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Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Krauss, Hotter, Uhde, Stolze, Kuen, Greindl

Wagner / Krauss
Release Date: 10/26/2010 
Label:  Orfeo   Catalog #: 809113  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Paul KuenGisela LitzGerhard StolzeHans Hotter,   ... 
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 13 
Recorded in: Mono 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



WAGNER Der Ring des Nibelungen Clemens Krauss, cond; Bayreuth Fest O & Ch ORFEO C809113R (13 CDs: 852:46) Live: Bayreuth, 8/8–12/1953


WAGNER Das Rheingold Hans Hotter ( Wotan ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Erich Witte ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Loge ); Paul Kuën ( Mime ); Ludwig Weber ( Fasolt ); Josef Greindl ( Fafner ); Ira Malaniuk ( Fricka ); Bruni Falcon ( Freia ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Erda ); Hermann Uhde ( Donner ); Gerhard Stolze ( Froh ); Erika Zimmermann ( Woglinde ); Hetty Plümacher ( Wellgunde ); Gisela Litz ( Flosshilde ); Clemens Krauss, cond; Bayreuth Fest O & Ch ORFEO C809113R (13 CDs: 852:46) Live: Bayreuth, 8/8–12/1953


WAGNER Die Walküre Hans Hotter ( Wotan ); Ira Malaniuk ( Fricka ); Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Ramón Vinay ( Siegmund ); Regina Resnik ( Sieglinde ); Josef Greindl ( Hunding ); Brünnhild Friedland ( Gerhilde ); Liselotte Thomamüller ( Helmwige ); Lise Sorrell ( Waltraute ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Schwertleite ); Bruni Falcon ( Ortlinde ); Gisela Litz ( Siegrune ); Sibylla Plate ( Grimgerde ); Erika Schubert ( Rossweise ); Clemens Krauss, cond; Bayreuth Fest O & Ch ORFEO C809113R (13 CDs: 852:46) Live: Bayreuth, 8/8–12/1953


WAGNER Siegfried Wolfgang Windgassen ( Siegfried ); Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Hans Hotter ( Wanderer ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Paul Kuën ( Mime ); Josef Greindl ( Fafner ); Maria von Ilosvay ( Erda ); Rita Streich ( Woodbird ); Clemens Krauss, cond; Bayreuth Fest O & Ch ORFEO C809113R (13 CDs: 852:46) Live: Bayreuth, 8/8–12/1953


WAGNER Götterdämmerung Astrid Varnay ( Brünnhilde ); Wolfgang Windgassen ( Siegfried ); Josef Greindl ( Hagen ); Hermann Uhde ( Gunther ); Natalie Hinsch-Gröndahl ( Gutrune ); Ira Malaniuk ( Waltraute, Second Norn ); Gustav Neidlinger ( Alberich ); Maria von Ilosvay ( First Norn ); Regina Resnik ( Third Norn ); Erika Zimmermann ( Woglinde ); Hetty Plümacher ( Wellgunde ); Gisela Litz ( Flosshilde ); Clemens Krauss, cond; Bayreuth Fest O & Ch ORFEO C809113R (13 CDs: 852:46) Live: Bayreuth, 8/8–12/1953


My colleague Ronald E. Grames listed this performance (although not issued by this particular company) in his Want List of 2010, referring to the 1953 Clemens Krauss Bayreuth Ring as “one of the finest—if not the finest—performance of the tetralogy available on CD.” Difficult to argue, and certainly the differences between Krauss with his golden cast (caught around the time of the so-called “New Bayreuth”), and the last Ring I reviewed for Fanfare (Haitink, in 32:1) are, to say the least, marked. Krauss’s grasp of Wagnerian process is in another league. Kraus certainly realizes and projects the longer-range structure in a way that cannot help but dwarf Haitink, but his sure handle on the individual moment and ongoing orchestral detail makes this a very different experience from anything Furtwänglerian. More, Krauss’s cast seems to have come straight out of some Wagnerian’s dream. That the singers are so inspired makes this a memorable experience. That Krauss shapes the performances with such firm conviction and leads us inexorably to the final Immolation makes listening to this Ring from first to last a shattering journey. Krauss’s tempos are, objectively speaking, generally on the fast side.


The Rheingold (of August 8, 1953) exemplifies Krauss’s strengths perfectly. He is superb at ostensibly simple accompaniments, giving them often deep resonances (for example the punctuating string gestures in the second scene). Moreover, he paints scenes, and individual moments, graphically (the journey into Nibelheim is a case in point, as is the transition to the second scene). As to the singers, his Rhinemaidens are a beautifully strong bunch vocally, with special mention accorded to Erika Zimmermann’s Woglinde. Zimmermann has a magnificently open, full sound.


Again, it is Krauss’s magic with the orchestra that prepares Alberich’s entrance perfectly, portraying the dwarf’s bumblings and stumbling so evocatively. Gustav Neidlinger’s resonant voice gives authority to his reading (interesting that his Curse, later in the piece, is strongly delivered but not highly malevolent). During the Wotan/Fricka exchanges, it becomes very obvious that good though Ira Malaniuk is, it is Hans Hotter’s Wotan that is all-commanding. His “Vollendet das ew’ge Werk” is positively regal, his high register resonantly intact; similarly, his “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge” is outstanding in its confident delivery. Bruni Falcon takes the role of Freia, and is dramatically right on the money, as well as being wonderfully fresh of voice. One really believes her fear in the face of kidnap. Difficult to imagine two more imposing giants, either, with both Ludwig Weber and Josef Greindl in their element (Weber is consistently fascinating in his delivery of his words).


Erich Witte’s Loge is one of the most intelligent assumptions I have heard. His Narration (“Immer ist Undank”) is finely hued and carefully sculpted, and his voice owns plenty of reserves. Yet time and time again one returns to Krauss’s mastery. The conductor’s handling of the third scene is that of dramatic genius, both in the massive torrent as Alberich outstretches his hand with the Ring on it, and in his light touch as Mime taunts Alberich. By the time we reach the final scene, the orchestra s positively alight. The Erda, Maria von Ilosvay, conveys all of her character’s all-knowingness without being as heavily contralto-ish as many readings of this part.


If ever Krauss’s talents for scene setting were going to come in useful, it is in the storm that begins Walküre . And so it is. Under Krauss, this is surely one of the angriest of Wagnerian storms, especially the brass and woodwind gestures as the entrance of the voices nears. The singers here are among the best, not only vocally but in terms of vocal acting. Siegmund really does sound desperate for a drink when he arrives. Tenderness and indeed eroticism seem to inform Krauss’s reading of the orchestral workings. Resnik is creamy yet strong; Vinay every inch the Heldentenor. Greindl is imposing, but is not the heaviest, or blackest, of Hundings, and yet his anger at Siegmund is palpable.


Vinay tells his tales with undeniable swagger. His “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater” emerges with a huge, burnished sound. Incredibly, though, Krauss’s wordless depiction of spring is more telling than Vinay’s at “Der Lenz lacht in der Saal” (Vinay makes up for it by his ultra-lyrical stance on “Winterstürme”).


The opening of act II comes as a surprise, as Krauss seems to lack conviction, and again there is a talent mismatch involving Malaniuk, this time when she is set against Varnay’s magnificent Brünnhilde and Hotter’s commanding Wotan. Hotter’s narrations are consistently gripping over some of Wagner’s most sparing, daring scoring. One really feels that Walküre act II is the crux of the Ring ’s argument, in particular the struggles of the “Götternot Narrative.” Indeed, Hotter’s delivery of the two statements of “Das Ende,” one assertive, the other beautifully shaded, are demonstrations of true Wagnerian mastery. Varnay matches Hotter in intensity later, in her poignant “Siegmund! sieh’ auf mich.”


The troupe (if such is the correct collective noun—somehow, I doubt it) of valkyries that graces act III is the most imposing in my experience on record. Amazingly, one can hear all the individual lines (immediately prior to Wotan’s entrance). Despite a slight waver, one feels Brünnhilde’s pain at “War es so schmählich?” Her eloquence is unquestionable, only balanced on an emotional level by Wotan’s gentle “So küsst er die Gottheit von dir.”


Siegfried is the darkest of the evenings, a male-voice-dominated foray into purest Wagner legend. Krauss underlines this by not having Kuën (Mime) emerge as a caricature. Kuën’s lusty, full-voiced assumption is full of vim and go, and under Krauss’s baton the ongoing argument becomes entirely logical. The climax of the first act comes in the shape of Hotter (Wanderer) in the second scene. Imperial of demeanor, his voice is a Rothkoesque black on the black of Krauss’s accompaniment. One has to stop and acknowledge the achievements of Windgassen’s Siegfried, too. He holds amazing strengths in reserve for his forging of the sword, and if voice/orchestra ensemble is not always spot-on toward the end of this act, one is left speechless by the great sense of purpose Krauss elicits from his players.


The second act is held together by Krauss’s extraordinary intensity. This act arguably holds the finest and most consistent orchestral contribution, reaching its height at the climax of the Wotan/Fafner confrontation. Krauss’s graphic abilities come to the fore as Fafner slithers out of his cave, and the orchestra is absolutely on fire for the fight sequence. The only possible bird in the ointment is, alas, Rita Streich’s warbly (pardon the puns) Waldvogel; Sutherland on the Solti set still takes the birdseed.


The eighth disc of the set (end act II, beginning of act III) is a mere 27 minutes, but these are minutes that include Hotter’s invocation of Erda. There is a little air around his voice, but it only seems to lend it authority. Unfortunately, Ilosvay is a little lacking in gravitas, in what one might term allwissenschaft . Still, the final moments of the confrontation are gripping. Again, Krauss is a major player here, as he is in his management of the Siegfried/Wanderer meeting. Here, both Hotter and Windgassen are in top form. Siegfried sounds so youthful and impetuous—invincible even, as indeed he is in his own mind. Later, Varnay’s voice is like a laser beam, but she still avoids shrillness. Her reserves are seemingly unending. The end of the act is stunning, bringing a true climax. The applause starts well before the end, and no wonder.


Krauss’s Götterdämmerung is a true crowning to his cycle. He brings a real sense of foreboding to the opening, aided and abetted by a tremendous trio of Norns. His “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” is positively overwhelming, and is imbued with Furtwänglerian grandeur. Varnay does not disappoint at “Zu neuer Taten.” The close brass comes as a surprise prior to the final cries of “Heil!” The concentration and power throughout act I never dips, and neither does the darkness of Krauss’s painting of the orchestral score. Windgassen has great power, making his entrance in act I, scene 1, one of the most memorable moments of the entire cycle. Throughout the piece, his every word impresses. As Hagen, Greindl is a match for any. There seems real interpretative agreement between himself and Krauss for “Hagen’s Watch.”


The meeting of two imposing women, Waltraute and Brünnhilde, furnishes another example of Krauss’s grip on the drama. Recording-wise, the brass seem to shoot out rather unrealistically at times. Act II is another dark corner of the Ring , and here it is Neidlinger and Greindl that match Krauss’s blackness. Alberich speaks, and just when you think it can’t get any darker in there, Hagen replies. Siegfried’s arrival is like a coming out into the light. A pity the Gutrune (Natalie Hinsch-Gröndahl) is rather swoopy, a fact one hardly remembers when confronted with Krauss’s beautiful preparation for the choral “Heil dir, Gunther.”


Inevitable, given what one has heard previously, that the final Immolation Scene is one of the most finely colored and shaded on record. Its power comes directly from its subtlety and its innigkeit , and therefore its emotional climax seems to occur at the words “Ruhe, ruhe du Gott,” one of its more interior moments. Varnay’s dignity as she calls for her steed, Grane, is most touching. The orchestra is, of course, graphic in its depiction of Valhalla falling (there is also some stage noise, but if it was Valhalla itself falling, this Valhalla wasn’t very big). But it is the dignity of Varnay that remains in the memory long afterward.


This is a remarkable set, and given the superb level of the transfers, the Orfeo print becomes a first recommendation. No wonder this Ring is at the top of many collectors’ lists. Orfeo has given us a box to be treasured.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1.
Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1953 
Venue:  Live  Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
2.
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Paul Kuen (Tenor), Gisela Litz (Mezzo Soprano), Gerhard Stolze (Tenor),
Hans Hotter (Baritone), Erika Zimmermann (Soprano), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto),
Erich Witte (Tenor), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Ludwig Weber (Baritone),
Hermann Uhde (Baritone), Josef Greindl (Bass), Ira Malaniuk (Mezzo Soprano),
Hetty Plümacher (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1953 
Venue:  Live  Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
3.
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Gisela Litz (Mezzo Soprano), Erika Schubert (Mezzo Soprano),
Maria von Ilosvay (Alto), Sibylla Plate (Alto), Brünnhild Friedland (Soprano),
Liselotte Thomamüller (Soprano), Bruni Falcon (Soprano), Lise Sorrell (Mezzo Soprano),
Hans Hotter (Baritone), Ramon Vinay (Tenor), Regina Resnik (Soprano),
Ira Malaniuk (Mezzo Soprano), Josef Greindl (Bass)
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1953 
Venue:  Live  Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
4.
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Josef Greindl (Bass), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone), Maria von Ilosvay (Alto),
Paul Kuen (Tenor), Rita Streich (Soprano), Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor),
Hans Hotter (Baritone), Astrid Varnay (Soprano)
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1953 
Venue:  Live  Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 
5.
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen (Tenor), Ira Malaniuk (Mezzo Soprano), Regina Resnik (Soprano),
Maria von Ilosvay (Alto), Hetty Plümacher (Mezzo Soprano), Gustav Neidlinger (Bass Baritone),
Josef Greindl (Bass), Erika Zimmermann (Soprano), Astrid Varnay (Soprano),
Hermann Uhde (Baritone), Natalie Hinsch-Gröndahl (Soprano), Gisela Litz (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Clemens Krauss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1874; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1953 
Venue:  Live  Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, Germany 
Language: German 

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