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Subject: Re: Budget Rings
From: James Bodge <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:James Bodge <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 14 Apr 2000 19:04:33 -0400
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At 01:25 PM 4/14/00 -0500, Hugh Albright wrote:
>Searching for inexpensive  recordings of the complete Ring cycle, I've
>found these and would appreciate suggestions/comments concerning
>purchase:
>
>From CDWorld:
>Gala 1956/Krauss/orch Bayreuther/Hotter/Windgassen/Varnay ($44)

That's actually 1953, not 56.  It is the only cycle Kraus ever conducted at
Bayreuth and it is arguably the BEST RING CYCLE AVAILABLE on CD or LP.
Varnay is fabulous, Hotter is in top form, Windgassen - his first year as
Siegfried - makes a few harmless errors - entering too soon or garbling a
phrase, sort of like a memory lapse.  And the supporting cast has hardly
any weak links.  The sound in most editions is quite strong.

>Opera d'Oro 1950/Furtwangler/La Scala ($42)

Furtwangler's famous live performances with a handpicked cast features
Flagstad in her only complete recording of the cycle.  Harmful cuts in act
2 of WALKURE and act 3 of SIEGFRIED do serious damage to the role of Wotan.
 Both Wotan and Siegfried are shared by two singers and there are other
casting changes as we progress through the operas.  But the cast is strong
- Ludwig Weber a great villain on each night and Elizabeth Hongen in strong
form in four different mezzo assignments.  The orchestra plays well and the
sound is more than tolerable.

>Music & Arts - new release/Knappertsbusch/Bayreuth Fest ($77)

Also available on Golden Melodram, this is a 1956 Bayreuth cycle and one of
the best.  It is by far the best Knapperstbusch cycle available.  The sound
is excellent, the usual Bayreuth singers are in typical top form.  Unique
to this cycle are Gre Brouwenstijn's "hat trick" as Sieglinde, Gutrune and
Freia.  We also have exciting work from Jean Madeira as Erda, Waltraute and
First Norn.  If Windgassen's Siegmund isn't as strong as one would like,
the notes will make clear why: he was substituting without rehearsal - and
went on to be Siegfried in the next two performances.

>EMD/EMI/Furtwangler/Rome SO/Modl/Frantz/Windgassen ($67)

I generally prefer this 1953 set to the live LaScala that Furtwangler did
(with the same strong Wotan from Ferdinand Frantz).  This set is complete,
there is a wonderful Siegfried from Ludwig Suthaus and the marvelous
Margrete Klose and Gottlob Frick each in strong support.  Sena Jurinac
creates an even more interesting "hat trick" than Brouwenstijn - on the
same night she sings Gutrune, Third Norn and Woglinde.  The orchestra has a
quick learning curve, and the sound on CDs is much better than the original
LP edition.

>EMD/EMI/Sawallisch/Bavarian State Opera ($72)

This is from 1989 and is available in one box as a CD set and on four
seperately sold VHS tape sets - one for each opera.  Go for the video.  The
sound performance is adequately strong, and Sawallisch's work with the
orchestra and singers is wonderful.  But somehow, perhaps because so many
of these singers have recorded their parts elsewhere, it seems like a "come
lately" set.  Repeating from other sources are: Behrens, Kollo, Wlaschiha,
Salminen, Moll, Meier, Rootering and others.  Unique to this set are the
stupendous Julia Varady as a great Sieglinde, Robert Schunk as her brother,
Robert Hale as Wotan, Pampuch as both Mime's, Lipovsek as the complete
Fricka, Schwarz as Erda and a delightful Robert Tear as Loge.  As I say,
the "displaced in time" visuals are not for everyone, but as a video RING
I've enjoyed this a lot.  It's very well acted.

>Audiophile Classics 1960/Kempe/Bayreuth/Hines/Crespin/Varnay/Resnik
>($70)

This was Birgit Nilsson's first Bayreuth Brunnhilde, and she skips WALKURE
(Varnay steps in).  Hines is only in WALKURE, and has a powerfully
beautiful voice to bring to Wotan.  Hermann Uhde does yeoman service as the
other two Wotan's, acting the part quite cunningly, but sometimes seeming
stretched vocally.  Hans Hopf is tireless as Siegfried, but too much seems
loud and undercharacterized.  When he backs off, he sings quite nicely.
Kempe is a great conductor.  It is interesting for some of the supporting
cast as well - Hoffgen as Erda, Ottakar Kraus as a strong Alberich, Frick
as Hunding and Hagen, Grace Hoffman as Waltraute and Hertha Topper as Fricka.

I used to value this set more highly, but in recent years the broader
availability of Knappertsbusch's great 1956 set, Furtwangler and especially
the 1953 Kraus set have dimmed the value of the Kempe.  >

But the most essential document of the 1950s RING at Bayreuth is now the
Testament release of the 1951 GOTTERDAMMERUNG conducted by Knappertsbusch.
It trumps most of these complete cycles - Varnay, Aldenhoff, Weber, Uhde,
Hoffgen, Modl.   Well restored, fabulously performed.  A great achievement.
 Get it first.  Then get Kraus's whole cycle.


from Boston:  Jim Bodge
Can anyone in the house sing Siegfried?

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