When was the primary recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle?

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Late within the afternoon of 19 November, 1965 – a Friday – the Hungarian conductor Georg Solti steered the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra via the placid concluding measures of Wagner’s Die Walküre, the ultimate downbeat touchdown at exactly 5.30pm. It was the top of an epic journey to make the primary full studio recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle, a cycle of 4 operas lasting 15 hours in complete.

Who was Georg Solti?

Georg Solti was a Hungarian-British conductor of each orchestral and operatic music, greatest recognized each for his opera conducting with orchestras in Munich, Frankfurt and London, and for his lengthy and extremely profitable spell as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The entire Wagner Ring cycle nonetheless stands as considered one of his biggest achievements, alongside full Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler symphony cycles in Chicago.

That journey had began seven years earlier on 24 September, 1958, when periods to file Das Rheingold – the curtain-raiser to Wagner’s tetralogy – started within the Sofiensaal, Vienna, a transformed Nineteenth-century steam bathtub recognized for glorious acoustics. The highway to that opening session had, nevertheless, itself been tough. Decca, the corporate making the recording, wanted appreciable persuasion {that a} full Ring cycle made sense commercially. Would sufficient copies ever be offered, they questioned, to cowl the big monetary funding required to finish the challenge?

When Das Rheingold was ultimately launched as a three-LP boxed set in March 1959 (value £6), Decca executives bought their reply. The critics raved in regards to the new recording and, crucially, it started promoting in substantial numbers globally, even changing into a preferred hit within the US. ‘There it was within the Billboard charts of the best-selling LP albums,’ reported Rheingold’s producer John Culshaw, ‘surrounded by Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, and with out one other classical recording in sight.’

Who was John Culshaw?

Culshaw himself was a significant purpose why Das Rheingold was so stunningly triumphant. Seeing thrilling potentialities within the new know-how of twin-channel, stereophonic recording, he completely rethought how opera needs to be introduced to the armchair listener. Culshaw’s ‘theatre of the thoughts’ concerned cautious placement of singers throughout the stereo spectrum, mimicking stage positions and actions.

Wagner’s personal instructions have been an important level of departure in Culshaw’s calculations. The rating of Das Rheingold requires 18 tuned anvils for the Nibelheim episode, a stipulation normally ignored within the theatre. Culshaw took it critically: 18 anvils have been duly discovered, and 18 gamers employed to hit them. The thunderclap heralding Rheingold’s closing scene additionally bought the Culshaw remedy, and was considered one of a number of ‘sound results’ rendered with unprecedented constancy on the completed recording.

Decca producer John Culshaw played a key role in the recordings

Decca producer John Culshaw performed a key function within the recordings. Pic: Night Normal / Hulton Archive / Getty Pictures

What’s the greatest ‘Ring’ cycle?

The recordings from Solti and the VPO are good candidates for a ‘Ring’ cycle greatest recording. Das Rheingold’s business success induced Decca to sanction a continuation of the Ring challenge, and recordings of Siegfried (1962), Götterdämmerung (1964) and Die Walküre (1965) adopted. Approval for every instalment was once more nearly common, many commentators acknowledging that fully new requirements have been being set each artistically and sonically within the presentation of opera on file.

One critic hailed Siegfried as ‘the best recording, as such, of opera that we’ve got had to date’. In Götterdämmerung, Culshaw had particular steerhorns made for Act Two, including to what one reviewer known as ‘the alchemy of Decca’s magnificent, gorgeous, overwhelming new recording’.

Which singers carried out within the Solti / Vienna Phil ‘Ring’ cycle?

Maybe the largest issue of all within the Decca Ring’s success was the excellent high quality of the singers. Kirsten Flagstad, Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, Christa Ludwig, Régine Crespin, Gottlob Frick – all featured prominently, drawn from a basic technology of post-war Wagner performers. Culshaw’s ‘incomparable engineers’ (as The Occasions known as them), led by Gordon Parry, additionally performed an important function in capturing performances which, of their extremes of dynamic and expression, typically severely stretched the analogue tape know-how of the interval.

At the moment, the Decca Ring stands as a monument to an optimistic golden period of recording historical past, when grand operatic tasks have been attainable and audiences hungry for excellence purchased the information. When the entire cycle was launched on 19 LPs in 1968, the eminent critic Andrew Porter known as it ‘the gramophone’s biggest achievement’. Over half a century later, there are lots of who proceed to share his verdict.

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