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Wagner: Das Rheingold / Young, Struckmann, Kwon, Koch, Humble

Release Date: 02/01/2009 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 925   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Peter GalliardJan BuchwaldFalk StruckmannHellen Kwon,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Length: 2 Hours 32 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Simone Young took over as Music Director of the Hamburg State Opera from Ingo Metzmacher in 2005. On the present evidence, she is doing sterling work. Jim Pritchard reviewed a performance of this very music-drama with the present forces for Seen and Heard in March 2008. Much of what he said is borne out aurally here, especially in terms of Young’s confident authority. We are just given the recording date of “March 2008”, so one cannot know if this is exactly the same performance, or indeed what level of inter-performance patching was used.

All roles with the exception of two come from the bosom of the Hamburg State Opera. The exceptions are Falk Struckmann - already well known for his Wagner - and Wolfgang Koch, a name new to
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Simone Young coaxes some lovely playing from her Hamburg players. The opening sounds of the Rhine are appropriately primordial – here is a fluctuating primal soup populated by a group creamy-toned horn players interweaving their ascending arpeggios and this whole passage is exceptionally well recorded, with plenty of space and clarity; the held-breath interlude between Scenes 1 and 2 contains some simply magical playing - from all orchestral departments - before ushering in contained majesty. The entrance of the giants is managed with great unanimity of attack and with great depth - approaching Janowski on the old Eurodisc cycle. Most impressive, perhaps, is the way Young moulds the fourth and final scene, carefully grading climaxes with the end clearly in mind and according Alberich’s curse on the Ring its full and deserved weight. The return of the giants is magnificently played, by the Hamburg horn section in particular, and her long-range preparations make up for any weaknesses in Jan Buchwald’s Donner. The thunder-clap is exquisitely managed in the balance of timpani against emerging, scurrying lower strings

The three Rhinemaidens, Ha Young Lee, Gabriele Rossmanith and Ann-Beth Solvang are each and every one a strong singer, confident of delivery in the opening scene. “Their” Alberich is Wolfgang Koch, whom Simone Young refers to as having a major international breakthrough in his career with this very recording. Koch is remarkably characterful without degrading into old-school over acting. If the Rhinemaidens just miss the ecstasy of the ensemble “Rheingold!” statements (track 5), Lee’s “Nur wer der Minne Macht versagt” carries a huge weight of meaning whose trajectory directly leads to the ensemble Rhinemaidens’ final, pre-curse cry. When the forswearing of love comes from Alberich (Koch), it, too, carries an equivalent weight both from Koch and from the accompanying orchestral forces.

The role of Wotan is taken by Falk Struckmann, who is rather widely vibratoed and does not quite carry the solemn, commanding gait of a true Wotan (he is Wotan, too, in the de Billy/Liceu Rheingold). His “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge” almost redeems him, though. Katka Pieweck, as Fricka, is a name new to me but I hope to renew acquaintance shortly. Pieweck has a lovely voice, is full of confidence and fully within her part at all times, and it is she that carries the long Scene 2 Wotan/Fricka dialogue. Tigran Martirossian’s Fasolt oozes authority; Alexander Tsymbalyuk’s Fafner a touch less so – one is aware of his careful way with words and intervals. Try “Neue Neidtat sinnt uns der Niblung”; also, his “Fort von hier sei sie erführt!” towards the end of Scene 2 is frankly weak and approximate.

Peter Galliard’s Loge is light but again not over-characterised. It is not as confident initially as I would have liked. By the time of his commentary on the Gods’ ageing, though, he seems much more part of the drama and, in tandem with Young’s excellent sculpting of Wagner’s magnificently “suspended” orchestration, this section becomes truly involving. Galliard is superb in his Scene 3 interactions with Mime, and Young ensures her forces react with lightning reflexes to Wagner’s many changes of mood. Sacher (Mime) matches Galliard in every way here; Koch (Alberich) is completely believable in his role of tin-pot dictator. Only in the opening salvoes of Scene 4 does Koch lose some focus; as if to compensate, it is here that Young’s concentration becomes even more laser-like, and the drama unfolds grippingly nevertheless.

Deborah Humble’s Erda might not be the most contralto-ish on disc but it carries real weight of authority, especially in the warnings of “Höre!”.

The lavish booklet contains a 30-page introductory article by Udo Bermbach, which doubles as exposition of Wagner’s philosophic-political Weltanschauung and synopsis, and full text and translation – but no biographies of singers. There are also many full colour stills from the production itself.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable Rheingold, clearly at every stage born of the stage and not the studio. The cast work well together – as well they might, given that the vast majority hails from Hamburg State Opera. I look forward to future instalments.

-- Colin Clarke, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Peter Galliard (Tenor), Jan Buchwald (Baritone), Falk Struckmann (Baritone),
Hellen Kwon (Soprano), Katja Pieweck (Soprano), Deborah Humble (Alto),
Wolfgang Koch (Baritone), Jürgen Sacher (Tenor), Tigran Martirossian (Bass)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 

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