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Furtwangler Conducts Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" 1950


Release Date: 03/25/2010 
Label:  Music & Arts Programs Of America Catalog #: 914   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Günther TreptowJosef HerrmannMax LorenzKirsten Flagstad,   ... 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala OrchestraMilan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Number of Discs: 12 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 16 Hours 0 Mins. 

Special Order:  This CD requires additional production time and ships within 2-3 business days.  

This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

It is just a little over 20 years since I gave a warm welcome to the briefly available LP version of this unique Ring. Since then, I have always returned to it with caution for fear it would seem it in some way less remarkable, but on every occasion, most recently in good, 'unofficial' transfers from Italy, I have found the experience compelling. Now at last it comes forward in a set from Music & Arts that has the imprimatur of the Furtwängler Estate. The sound is so improved, that is from the original LPs, as to bear almost no relation to them: the performance can now be heard in very reasonable mono. Of course if you are averse to stage and audience noise (a good deal of each), changing levels of recording, some failures in Read more ensemble among the players, a few lapses of memory among the singers, carelessly done disc changes (these could surely have been avoided), you will look elsewhere for your Ring, but you will be passing up what remains an extraordinary experience — Furtwangler in the theatre at full tilt, unsurpassable in his particular, cosmic view of the work.

Once again one must praise the unerring blend of the romantic, tragic, elemental and profound in his interpretation, his command of Wagner's Hauptstimmen and Unendliche Melodie, his mastery of transition heard throughout and, as the late Deryck Cooke put in a famous dictum, Furtwängler's "ability to make the music surge or seethe or melt, so that one has left the world of semiquavers behind". Yet it is from just such close attention to the matter of detail — semiquavers and precise rhythm — that Furtwangler builds his unerring overview of the whole cycle. I will confine myself to mentioning only a few of the passages that he makes peculiarly exciting and/or moving: the upsurge of glowing sound when Freia is saved, the sehr ausdrucksvoll passage just before the Volsungs arrive in Act 2 of Die Walküre, the sudden rush of elation when Sieglinde realizes she's pregnant in Act 3, the earthy thrill as the Wanderer disappears into the forest in Siegfried, Act 1, the bitingly fierce strings just after Fafner has been killed in Act 2 (made to sound arrestingly original by Furtwängler), and the flow of joy soon after as Siegfried is led towards Brünnhilde by the Woodbird. In the Magic Fire Music, Siegfried's journey to the mountain top, Brünnhilde's awakening, the Rhine Journey and Immolation, Furtwängler surpasses himself and almost everyone else in sheer incandescence. It is hard to find a weakness, even an Achilles' heel, in his reading. Everything, in small and large things, seems so inevitably accomplished.

There are downsides in the playing (as I have implied) and in some of the casting. This time round I found the Loge too stretched, the Rheingold Fafner impossibly weak, the Mime inadequate, Herrmann lightweight for the Wanderer (though always the stylist as regards words and line). Any inadequacies pale beside the splendours of the rest, most notably those of Flagstad's Brünnhilde, a performance to set beside her Isolde for the same conductor. Her Todesverkündigung, the colloquy with Wotan, the two duets with Siegfried, and Immolation represent some of the most refulgent and moving Wagner singing ever heard on disc. Mödl on Furtwangler's 1953 Rome/EMI set and Varnay for Krauss at Bayreuth convey more of the inner agony of the role, but the lyrical beauty of Flagstad's singing and its security are unrivalled even by Nilsson, and seem all the more astonishing today with a dearth of her kind.

In his book The Furtwängler Record (Amadeus: 1994) John Ardoin is sour about Konetzni, Treptow and Svanholm. To my ears they sound splendid. Indeed the first two, encouraged by their conductor, offer very special insights, verbally and vocally, as Sieglinde and Siegmund, and she adds a sweet-voiced Gutrune and strong Third Norn, he a mellifluous Froh. Svanholm, until he understandably tires at the end of Act 3, is at once a virile and poetic hero of Siegfried. Lorenz, though vocally past his best as the GOtterdiimmerung Siegfried, is still marvellous in certain things, such as his sense of wonder in his Act 3 Narration. There are authoritative contributions from Höngen as Fricka and Erda, though she is not at her steadiest. Weber achieves a hat trick as a moving Fasolt, a dour Hunding and dominant Hagen. Pernerstorfer is a middling Alberich.

The Furtwängler Rome performance on EMI, which Ardoin prefers, is marginally better cast allround, benefiting particularly from Neidlinger's Alberich, Suthaus's Siegfried and Patzak's Mime, and doesn't suffer from the two disfiguring cuts forced on Furtwangler at La Scala (in Wotan's narration and, more heinous, in the Wanderer/Siegfried scene — we need to have their relationship established). Frantz's Wotan, like Konetzni's Sieglinde, is better heard at La Scala. In the context of the theatre he is the more involved and involving artist. La Scala has the better orchestra, Rome the better recording. The deciding factor for me, between the two, is the thrill of hearing Furtwangler caught on the wing. Now, in tolerable sound, and with 12 CDs for the price of ten at mid price, it is an experience no Wagnerian should deny him- or herself. This is, in historic terms, a version to set beside Krauss's of the same year at Bayreuth as a recommendation.

-- Gramophone [12/1996]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Günther Treptow (Tenor), Josef Herrmann (Baritone), Max Lorenz (Tenor),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Set Svanholm (Tenor), Ludwig Weber (Bass),
Hilde Konetzni (Soprano), Elisabeth Höngen (Alto), Ferdinand Frantz (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1950 
Venue:  Live  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 
Language: German 
2.
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen (Alto), Günther Treptow (Tenor), Ferdinand Frantz (Bass Baritone),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Set Svanholm (Tenor), Josef Herrmann (Baritone),
Max Lorenz (Tenor), Ludwig Weber (Bass), Hilde Konetzni (Soprano)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Venue:  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 
3.
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Josef Herrmann (Baritone), Max Lorenz (Tenor), Set Svanholm (Tenor),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Hilde Konetzni (Soprano), Ludwig Weber (Bass),
Ferdinand Frantz (Bass Baritone), Elisabeth Höngen (Alto), Günther Treptow (Tenor)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Venue:  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 
4.
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Ferdinand Frantz (Bass Baritone), Max Lorenz (Tenor), Josef Herrmann (Baritone),
Elisabeth Höngen (Alto), Günther Treptow (Tenor), Set Svanholm (Tenor),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Ludwig Weber (Bass), Hilde Konetzni (Soprano)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Venue:  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 
5.
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen (Alto), Günther Treptow (Tenor), Ferdinand Frantz (Bass Baritone),
Ludwig Weber (Bass), Max Lorenz (Tenor), Josef Herrmann (Baritone),
Set Svanholm (Tenor), Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Hilde Konetzni (Soprano)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1874; Germany 
Venue:  La Scala Theater, Milan, Italy 

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