Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Varnay, Hotter, Windgassen, Shuard, Vinay, Frick; Konwitschny. London, 1959

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For me, this year has been a big year for The Ring. I have now remastered seven complete cycles. Remarkably, I have found that every time I encounter a new performance it is almost like hearing it for the first time and I am amazed given the formidable obstacles in presenting this work, just how malleable it is and, unlike other works, how there will never truly be a definitive interpretation. Even if there is about an hour differential between the timings of Knappertsbusch and Boulez, both points of view seem to work within the context of the drama and highlight different aspects of the score. Konwitschny’s interpretation is no less interesting as well as unique. In general, he favors slower tempi while maintaining the lyricism of the melodic line. His approach is softer in many ways giving the orchestra a feeling of transparency and lightness throughout. His efforts are buttressed by some phenomenal singing. Astrid Varnay delivers one of the finest performances of Brünnhilde I have ever heard her do. Although she had already been singing Wagner for nearly twenty years, and she would soon retire the hochdramatische roles from her repertoire, she approaches the daunting challenges unflinchingly and misses none of the marks. She is joined by Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried. In hearing his performance you really get the sense of what an excellent technician he was. Even if his voice was not truly of the heldentenor ilk, he never pushes it beyond its means maintaining the sweetness of his voice throughout the long evenings. Hans Hotter is captured at the height of both his vocal and interpretive powers. It is hard to envisage what a better Wotan would sound like. The rest of the cast includes Amy Shuard and Ramón Vinay as Siegmund and Sieglinde, respectively, Gottlob Frick as Hagen and Ursula Boese as Fricka. The sound is superb.

OD 10832-13

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