PERFORMER: Siegfried Jerusalem, Anne Evans, Graham Clark, John Tomlinson, Günter von Kannen; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94193-2 DDD
Barenboim is the hero of the latest Ring recorded live at Bayreuth where he conducted Harry Kupfer’s thought-provoking production from 1988 to 1992. I saw this in its second year when his Act I of Siegfried (with the cast recorded here) was the most thrillingly conducted, most beautifully sung I had ever heard in the theatre. Teldec’s recordings of performances from the 1991-92 festivals largely bear out my initial impression. I am more than ever impressed by Barenboim’s exciting, excitable conducting. His ability to integrate massive dramatic peaks within the ‘symphonic’ span of Wagner’s long, action-packed acts, his evident love of Wagner’s orchestration and his deeply felt response to Wagner’s most profoundly moving utterances make this the most compelling of modern recorded Rings, worthy to stand by the readings of Furtwängler (EMI), Böhm (Philips) and Karajan (DG).
No recording of the Ring has an ideal cast. The big disappointment for me is Graham Clark’s Mime, wonderfully sung in 1989 but by 1991 a whining, shrieking caricature. Evans’s Brünnhilde awakens in breathy, unfocused voice but in Götterdämmerung she surpasses anything I have heard from her: her singing is glorious, radiant, supremely musical, unforgettably touching, her Brünnhilde one of the most individual and loveliest ever recorded.
Nor is Jerusalem a typically heroic Siegfried – like Evans, he experiences moments of passing strain – but his lyric tenor delivers the most alluring account of this part on disc. Tomlinson’s Wanderer has both nobility and wit – his encounters with the Nibelung brothers are avuncular, informal – and Günter von Kannen is an Alberich in the Neidlinger tradition. Waltraud Meier is riveting in Waltraute’s desperate plea to her sister but Kang’s Fafner and Hagen are only adequate. But this is Barenboim’s, Evans’s and Jerusalem’s Ring, a powerful document of the finest staging I have seen in the theatre. Hugh Canning