Wagner: Das Rheingold

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Das Rheingold
PERFORMER: John Tomlinson, Günter von Kannen, Helmut Pampuch, Graham Clark, Linda Finnie, Eva Johansson, Birgitta Svendén Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-91185-2 DDD
Daniel Barenboim’s conducting of the Ring complemented Harry Kupfer’s gripping but anti-heroic Bayreuth staging of the cycle (1988-92)so well that I wondered how successfully it would transfer to disc. For the full musico-dramatic experience, the video or laser disc (see p. 51) is necessary, but Barenboim’s account is no mere accompaniment. Indeed, these first two instalments heralda Ring that is likely to become mytop recommendation.

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John Tomlinson’s full-throated Wotan is inseparable from his prowling, morally shabby stage persona: not so much father of the gods as Godfather. James Morris’s Wotan for both Haitink (EMI) and Levine (DG) is more beautifully, more evenly, sung, but it lacksthe bite – indeed, the wholerange of emotional expression – that Tomlinson brings to bear.Anne Evans’s Brünnhilde is as perceptive and moving on disc as in the theatre, while Nadine Secundeand Poul Elming are amongthe top Sieglindes and Siegmunds to be heard today. Casting isstrong generally, and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra play withtheir customary virtuosityfor Barenboim.

The latter brings to bear an astute musical and theatrical intelligence that does justice to the transient emotions – joy, grief, passion, pain – while accommodating them to an overarching sense of structure.

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There is room for improvement in Teldec’s booklets, however. William Mann’s eccentric, inaccurate translation should long ago have joined Siegfried on the funeral pyre. And the essays (by Marion Bless) are riddled with musicological and typographical errors. Wagner’s supposed aquatic ‘vision’ of the beginning of Rheingold at La Spezia is very likely mythical and certainly didn’t take place in 1953. Barry Millington