WORKS: Der Ring des Nibelungen
PERFORMER: Robert Hale, Hildegard Behrens, René Kollo, Julia Varady, Robert Schunk, Kurt Moll, Ekkehard Wlaschiha; Bavarian State Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra/ Wolfgang Sawallisch
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 72731 2 Reissue
With a career stretching back to Fifties Bayreuth, Wolfgang Sawallisch is certainly the most experienced and, on a good day, the most accomplished of living Wagner conductors. So it’s fitting that EMI have at last decided to issue in a cheaper format the Ring cycle he conducted for Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s 1989 production for the Bavarian State Opera. Oddly, given its theatrical provenance, it’s hardly the most dramatically gripping of the many currently available recorded Rings, nor, despite the presence of such stalwarts as Behrens, Varady, LipovsŠek, Meier, Kollo and Moll, the most consistently well sung or acted.
Yet for those happy to experience The Ring purely as music, then Sawallisch’s impeccable musicianship is currently peerless, and the Bavarian State Orchestra plays superbly and with great subtlety, ably complementing the outstanding vocal contributions of Meier’s Waltraute and Moll’s Fafner, Hunding and Hagen and almost eclipsing the problems encountered by Behrens’s otherwise sympathetic Brünnhilde.
At its bargain price, these 14 CDs (no libretto) should not be overlooked, though if good sound and quality rather than cost are at stake, then Karajan on DG still holds up pretty well, as does, with reservations, Janowski on BMG.