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Marek Janowski’s conducting is the glory of this release: unforced, well paced, beautifully structured and with a sense of purpose. Effects are neither under- nor overplayed; everything is perfectly placed. If you relish Wagner’s orchestration it’s all laid out here for you to discover, played superbly by the Staatskapelle Dresden. The sound of this first digital recording of the Ring, made between 1980 and 1983,is also stunning.

The cast is formidable, and if you listen to it purely as a story you will become totally absorbed in the drama. Theo Adam’s Wotan/Wanderer might have a touch of vocal rust, and the top of the voice has to be managed cautiously, but he fills the role with immense dignity. His Fricka, Yvonne Minton, sounds young and attractive rather than a termagant and the sparks fly. Jessye Norman and Siegfried Jerusalem are unbeatable Walsung twins; she might sound rather grand at times, but what a pleasure to hear such a voice filling these phrases, and he matches her note for note. René Kollo creates a youthful Siegfried, full of zest, his voice joyous and ringing. Siegmund Nimsgern’s Alberich captures the tortured soul to perfection and Peter Schreier’s Loge and Mime are incredibly detailed. Two fabulous basses make overwhelming impressions: Kurt Moll as Hunding and Matti Salminen as Fafner and Hagen (with Roland Bracht’s Fasolt an added luxury). Such rich casting even extends to the Norns and Valkyries – as Lucia Popp, Hannah Schwarz and Cheryl Studer all appear it verges on the overwhelming.

Capping everything is Jeannine Altmeyer’s Brünnhilde, still in her early thirties at the time of recording. This was controversial casting, as Altmeyer’s relatively light voice certainly doesn’t provide the scything instrument of a Nilsson, or Flagstad’s warm grandeur. What she does offer is a superbly focused and gleaming soprano with vibrancy of tone, a fearless top, great attack, and masses of personality. If you are tackling the Ring for the first time this is a wonderful introduction to the work, the drama is deeply involving and the immensity of the piece is clarified and illuminated. If you are looking for an alternative recording to those you already have then this will provide much food for thought.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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