionally overdoes the histrionics but by and large she has the character in her voice and bones in a way few other dramatic sopranos have managed.

In Siegfried Hotter manages ideally the humour of his Act 1 colloquy with Mime, his face-off with Neidlinger’s Alberich in Act 2, and his desperation when meeting Madeira’s implacable Erda at the start of Act 3. The awakening of Brünnhilde is not one of the conductor’s best moments but the lovers give their all in the closing duet.

All the momentous climaxes of the cycle’s finale find Kna at his most potent and involved, just as in 1951, and Varnay seconds him with her projection of all Brünnhilde’s joy and sorrow. She also – incredibly – took on the Third Norn, at very short notice, Mödl having been taken suddenly ill. Madeira is heard again to advantage as both First Norn and Waltraute – would any singer do both today? Act 2 is simply tremendous. In this work Brouwenstijn returns as a vocally comely Gutrune, and Hermann Uhde, as in all the 1950s cycles, is an unsurpassed Gunther. With the Immolation one rightly feels that the earth has moved and that one has been through a life-enhancing experience, which is as it should be.

Music & Arts issued this cycle in 1998 but this is the first issue with the Bayreuth imprimatur, though the sound quality is only marginally superior here. Orchestral textures are sometimes muted but that has much to do with the opera house’s layout. No texts or translations but a good booklet, which quotes one contemporary critic as saying this was undoubtedly the Festival’s greatest moment to date. My allegiance to the 1953 Krauss set is not altered but there is much here that remains unsurpassed.

Alan Blyth, The GRAMOPHONE (02/2006)
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Arnold Van Mill (Baritone), Alfons Herwig (Baritone),
Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Georgine von Milinkovic (Mezzo Soprano), Paul Kuen (Tenor),
Ludwig Suthaus (Tenor), Josef Greindl (Bass), Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano),
Hans Hotter (Bass Baritone), Astrid Varnay (Mezzo Soprano), Josef Traxel (Tenor)
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
Venue:  Live  Festival Playhouse, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
2.
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Georgine von Milinkovic (Mezzo Soprano),
Ludwig Suthaus (Tenor), Josef Traxel (Tenor), Alfons Herwig (Baritone),
Hans Hotter (Bass Baritone), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto), Paula Lenchner (Soprano),
Lore Wissmann (Soprano), Jean Madeira (Mezzo Soprano), Arnold Van Mill (Bass),
Paul Kuen (Tenor)
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1956 
Venue:  Live  Festival Playhouse, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
3.
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Paul Kuen (Tenor), Hans Hotter (Bass Baritone),
Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Jean Madeira (Mezzo Soprano), Ilse Hollweg (Soprano),
Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Arnold Van Mill (Bass)
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1956 
Venue:  Live  Festival Playhouse, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
4.
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hermann Uhde (Baritone), Jean Madeira (Mezzo Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto),
Lore Wissmann (Soprano), Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano), Paula Lenchner (Soprano),
Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Josef Greindl (Bass), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone),
Astrid Varnay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1956 
Venue:  Live  Festival Playhouse, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
5.
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Elisabeth Schärtel (Mezzo Soprano), Gerda Lammers (Soprano), Paula Lenchner (Soprano),
Georgine von Milinkovic (Mezzo Soprano), Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto),
Hilde Scheppan (Soprano), Jean Madeira (Mezzo Soprano), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor),
Luise Charlotte Kamps (Voice), Josef Greindl (Bass), Hans Hotter (Bass Baritone),
Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano)
Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1956 
Venue:  Live  Festival Playhouse, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 

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