WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen / Keilberth, Et al

Release Date: 02/12/2008 
Label:  Testament   Catalog #: 1412   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Maria GrafHans HotterGustav NeidlingerPaul Kuen,   ... 
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 14 
Recorded in: Stereo 
This title is currently unavailable.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Libretto not included.


A rushing, whooshing sound will be heard in scene 3 on dsic 2 of this set. This sound is a stage effect and was created to add atmosphere to the production as Woton and Loge descend to Nibelheim.

WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen Joseph Keilberth, cond; Bayreuth Festival O & Ch TESTAMENT 1412 (14 CDs: 845:46)

Read more class="COMPOSER12">WAGNER Das Rheingold Joseph Keilberth, cond; Bayreuth Festival O & Ch; Hans Hotter ( Wotan ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Georgine von Milinkovi? ( Fricka ); Rudolf Lustig ( Loge ); Paul Kuen ( Mime ); Ludwig Weber ( Fasolt ); Josef Greindl (Fafner); Josef Traxel ( Froh ); Hertha Wilfert ( Freia ); Jutta Vulpius ( Woglinde ); Elisabeth Schärtel ( Wellgunde ); Maria Graf ( Flosshilde ) TESTAMENT 1412 (14 CDs: 845:46) Live: Bayreuth 7/24/1955

WAGNER Die Walküre Joseph Keilberth, cond; Bayreuth Festival O & Ch; Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Hans Hotter ( Wotan ); Ramón Vinay ( Siegmund ); Gré Brouwenstijn ( Sieglinde ); Josef Greindl ( Hunding ); Georgine von Milinkovi? ( Fricka ) TESTAMENT 1412 (14 CDs: 845:46) Live: Bayreuth 7/25/1955

WAGNER Siegfried Joseph Keilberth, cond; Bayreuth Festival O & Ch; Wolfgang Windgassen ( Siegfried ); Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Hans Hotter ( Wanderer ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Paul Kuen ( Mime ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Erda ); Josef Greindl ( Fafner ); Ilse Hollweg ( Woodbird ) TESTAMENT 1412 (14 CDs: 845:46) Live: Bayreuth 7/26/1955

WAGNER Götterdämmerung Joseph Keilberth, cond; Bayreuth Festival O & Ch; Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Wolfgang Windgassen ( Siegfried ); Josef Greindl ( Hagen ); Hermann Uhde ( Gunther ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Waltraute ); Gré Brouwenstijn ( Gutrune ); Jutta Vulpius ( Woglinde ); Elisabeth Schärtel ( Wellgunde ); Maria Graf ( Flosshilde ); Maria von Ilosvay ( First Norn ); Georgine von Milinkovi? ( Second Norn ); Mina Bolotine ( Third Norn ) TESTAMENT 1412 (14 CDs: 845:46) Live: Bayreuth 7/28/1955

If you’ve been lusting after the Joseph Keilberth 1955 Bayreuth Ring but the expense has been a stumbling block, congratulations on delaying. Testament has now issued the complete cycle in a single box at a 14-CDs-for-the-price-of-nine cost. (By the way, the label also has the operas available on vinyl . That’s a pricey way to go: Götterdämmerung alone will set you back around $240. The entire box under consideration here can be had for around $200.) Understand, you’re not getting everything that comes with the individual releases. The single operas have more extensive notes, more of the wonderful production photos by Siegfried Lauterwasser, and librettos—though those will be unnecessary to most who buy this set, as it’s unlikely to be their first Ring , and Testament offers the texts as free downloads anyway. You do get two booklets: one with track listings and timings, plus the casts; the other holding brief but substantive essays by Mike Ashman about the saga of these long-unavailable recordings, Keilberth, Astrid Varnay, Hans Hotter, and a number of other relevant topics. There are short blurbs on all the principal singers.

Three of the four dramas have been expertly covered in Fanfare by Evan Dickerson ( Die Walküre and Siegfried in 30:2 and Götterdämmerung in 31: 1). I see no reason to repeat his excellent opera-by-opera accounts, and I agree entirely with Dickerson’s—and virtually everyone else’s—positive assessment. But it looks as though Das Rheingold never was reviewed in Fanfare, at least as I’m writing this now. Well, there are no surprises. The magnificent cast gives us quite a ride, moved along by Keilberth’s thrillingly paced (admittedly briskly paced) leadership from the pit. The Wotan/Alberich opposition is especially potent as it’s set up in this performance. Alberich should be as powerfully sung as his rival to underscore the precarious balance of positive and negative forces in the world, and the real threat the dwarf represents. There’s no buffoonery in Gustav Neidlinger’s representation of the role, just a sense of his humiliation and rage. Hotter is fully in control of his magnificent instrument—no wobble, no strain—and he can imbue his character, vocally, with full measures of pomposity and deluding self-satisfaction.

As Fricka, Georgine von Milinkovi? isn’t matronly or shrewish. She has the clear-eyed dignity of a political wife whose husband has been caught in a sex scandal. Rudolf Lustig’s Loge manifests a braininess, craftiness, and general command of the situation from his first entrance; the warm, full quality of his voice is very gratifying. The giants both have impressively big voices and the vocal shadings of Ludwig Weber and Josef Greindl capture the diverging motivations of the two brothers. Paul Kuen sounds suitably put-upon as Mime without descending into shtick. Erda’s proclamations are firmly sung, though this climactic moment in the opera might seem more mysterious had Keilberth adopted just a slightly slower tempo. The Rhinemaidens are very capable, corporately and individually.

I differ from Dickerson a bit in my assessment of the sonics. Of course the sound was superb for its time—no surprise, given the producer (Peter Andry) and the engineers (Kenneth Wilkerson, Gordon Parry, and Roy Wallace) who were involved. But compared to the Solti/Culshaw Decca studio recording that was to follow, it’s no contest. It’s stereo all right, but there’s really little in the way of depth or width to the orchestra and not much of that perfect blending of voices and instruments unique to the Festspielhaus’s famed acoustic. If spatially things are primitive for a stereo recording, tonally there can be no complaints, especially when it comes to the singers: all those famous voices are nicely characterized. But rich, luxuriant, enveloping sound serves Wagner well, and in this context, my enthusiasm for multichannel audio comes to the fore. Both the recent Haenchen (Et’Cetera) and Fisch (Melba) SACD Ring s deliver an exceptionally involving aural experience that pulls the listener that much further into the composer’s mythic universe, as one is at a worthy performance in the theater.

But audiophiliac ruminations aside, there’s no denying that Keilberth’s 1955 Ring is the Wagner recording phenomenon of recent years. These are great, great performances that have been surrounded by a bureaucratic ring of fire, now awakened by Testament’s heroic reissue.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Read less

Works on This Recording

Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1955 
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Maria Graf (Mezzo Soprano), Hans Hotter (Baritone), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone),
Paul Kuen (Tenor), Ludwig Weber (Bass), Josef Greindl (Bass),
Maria von Ilosvay (Mezzo Soprano), Georgine von Milinkovic (Mezzo Soprano), Rudolf Lustig (Tenor),
Elisabeth Schärtel (Alto), Toni Blankenheim (Bass Baritone), Herta Wilfert (Soprano),
Jutta Vulpius (Soprano), Josef Traxel (Tenor)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1955 
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Josef Greindl (Bass), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto), Paul Kuen (Tenor),
Hans Hotter (Bass Baritone), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Astrid Varnay (Soprano),
Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Ilse Hollweg (Soprano)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1955 
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor),
Hermann Uhde (Baritone), Josef Greindl (Bass), Maria Graf (Mezzo Soprano),
Georgine von Milinkovic (Mezzo Soprano), Jutta Vulpius (Soprano), Elisabeth Schärtel (Alto),
Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Mezzo Soprano), Mina Bolotine (Soprano)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/28/1955 
Venue:  Live  Bayreuth Festival Hall, Bavaria, Germany 
Length: 256 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Language: German 
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hans Hotter (Tenor), Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Gré Brouwenstijn (Soprano),
Ramon Vinay (Tenor)
Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1955 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 None better August 11, 2015 By J. Tatnall (West Grove, PA) See All My Reviews "Very simply put: Cast, Conductor, live recording venue and sonics, the 55 Decca recorded Ring from Bayreuth is outstanding. I prefer Keilberth's reading to Solti's. (Solti btw didn't make it through a successful Bayreuth Ring.) It is a bit faster, and very theatrical. Hotter is in fine voice here, (too old by the time he made Solti's.) Windgassen is younger and in good form. I prefer Varnay to Nilson, the voice more fluid, less stentorian, with an equally glorious top. I find Ramon Vinay an excellent Siegmund. And on it goes. I find the Solti/Culshaw Ring hampered by the effects, not just the anvils or children screams, but the over emphasis of certain groups of instruments at key points-- the harps at the end of Rheingold for example, standing way out from the orchestral blend. It's not bad, just unnecessary. (Culshaw did the same thing in Tristan with the horns at the beginning of act 2, and in other recordings such as Verdi's Forza during the battle scene--the Warren Milanov recording first on RCA, later on Decca. He just couldn't leave it alone, and didn't trust the listener.) The Kielberth has no such exaggerations. Peter Andry and his crew set things up and let them play as it were...very much in the line of Mercury Living Presence at the same time. Is it perfect? No. It is a live performance. But there are no major glitches that repeated listening makes unpleasant. This is a Ring for the ages." Report Abuse
Review This Title