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Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Solti, Vienna Philharmonic [Deluxe 19-Disc Set]

Release Date: 11/06/2012 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001745502  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hans HotterBirgit NilssonKirsten FlagstadDietrich Fischer-Dieskau,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic OrchestraVienna State Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 19 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This deluxe numbered limited edition includes the four operas remastered on 14 CDs with improved edits, 2 CD audiobooks with An Introduction to the Ring by Deryck Cooke and spoken text with musical examples, a DVD of the BBC documentary The Golden Ring: The Making of Solti's Ring by Humphrey Burton, the long-out-of-print hardback book Ring Resounding by producer John Culshaw, the complete libretti in German with English translation, 5 art prints of session photos, a color facsimile of one of Solti's working scores with his markings explained, a 40-page brochure of original Decca advertisements and reviews, a CD of Wagner overtures, Siegfried Idyll, and Kinderkatechismus recorded in Vienna during the Read more years the Ring was in progress, and an audio-only Blu-ray Disc of the entire cycle remastered in lossless 24-bit audiophile quality.


In time for Georg Solti’s centenary and Wagner’s bi-centenary, in what can only be referred to as a remarkable “feat” of packaging and at only slightly less cost than a small two-family house, Decca has re-released its Solti Ring, recorded between 1958 and 1964, re-re-mastered. Included in the three-ton package are the complete Ring cycle on 14 CDs, complete German/English libretto, a CD with Deryck Cooke’s Introduction to the Ring des Nibelungen (and a book with the spoken text and music examples), a copy of John Culshaw’s book, Ring Resounding, which traces the recording of the Ring from start to finish, a DVD of the BBC documentary, The Golden Ring, filmed during the Götterdämmerung recording sessions (see Fischer-Dieskau smoke cigarettes! watch Nilsson chuckle!), a CD of overtures and other works led by Solti, a blu-ray audio disc containing the entire Ring, a facsimile of one of Solti’s working, marked-up scores, and art print quality photos of the recording sessions. There’s probably more in the giant box, but that will suffice for now.

As far as the sound is concerned I’ll just say the following: it sounds like the original LPs—I still actually own the Rheingold—and by that I mean it is warmer and more enormous than any of the previous CD releases. I fondly recall playing Donner’s “Heda, Heda, Hedo,” complete with hammer stroke, for friends in my dorm room in college and overwhelming them all. These new CDs have the same effect. The sound is glorious—live, warm, theatrical, present. Please refer to your audiophile pals for commentary on KHz and 24-bit anything.

This was, of course, the first complete Ring ever recorded commercially (Karajan’s followed shortly therafter). Since its release, dozens upon dozens have emerged. Some were studio recordings, others were recorded live, many in Bayreuth. Some are in mediocre (or worse) sound (Furtwängler) and some are magnificent (Barenboim); many are stunningly sung and none is perfect. But after 50-plus years, Solti’s remains the Reference Recording.

I won’t go through the Ring opera by opera, but here are some notes on casting: George London is the Rheingold Wotan, strong and arrogant, and in the later operas, the Wotan of Hans Hotter (though he certainly sounds younger on a half-dozen non-studio Rings—the best is under Keilberth on Testament) is potent, nuanced, and both god-like and human. Flagstad’s Rheingold Fricka—a role she learned for the recording and came out of retirement for—is still golden, and Christa Ludwig, in the same role in Walküre and as Waltraute in Götterdämmerung, is utterly deluxe: has the latter role ever been better performed, the scene ever seemed more urgent and tragic?

If there is a greater, more horrifying Alberich than Gustav Neidlinger’s I’ve yet to hear it; he is so gigantic that he practically turns the dwarf into a tragic figure. Gerhard Stolze’s Mime is grotesque—though not as weird as his Herod in Solti’s Salome—but once you get used to his almost visual hooting and wheedling, you certainly won’t forget him.

James King’s Siegmund is not the most probing or mellifluous on disc, but he’s close; indeed, far better than I recalled. Regine Crespin’s womanly Sieglinde is stunning (she was a poor choice as Brünnhilde for Karajan) and Gottlob Frick’s Hunding is menacing in the extreme, bettered only by his pitch-black, if occasionally stressed-at-the-top Hagen in the final opera. (And listen to that Alpenhorn that helps to summon the vassasls!) And not enough can be said of Birgit Nilsson’s Brünnhilde; not since Varnay—and certainly not after Nilsson retired—has there been a sound so secure, so staggeringly grand. Often accused of being chilly, here you realize anew that it’s the sound of the voice—its Nordic clarity—that gives that impression, and not how she uses it, shapes phrases, and colors the text. Wolfgang Windgassen, I felt then, was not heroic enough for Siegfried; but at the time—and up to the present day—no-one has been. But he rises to the many occasions: a splendid Forging Song, fine in the opera’s final scene with Nilsson; compelling in the second-act confrontation in Götterdämmerung; and deeply moving before his death in Act 3.

I’ll omit discussion of Norns, Rhinemaidens, even Erdas, so that I can mention Joan Sutherland’s Wood Bird. Talk about fancy! And Fischer-Dieskau as Gunther! And, good Lord—the Vienna Philharmonic! Oops, I almost forgot about Solti—driven, yes, but absolutely not without subtleties and entirely lacking in eccentricities. He knows how exciting both the music and the entire project are and he brings every one of these operas dramatically to life. Look upon the overtures, score bits, books, etc, as wonderful bonuses. If you haven’t previously owned this set, now you must.

-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hans Hotter (Baritone), Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano),
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1958-65 
Venue:  Sofien Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Language: German 
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Ira Malaniuk (Alto), Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Claire Watson (Soprano),
Set Svanholm (Tenor), Waldemar Kmentt (Tenor), Eberhard Wächter (Baritone),
Paul Kuen (Tenor), Hetty Plümacher (Alto), Oda Balsborg (Soprano),
Kurt Böhme (Bass), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Walter Kreppel (Bass),
Jean Madeira (Mezzo Soprano), George London (Bass Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1958 
Venue:  Sofien Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 145 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Language: German 
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hans Hotter (Baritone), Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor),
Gerhard Stolze (Tenor), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Kurt Böhme (Bass),
Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano), Marga Höffgen (Alto)
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1962 
Venue:  Sofien Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 237 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Language: German 
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Helen Watts (Alto), Maureen Guy (Mezzo Soprano),
Dame Gwyneth Jones (Soprano), Lucia Popp (Soprano), Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano),
Claire Watson (Soprano), Gottlob Frick (Bass), Birgit Nilsson (Soprano),
Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Anita Välkki (Soprano),
Grace Hoffman (Alto)
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1964 
Venue:  Sofien Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 265 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Language: German 
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Vera Schlosser (Soprano), Vera Little (Alto), Claudia Hellmann (Mezzo Soprano),
Helen Watts (Alto), Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano),
Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano), Gottlob Frick (Bass), Régine Crespin (Soprano),
Helga Dernesch (Soprano), James King (Tenor), Hans Hotter (Baritone),
Berit Lindholm (Soprano), Marilyn Tyler (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1965 
Venue:  Sofien Hall, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 228 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: German 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Wagner’s Ring Cycle - Sir Georg Solti. November 30, 2012 By Luke Bryant (Oakleigh South, Victoria) See All My Reviews "I purchased the first LP releases of Solti’s Ring Cycle at the end of 1959 and the remastered CD’s in 1997. Each opera issued won a Grand Prix du Disque. The completed cycle won the Grammy award and the Dutch Edison award among several others. Sir Georg Solti’s Ring Cycle remains today the greatest ever produced with Solti remaining the artist with the most Grammy award winnings, 31 in all. This great opera cycle was shaped over several years by Solti, the Wiener Philharmonic and the finest singers of the time – perhaps to this time! In 2012 this magnificent re-production has been produced in time to celebrate Georg Solti’s centenary and Wagner’s bi-centenary. As Wagner reportedly said to Anton Bruckner, “Forget what’s going on stage, just listen to the music.” As explained elsewhere, Decca’s reissue includes 14 CDs, Deryck Cooke’s Introduction to the Ring des Nibelungen and a book with the spoken text and music examples, a copy of John Culshaw’s book, “Ring Resounding,” a DVD of the BBC documentary, The Golden Ring, filmed during the Götterdämmerung recording sessions, a CD of overtures and other works led by Solti, a facsimile of one of Solti’s working, marked-up scores and art print quality photos of the recording sessions. Be in awe as this colossal creation, encompassing power, greed, lust, love, hate and tragedy unfolds. An audio-only Blu-ray Disc of the entire cycle, remastered in lossless 24-bit audiophile quality – without text incorporated in also included. I highly recommend this wonderful package and give it 5 stars, however shame on Decca for text omission when other companies produce Blue-ray Audio discs with text available on a TV screen as the work proceeds. Luke Bryant - Australia." Report Abuse
 Well worth the wait--and the hype November 10, 2012 By   See All My Reviews "As one who has long cherished the first incarnation of Solti's Ring from the early 1980 on CD, I successfully resisted the remaster upgrades from a few years ago. With the appearance of this deluxe set, I'm glad I did. The CDs themselves are a master of clarity, especially when listened to with some good earphones (mine are B&WP5). The BluRay sound is especially transparent, but whether I have the stamina to listen to all four operas at a go is doubtful. Buyers should note, however, that this feature is ONLY available to those who have a BluRay player; an ordinary DVD player will not work. I'm also enjoying the ancillary material which comes with the set: John Culshaw's Ring Resounding is fascinating, as is the DVD documentary entitled the Golden Ring. I don't quite know what to do with the foldout posters, nor have I determined how they enhance the listening experience. For those with some musical training, Solti's sample score might be useful. All of this material is packaged nicely. These old eyes might have wished for slightly larger type in the libretti volume. A quibble, however: the libretti is keyed to the CDs and NOT to the BluRay disc. I hope Decca--or Archiv--will publish a correction. Overall,I'm impressed--and I'm glad that Arkiv saw fit to lower the price significantly. I look forward to reviews by others." Report Abuse
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