Der Ring des Nibelungen - Herbert von Karajan
This Ring Cycle is an excellent addition for anyone who treasures Herbert von Karajan's studio recording made in the late 60s. Without the aid of the microphones and recording engineers, the singers, many of whom were singing their roles for the first and only time, are put to the true test of whether or not they could stand up to the enormous demands of Wagner's music. Surprisingly, for the most part they all match the quality of performances that they created in the comfort of the studio while also bringing an added level of excitement and energy that cannot be replicated anywhere but in front of a live audience. They are all supported by the sensitive and sympathetic conducting of Herbert von Karajan who never compromises on insisting upon the same the level of transparency that he achieves in the studio recording. Special accolades go to Rheingold Wotan of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Fischer-Dieskau's baritone was far from dramatic in nature, but he is actually quite credible as the head god. Régine Crespin brings lush tone and the sensitivity of an art song specialist to the Walküre Brünnhilde. Helga Dernesch employs her powerful yet youthful soprano to the subsequent Brünnhildes. Jess Thomas' Siegfried is the one disappointment in the Cycle. Although there are traces of the lyricism that made him such an effective Parsifal, the wear and tear sustained from a decade of Wagner singing makes for a Siegfried that seems more middle-aged than youthful. I would run out of space if I went on at length on the merits of the rest of the cast so I will just let the glittering assortment speak for itself: Thomas Stewart, Jon Vickers, Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Martti Talvela, Karl Ridderbusch, Gerhard Stolze, Catarina Ligendza, Oralia Dominguez, Josephine Veasey, Edda Moser, Reri Grist, etc. The sound is very good.