Here, for once, is a recording of a great late Wagner opera which can be recommended with virtually no reservation. It is being issued as a kind of supplement to the complete Ring cycle released a couple of years ago by Testament.
The major differences here are that Brünnhilde is sung by Martha Mödl, and Gunther by Hans Hotter. Mödl could often sound tired, but here she is utterly inspired, showing why she is a cult singer.
The casting of Hotter as Gunther is more controversial, as this character is normally portrayed as a weakling, more a pawn of the villainous Hagen – once more marvellously taken by Josef Greindl.
Hotter shows Gunther as an uneasy king, alternately arrogant and anxious, and morally collapsing in Acts II and III in a subtle and extraordinary performance.
Wolfgang Windgassen is even more moving, tireless and likable as Siegfried than he was in the previously released cycle, and there is no comparison with the Solti Ring on Decca, where he is a shadow of what we hear here.
Even the small but significant part of the Third Norn is taken by Astrid Varnay, the Brünnhilde of the other cycle, and to glorious effect.
The conductor Joseph Keilberth is on top form. There are some stage noises, which add to the atmosphere for me, but may annoy some other reviewers. And the recording sounds so warm, so natural, so true to what one hears at Bayreuth. Michael Tanner