Country wailer Patsy Cline and ex-farmgirl Birgit Nilsson.
“Nilsson was a Wagnerian singer”- mmm just doesn’t right…will always sound like a monumental understatement… but I do understand what you mean fartnose.
Regarding whom composers would approve of in various roles- while there is often a stereotype one assumes they would approve of- but there is also a lot of evidence to show that most composers were pretty wide open to variations. Verdi said he imagined “a rather ugly voice” for Lady Macbeth, yet I find it hard to imagine he would put Mme Zampieri ahead of la Verrett. Borodina makes a acceptable fist of Delilah in the traditional “big warm rich” type -- yet Cossotto dramatically nails it in a rendering that is spine tingling. Isolde, normally the preserve of “the big voices” has more “piano” instructions in the score than many might imagine and the recording with Johanna Meier is incredibly moving even sans the traditional power. I sometimes think the composers might have been more open to various sounds and interpretations than might be otherwise imagined, in the same way playwrights frequently express the thrill of hearing various actors and actresses (yea old fashioned) bringing their roles to life. The same might be said for productions…i.e. -- ones that breath life and a new insight into a work (as apposed to the stuffing awful regie ones).
Minor additional points:
The Bohm/Bayreuth WALKURE with Rysanek is from 1967, as is that same cycle’s GOTTERDAMMERUNG. The other two parts of the cycle are from 1966. When originally published, Philips made this clear in its press releases, but as time has passed, that fact becomes less known.
Stolze is Karajan’s Mime in SIEGFRIED only because Erwin Wohlfahrt tragically died, just months before the 1968 Bayreuth Festival. Stolze replaced him there as well. I joint the chorus that wishes Stolze had not been in the Karajan cycle at all, even if he is better behaved than in the Solti.
The unmentioned 1957/Knappertsbusch Bayreuth set has Nilsson’s only recorded Sieglinde, opposite the estimable Vinay. She is also Third Norn.
The Kempe/Bayreuth cycle I own is from 1960. Brunnhilde and Wotan are split between two singers. There is much interesting casting, and fine conducting.
In recommending complete cycles to others, I generally prefer the Krauss/’53 set, closely followed by Furtwangler/Rome, made the same year. I prize Solti highly, and for more modern sound and contemporary singers, I would lean towards Levine.
I have great faith in the Goodall set, despite occasional tempi that are far too slow. One’s patience is enormously rewarded, and the English text doesn’t disturb me a bit. It also has three of the best balanced lead singers of any set, including one of the two best postwar Siegfrieds (Remedios and Windgassen).
For video sets I have to recommend the Chereau/Boulez as it is the most provocative re-imagination of the cycle we have available. The MET set provides a safe and sane alternative, often quite beautiful, and generally well sung. I recently got the Copenhagen production, and I enjoyed it enormously -- not least for the fine orchestra and conducting, and some strong performances.
I find I need all 30 RING sets that I own.
WOW you sure beat me with a mere 23 Rings on my shelves!
So what is the story with Jon Vickers early exit from the Templum Maximus? If anyone knows it’s you
And I have 27 !! I feel deprived!
Among them are the Stockholm Ring, badly played and conducted, (dissappointing Stemme as Sieglinde) and the Pappano CG, in which I love the orchestra but the singing is vile sometimes.
I love the Goodall and adore Remedios and Bailey. And I honestly don’t mind it being sung in English, but it’s not a first library choice.
It all amounts to what you want / need in a Ring cycle. For me, the most important thing is the musical direction, I need to feel that there’s a specific point of view, a sense of style unique to the conductor.
When I got to know the Ring in my teens it was through the Solti (my dad had it on LPs), like everyone else. I was impressed with the Hollywood-style production and Solti really knows how to “deliver” the big moments. But this approach is tiring on these ears. When I was younger, the most important thing for me was “hearing” the fire, water, a really uplifting Walkuerenritt, that kind of thing. I was bored with the monologues and couldn’t wait for the big emotional / lyrical climaxes.
Then a few years ago I did a private survey and listened to all of my available cycles, act by act, score / libretto in hand. And then I fell in love with the beauty of Wagner’s word-setting, the carrying of the Lieder tradition (think of Siegmund’s monologue), Wotan’s big monologue was now no less exciting than his act 3 farewell. I enjoyed the intricacies of Goetterdaemmerung act 1, and especially got to realize how absolutely original and tightly held was Siegfried act 1, especially the first SIegfried-Mime encounter with the beautiful viola motive, and the wonderful chorale theme in the Wotan-Mime encounter, which always makes me cry.
What I’m looking for in a Ring, nowadays, is the long breath, the sense of inevitability, which may result in sacricifing the trees for the wood. Now I don’t mind if Donner striking the hammer is less tremendous or earth-shattering, for example, than in the Solti recording. I prefer clear textures, breathing, lyrical lines and generally a symphonic approach.
When I got the 1997 remastering of the Solti Ring I was very surprised, because what I had remembered as brash and overbearing now came over as balanced and warm. Some sections work quite well (Siegfried act 1, Goetterdaemmerung act 2). But then take Rheingold scene 2 and Solti obviously hasn’t an inkling how to make it work for him. Compare Haitink and now it doesn’t sound like dead recitative interspersed with motives and “thrills” (arrival of the giants) but like a genuine muscial construction with its own logic and momentum. And Solti’s Walkuere is a true horror IMHO. Culshaw’s Ring Resounding reveals that the production was fraught with incidents and cancellations and generally bad vibes and my God, it shows. Viola lines will just pop out of nowhere from left speaker to right. Solti tries to cover the lack of genuine warmth in act 1 by encouraging the cello soloist to overplay. Nilsson sounds to me completely uncomfortable here and of course, Hotter is finished. And I do HATE the way Solti pushes on the gas pedal in the great climax just before “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar”.
And may I recommend two additional recordings to add for a complete cycle? The exciting and moving, very “French” Walkuere from Leinsdorf / LSO with the great George London and the Knappertsbusch 1951 Goetterdaemmerung, both indispensable I should think, in any Ring library.
And I have *counts on fingers* none…
The Leinsdorf Walküre was one of my first Wagner recordings and I love it. Care do elaborate on the “French” aspect of it?
My Ring recordings are in the single digits. Yikes!!
The LSO have had a stellar reputation as a Wagner band, and generally of late romantic german repertoire, from the early days of Hans Richter, through Nikisch, Beecham and Coates, on to Mengelberg and Krips. I think that Beecham took them for his Wagner series at CG. You can hear the excellence of their playing back in the Albert Coates Siegfried excerpts (dating from 1928 I think). But in 1961 Pierre Monetux became their principal conductor, and his influence is immediately noticeable. I think his has worked with them extensively prior to his taking on the mantle.
When I first heard the Leinsdorf Walkure (recorded in September 1961) I was shocked by the sound. I was basically used to the German sound (Metropolitan no exception here) and here was something quite different. Strings leaner, the winds tuned fractionally higher than the rest (James Galway once explained to me that tuning the winds fractionally “higher” helps to carry the sound better). The brass more light and airy than in Vienna or Berlin.
If you listen to French orchestras from the 1950s the modelling of style becomes very obvious -- try the Lamoureux / Markevitch phenomenal recording of La Damnation de Faust.
I think Leinsdorf “went along” with this trend and the result is surprisngly different from any other studio recording available.
Very interesting, CF (fascinating about the turning of the winds). I have the Markevitch Damnation and will have to re-listen to it with the orchestral colours/textures in mind. Generally, I’m not a big fan of lean strings in Wagner but I do recall at the end of Act I the articulation being very clean which adds to the excitement of the performance.
Very nice, CerquettiFerrell! I love your discussions, and this is a good
one! What a lot of work you put in — or, did it seem like work?
For what it is worth, and for those who have the equipment, I have
a mint condition, packages never opened, still in original seal
LASER DISC recording of the 1991 Bayreuther Festspiele production,
Barenboim, with Siegfried Jerusalem, Anne Evans, Waltrud Meier,
Bodo Brinkmann, Philip Kang, et. alia. I received it to review for a
magazine, but before I could do so, Laser Disc technology had
been outmoded. What to do with all these many hours of Wagner
than will play on machines that no longer are manufactured?
CF, do you have a Laser Disc player?
Thank you so much, mrmyster.
Unfortunately no, I don’t have a LaserDisc player, nor I know of anyone who has.
Hard work? Perhaps, a labour of love, nevertheless. I think of the classic repertoire as of a huge ocean hiding wonderful gems to be discovered and “owned”. So every few months, for many years now, I begin a “project” -- getting to know a cornerstone of the rep, in my teens the Beethoven symphonies, Mahlers, Mozarts, Verdis, Wagners and Strausses. Later on the Beethoven sonatas and string quartets, the Monteverdi ouevre, Brahms chamber music, Handel oratorios and operas. It’s the same with books and classic cinema (a private festival of Hitchcock / Malle / Truffaut / Mankiewicz / Wilder / Chaplin / Almodovar / Allen / Pabst etc). Lately there was a Beatles festival, having bought the new remasterings.
There’s so much beauty to discover yet and it makes me happy. The “trick” is to pile up a few recordings when getting to know a work. And listen consecutively, ordering it so that perhaps the first recording will infuriate, the second will placate and the third will be marvellous. I.E. Beethoven string quartets with Alban Berg / Italiano / Emerson / Vegh. And sometimes there are surprises. In my latest Ring survey I was very surprised by how much I liked the early Theo Adam on the Bohm recording. Or that suddenly Savall’s recording of Monteverdi’s Orfeo suddenly appeared as much less satisfying and stylistically convincing than the supposedly “dry” Medlam / Rogers. And so on.
CF funny, but for the Beethoven String Quartets, which I adore, I have the same set you have minus the Emerson. Can never decide if I like better the Alban Berg or the Vegh for the big ones (Op 130, 131, and of course Op 133!), while the Italiano always gets on top for the Op 132, the Alban Berg in the studio of course, the live are awful, nu?
And talking of Savall, what do you think of the newer DVD of the Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross? I thought the earlier CDs were sublime, but the DVD is SHATTERING, one of my absolutely most favorite pieces, and my companion most of the past year.
Oh I also have the Endellion, Takacs, Guarneri II, everything the Busch have recorded, Juilliard, Melos, but my absolute favourite is the Talich! There’s nothing like it and 131 / 132 (two of my desert island works) are totally sublime and on the Busch level.
I generally prefer the SQ version of Haydn’s seven last words but I might look into the Savall DVD. I’m so into Haydn’s masses now, especially the glorious Angustiis (Pinnock’s the man here)
My problem with ABSQ is that while the tone is lovely and playing of a general high finish, the first violin is much, much more prominent than is advisable in works in which every single strand is of equal importance. I’m talking about the studio versions. Italianos have a major tuning problem (2nd violin) and Vegh is curiously recorded. But I love the Veghs. The Emerson, a glitzy, polished affair, got me “through” 130-131 first time, because they have a thrusting quality and are undeniably exciting. But I rarely listen to them nowadays.
FWIT, (hooking on to 126.96.36.199) There are six Pioneer LD players on eBay as we speak. I bought mine for 35 bucks and it works beautifully.
I have about 150 laserdiscs, which i will probably never paly again, so they would be for the taking. Included are both the complete Met Ring on DG, and the complete Munich Ring on Toshiba EMI. Mostly opera, so if anyone interested, just shout
Part of the magic with some recordings was ‘the acoustic’ : where they were actually recorded. Walthamstow Town Hall was the venue where the early 60′s Leinsdorf Walkure was recorded. It is still one of the very best Walkures ever done. The still modern sound does not have to apologize for itself,in any way.
And yes I agree that Remedios was a fine Siegfried in Goodall’s (in english) Ring. If anyone wants to hear a singer project for a change ‘the young lad’ that Siegfried is supposed to be: rather than have oneself, usually picturing some old overweight ‘blow hard’ in the role, Remedios is the man.
Bohm conducting, in tight climactic moments of his Ring, came across as just some silly shaking old man beating and flogging the orchestral horses with his walking stick. I can never feel the slightest trace of humanity in a Bohm performance. They are extremely dour Germanic and ice cold. In later life, his lingering main credentials : he became a DG ‘recording creation’ Try his Tchaikovsky performances. What a laugh!
Von Karajan had his head in his Olympian clouds too much, ‘chamber working’ the first two parts of the Cycle. Even chopping down the number of harps used, at the end of Rheingold. Then decided that, was not working. Then presto changed course and let fly with the dynamics, belatedly. Using various over parted singers, along they way. Jess Thomas (as Siegfried)included. Pull Vickers out of Walkure…what’s left to crow about -what have you got???!!!
BTW if you care to listen to the Bohm with the orchestral score, it gets on your nerves after a while. It sounds like a second orchestral rehearsal, the tempi so fast sometimes the strings can’t articulate properly (compare with Furtwaengler). Bad, bad wind entries and you’re constantly amazed that the ensemble doesn’t collapse entirely. Better not to hear with the score and just enjoy the histrionics.
CF truth be told, much as I worship Dr Karl in Strauss and Mozart and of course FIDELIO!!!!!!
Incomparable, extraordinary, magnificent, divine, any other words? and the Eroica is without a doubt the best. But I do agree with you regarding the Ring. Of that set the only opera I really enjoy is the Walkure, because Madame R is in one of her most demented states, ever perhaps? the Act II is hair-raising, and James King is also magnificent. And Dr Karl is very sympathetic to Leonie, his darling girl after all. But the Gotterdammerung from that set is pretty awful. He manages to run no less than Madame Nilsson totally out of breath at the end of the Immolation, she is gasping for one more last drop of air, it’s horrible. Allegedly he didn’t like her, so maybe it was on purpose?
So much as I adore Dr Karl I’d have to agree with you regarding his Wagner, no Furtwaengler him!
Morale de la fabola: Nobody is perfect
Ah yes, in Strauss Bohm is incomparable in his way (that studio FROSCH and the Ariadnes), and the live Fidelio from Munich is a unique experience and utterly moving.
I have qualms with his Mozart, as you probably know my set of priorities is different. I don’t mind the tempi, its the (lack) of articulation I have problems with. Try the Mackerras / SCO finale of 41 and compare it to Bohm / BPO. These ears tell me there is absolutely no contest.
As for the Eroica, my opening fiver consists of Kleiber(pere!) Concertgebouw / Kleiber VPO / Bernstein NYP / Harnoncourt COE and Antonini. With mono Klemperer lurking a bit behind.
Too bad Bohm’s lacklustre performance was issued on recording. I have generally found him a wonderful conductor — esp. Strauss and
Aside from a score, try sometime if you can to listen to an opera
in the company of an opera singer. I had the experience of sitting
through a Gotterdammerung with a long-retired but famous
Brunnhilde, a kind of ‘living score,’ if you will. I made the innocent
comment, “I always hear something new in every Wagner performance.”
She responded, “So do I!” And proceeded that evening to point out
rarely noted but wonderful elements of the score I had not really
heard. It is rich rich stuff, Wagner is! Even if we live only on its
surface, it is still immensely rewarding.
WOW I’ll have to look into the Tallich then I have some of the other ones you mention, and of course the Amadeus which for Haydn also is sublime, and the Hagen (for the heavenly Op 20). You know I was a Missa in Angustiis queen as a tiny toddler , long before I was an opera queen, I went from there to the Messiah, and from there to Nabucco (with Suliotis of course) and then Lucia (Mad Lucy with Dame Joan). And then I was on the roadto become a full fledged opera Infanta. Then I saw my first live, Carmen with Resnik and Domingo, and can’t remember a thing, but the following year it was Butterfly with Kabaivanska, and then MarshiemarkII the Opera Queen was truly born
Pinnock of course for Haydn Masses and what about THE desert island box, the Sturm und Drang Symphonies? I am listening to them right now, swooning!
I know, I know. A very good toddler friend of mine is absolutely nagging me about Haydn symphonies and he says I can’t possibly live without the Pinnock Sturm und Drang. But he is also into Thomas Fey. He didn’t like Mad Minkowski’s recent London surevy. He’s my Haydn expert, though he only turned 17.
CF, you cougar???? sounds yummy though
Yes Pinnock is indeed the greatest for Haydn, and those symphonies are a MUST. You know when I discovered Pinnock, was his playing the Bach Partitas, a more heavenly music I cannot imagine, in fact it’s in my will that my mortal remains shall be laid to rest to the Partita No 6 Intro and fugue.
Oh no, it’s quite chaste I assure you. Though it HAS become a problem lately, having to fend off all these 17-18 year olds chasing after me. Never fails to astound me what IS it what they’re after.
My private funeral pieces are as follows :
Brahms 1st sextet 2nd movement (Les Amants with my mother Jeanne Moreau)
Beethoven Hammerklavier 3rd movement.
Schubert Quintet in C 2nd movement
Beethoven Razumowsky No.1 3rd movement.
Have to choose between them!
Ah, Schubert String Quintet — one of the glories of western music.
Bohm’s Eroica ‘the best’ marshiemark???!!! Ever checked how many versions are available….and WHAT versions they are?
Next I expect to be hearing that Mengelberg was another great interpreter of it.. A likely partner for that toady -- shivelled up creature nicknamed ‘Crawl Bombom’.
Oh CF, I had responded to your funeral post with one “joking” about how long your funeral would be , but it went into the ether and disappeared. Just as well since I now see that all of those are your options, not necessarily all of them. I agree about the Hammerklavier, I went to sleep with it on last night (Gilels). In any case I think funerals should be short, mine will last the 6 minutes required to play the No 6, and maybe 3 min more, if people linger to listen to Bist du bei mir.
You should really listen to your 17 yo, these Haydn Symphonies are a miracle!
Gee I wonder what happened to Pinnock, he has all but disappeared, it seems yesterday that he was conducting Giulio Cesare at the Met!
Don’t remember you from the olde daze, Harry but of course Boehm was no more or less than a very good Kappelmeister (and less pretentious than Levine). This is not to say there aren’t some exciting performances out there where he makes a genuine contribution, but to think of him as really significant in a heavily populated rep (such as the standard symphonic/opera) is silly.
People are entitled to their opinions (jesus who never existed forfend that “Richard” who I wish didn’t exist rebuke me for asking how ‘dare’ someone like or not like a performance) but to think of him as special is — well, pretty limited.
There are always those who confuse speed and noise with ‘something important’, just as there are those who confuse inertia with profundity (ala the infinitely narcissistic Levine in Wagner and some other rep).
However the dismissal of Mengelberg is superficial to put it mildly. There is a ton of Mengelberg and he had very definitely a way of doing things one could question. But his insights are the real thing, his ear was spectacular, his technique remarkable. Mahler adored his conducting as did many other musicians who were not pushovers and didn’t need his influence. The three recordings of Brahms 3 that are easily available are astounding in different ways. The one broadcast during the war contains as a symphonic performance should, an entire world, running a vast gamut of expression while observing every indication in the score and further pointing harmonic surprises and shifts (scrupulously prepared).
He even seems to make clear the relationship of a certain page of this symphony to Rheingold (in fact it’s an exact copy, but no one on Opera-L got it so I’m not giving it away here).
Mengelberg was better in some rep than others, like all conductors. The Mahler 4 is astounding and remains so despite the 1000 or so records that are available in better sound. All the Brahms is revelatory, his Strauss Tone Poems are surely among the best (and among the few to combine virtuosity and great expression in the playing.) The Bach St. Matthew done as no one would dare do it today is an overwhelming emotional experience as the composer surely intended though not perhaps imagining this scale, despite the cuts, then typical but less sweeping with M than with others, such as Furtwaengler, also amazing in this work. If one looks to composers such as Pfitzner, Kodaly and believe it or not Rachmaninoff it’s hard to equal Mengelberg though of course some people do and one can have different priorities (but I would look to Svetlanov for example even in the Mahler 4, which is boozy but arresting or perhaps Gielen a great musician who flings caution to the wind and actually points all the quotes — such as the one from Aida no one on Opera-L got and I am not mentioning it here).
As to the Eroica, the war time Furt is an overwhelming experience with a ferocious abandon to be found nowhere else not even in his other recordings (and returning to Brahms, his live Third, ca 1953 is equal to but very different from M’s with a crushing final mvt. That CD also contains the single greatest Schubert 8th I’ve ever heard — a devastating, terrifying statement of a piece too often trivialized.)
The very first Karajan Eroica is stunning, one of his great records, more ‘objective’ than Furt but with the same intensity and a fantastic final mvt (though no one is as crazy as Furt ca 1943 there). In stereo I would go with Klemperer for all that he’s rather slow — but the notes live there as do the harmonies, the same I would say about his often condemned but thrilling Cosi complete.
I have a live Harnoncourt, better than his published in the complete set — strange of course and without the conductor-virtuosity of others but with a really tough minded insight (reminds me of Klemps mind but with a different sensibility). Also Toscanini’s first try with the better NBC of 1938 is very powerful.
Erich Kleiber was a fine conductor and one could do worse than his Eroica but to find it the best…?
I’m not in the mood now to get into the horrifying Boehm Ring — a clattery, herky jerky, loud is better, supremely unmusical massacre with a lot of awful singing, especially from Leonie who I adore of course but who could never sing Sieglinde anywhere near in tune, it’s far too low for her. Again this seems to be a case of the pointless scream trumping all the awful noises she has made before. She even ruins the first act of the fab Furt commercial Walkeure (though it is a must have for my brother after sex change Moedl and Suthaus, voiceless but profound, in the overwhelming Todesverkeundigung and for ME, Grete Klose past her best as am I but still thrilling as Frica, as am I).
The Kna ’58 act one Walkeure with Jon is just a disaster. It is continually on the brink of falling apart. Kna deliberately (I suspect) drags, Jon ferociously pushes through, Leonie tries every pitch adjustment she can and the orch clearly doesn’t know what is going on. Also it’s one of those instances where all the transitional moments contain unwritten dissonances since sections of the orchestra enter and release at different times, apparently confused by Kna’s beat.
Leonie’s best go at the part on a record is the Karajan act 3, thrilling on all counts from 1951. But in any case that act lies best for her. Karajan’s complete Rheingold and Siegfried from that yr at Bayreuth (all that has survived) are astounding, among the great performances of the operas for the young, amazing Varnay, the great, forgotten like me Sigurd Bjorling and Karajan’s thrilling insights, theatrical power and emotional understanding.
But more than enough of poor old forgotten left for dead Mrs. John Claggart who HATES Alex Ross and is sorry that so many have their tongues up his dirty ass.
Does anybody else notice :
1. The “Wagnerian” writing for brass in Brahms IV symphony, Chaconne, 14th-15th variations (bars 113-128). I’m thinking especially of early Wagner (Tannhauser)
2. The “Brahmsian” moment in Siegfried at two -- three horns right after “Einer Waldweise, wie ich sie kann”. I bet Brahms knew this music, as it uncannily resembles the sort of melodic horn writing in his II symphony (premiered a year after Siegfried)
3. The uncanny resemblance between a small fragment in Die Walkuere, act II -- when Brunnhilde says to Wotan “wer bin ich, waer ich dein Wille nicht?” -- it’s a menacingly beautiful horn solo, and a motif in Gurreliederm first sung by Waldemar in his fourth song, specifically to the words “aus vergessnen, eingesunknen Graebern”, later returning to haunt in the third part, first in the orchestral prelude, then played by the celli just after the ghost choir.
May I put in a word for the Quatuor Mosaiques in the Haydn String Quartets? Very refreshing take.
Also, the Tokyo’s vintage account of Opus 76 is one of my most frequent gifts to people just tuning in to chamber music.
Yes Krunoslav, the Mosaiques are pretty glorious too, I have the Op 20 which may be my favorite of all the quartets, excluding the Sieben Letzten Worte which is in a class of by itself,along with the St Mathews and other heavenly pieces. The Op 76 I have with the Amadeus and the Takacs, but I do not like them as much. The Op 20 is the top for me. It’s strange, but it seems I do not resonate with mature Haydn as much as the young one. The Symphonies only up to the Paris, the London make me feel a little weird, certainly not the same paroxisms I go with the middle ones 40 through 83 roughly.
Now what about the Piano Trios?????? that is heavenly music if ever, nu?
To my everlasting shame, I only have one complete Ring, which is the Met dvd set. We have Solti’s Gotterdammurang on LP and Leinsdorf’s Die Walkure on cd. I keep meaning to do the research and buy another complete set but I keep getting sidetracked; right now I am going through Lohengrin, listening to it over and over and trying to really take it in.
I do wish Tennstedt had recorded the Ring, or at least one of the operas. I love his Wagner orchestral recordings.
Well maybe Wagner just isn’t your thing.
I’d avdise you to get the complete Keilberth / Bayreuth 1955 on Testament. It’s frightfully expensive but all considering the best buy. Keilberth may not have the genius of Furt / Kna / Early Karajan but he was an excellent technician. Singers loved working with him because he never swamped them and always provided wonderful support. I find Solti tiring after 30 minutes of listening to his Ring. Keilberth has the Stimmung, the line, the long arch of the act, he’s a good storyteller and very good at getting good, clear results. He manages to evade Bayreuth Rheingold scene I disaster, a scene that was invariably under-rehearsed in 1950s Bayreuth, which is no small feat. Walkurenritt is beautifully sung with Gerda Lammers’ beautiful voice and is not the usual vocal and instrumental horror when taped live. Siegfried is tremendous from start to finish, and Goetterdaemmeung, while not on the exalted cosmic level of Kna or Furt, is gorgeously sung (Varnay’d part in the duet has to be heard to be believed), almost like an Italian opera, the whole moving inexorably to the great conflits and final resolve.
The 1955 stereo is mostly excellent and lifelike. And its a rare opportunity to hear Varnay in stereo, the voice sounds completely different, more warm, less acid. It also encapsulates another very great performance, Gustav Neidlinger’s Alberich, his beautiful voice in pristine condition and the interpretation of a grand and complex role complete, humane, haunting.
All factors combined, cast, direction, recording, presentation, this is a great Ring and it’s a shame DECCA people have left it to languish for 50 odd years. Worth every penny of the asking price.
Granted, there are interpretations of greater genius and some parts (Sieglinde, Fricka) have been better sung elsewehere, but with a Ring its always a question of finding out whether the sum is greater than its parts, and in this particular case I firmly believe it is.
Regarding the Ring and Solti and since I’m already blabbering to my heart’s content and to your perhaps utter dismay, I’d like to present a small dilemma.
I’m mostly at odds with Solti as a Wagnerian (or Solti as anything except his late work, the 1990 Zauberflote, the live Traviata and CG Otello), how is it that I find his Walkuere act 3 from 1957 so wonderful, elastic and imposing? If only he had conducted the whole Ring this way. Maybe on his trial run he was cowed by the surroundings and wanted to get it right, without resorting to his traditional mannerisms and exclamation marks. I don’t know. Plus, I find Flagstad immensely affecting here. I rather love her “Old” voice. Of course it hasn’t the former ballast and nearly all the top is gone, but the velvety sound is now married to a deeper sense of the text and implications. Schech screams as usual, Edelmann very ordinary in a James Morris kind of way. But the playing and direction are surely magnificent!
Plus, there’s the Todesverkuendigung (my favourite Ring Scene), originally available on the 2 Lp set and now relegated to a cut-out Flagstad collection. I find it one of the most beautiful versions ever, despite Svanholm. Building the long arch across the questions and replies and moving into a blazing climax is immensely difficult. Furt had it always. Barneboim managed it, also Hanenchen (a very good Wagnerian). How come Solti, who utterly ruins this scene on his later 1967 complete recording, managed to be so imposing, so profound over here? A mystery.
And I though I was a freak with 21!
No longer OT as this thread has rightfully been highjacked by anticipation of tomorrow night’s Event Of The Year, can we assume that La Casa de La Cieca will be open for business during the performance?
Or will LaC be in attendance, lucky gal?
FYI for those who don’t already know -- Chicago residents Met’s Arminda on WTTW right now (until 2:00 pm CST).
meant ARMIDA, sorry.
Mrs. Claggart, this is the third or fourth time you have praised Svetlanov to the skies on Parterre.
Please elaborate. I am very curious.
(I have no dog in this hunt. I missed his career, I know no one that played under him, I am familiar only with a handful of his recordings.)
Drew!!!! I don’t know if you’re still out there. You asked me a question last evening and I just saw it. Not ignoring you. You were interested in Svetlanov (my opinion of). Rather than go on and on since I don’t know if you check in regularly or can even find things after a day or so (things just slip away here) I will be briefer than you deserve.
He was in the tradition of Golovanov, one of the great very wacky and utterly wild Russian conductors. His Wagner bleeding chunks and Liszt Tone Poems are unbelievable for insane, frenzied abandon, fantastic imagination, identification with the romantic idiom and his own endearing (or enraging) touch ups to the scores, mostly instrumental but sometimes harmonic.
Records/CD transfers are best but hard to find. (Amazon JP sometimes has CD transfers from LP). I hate to recommend downloads, which are by the nature of the process unmusical but I do suggest you go here http://nealshistorical.wordpress.com/. He does great restorations, is careful to get the best out of MP3 and/or Flac and you can get both the Wagner and Liszt (five CDs in total) free.
For opera relevance Golovanov is the conductor the great Bolshoi 1946-8 Boris with Pirogov. It is a stunning performance though G can’t resist adding harps, celesta and GONGS aplenty to Rimsky (!) and can’t resist dipping back into Mussorgsky for some harmonic crunches (he also comes up with a couple of his own chord sequences just for fun). This can be found with Reizen slotted in for Pirogov. R was probably one of the greatest if not the greatest Russian true black bass of the 20th century (if one views Chaliapin as more of a high bass and more international, though Reizen was always being recruited to leave USSR — but he gave a final performance of Gremin on the stage of the Bolshoi at 90, voice intact. The conductor for Reizen is Nortsov, just a nuts as Golovanov but less well documented on records that got to the West.)
Svetlanov is similarly ‘creative’ but more modern in the sense of not going quite as far in the direction of re-scoring and occasional reharmonization. But he is very different from that other fabulous, bitter, mean, harsh and cruel nut case Mravinsky (no I am not describing myself, though of course I AM fabulous!!!). Mravinsky makes as you know BIG choices (the Phillips CD of Romeo and Julliet excerpts and Nutcracker — his own insane selections — is just unbelievable, Mrav gets you by the balls, I think Prok wanted that, not so sure about Tchai in nutcracker but then again…)
Mrav does astounding things, Shos 8 properly pitched (avoid the sharp Phillips) is just stunning, as are the mono Tchai symphonies (never cared as much for the stereo), there is one of THE wild Francesca da Rimini performances from him (but Rozhdestvensky is also fantastic, I recommend his Sea Symphony (!!) Vaughn Williams in English with Russians, it’s the best conducted EVER, also his Brahms series, full of a gorgeous but not heavy shaping of the melodies with very sudden harmonic shifts — he springs them at the last minute and yes, some orchestral touch ups, also the Brahms piano music four hands and two pianos with his fabulous wife Postnikova). Mrav in Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner and the Russians is pretty incredible but has a tougher aesthetic than Svet.
Svetlanov made a TON of records, including a complete Mahler series. Just to take these, I love his romantic abandon, patience, ability to sustain a long line at a slow pace (it’s one of the better Third Symphonies) and his emphasis on an unhinged but not totally uncontrolled emotional expression (great Ninth). He also had a fabulous ear for harmonic movement (adagio from 10 is one of the best). I also love him in Russian rep — the BMG stereo Borodin 2 with Petite Suite is a great CD and shows an ability to take attractive but not great music and make it unforgettably moving (symph) and charming (suite). There is fearsome Beethoven (odd certainly), some late Haydn symphonies (a crazy but somehow amazing 90 also a very good 88), some of the best Tchai (not only the symphonies without which we can possibly live save for 6 and 2 — but the complete Sleeping Beauty, a glorious score he plays the fecal matter out of, a great Swan Lake, and what may be the best recording of the Suites, Dorati is more pristine and closer to the scores but Svet achieves all this color and through agogics make the melodies really surge and sing and catches the underlying heartbreak of 4 — Mozart arrangements — without losing its elegance).
There is much more, but enough for now.
Thanks, Mrs. Claggart.
I had to ask, because you have brought up Svetlanov several times now, and he is one of those figures I never hear ANYONE talk about. Am I correct in assuming that his U.S. appearances were mostly confined to concerts with his Russian orchestra while he and that ensemble were on tour here?
I asked my father about Svetlanov, and he tells me that he only heard Svetlanov once. It was many, many years ago, while Svetlanov was on tour here with his Russian orchestra. The only thing my father recalls from that concert is that the performances—Prokofiev 7, Tchaikovsky 3—were “sloppy”.
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