Wagner: Das Rheingold

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Das Rheingold
PERFORMER: Robert Hale, Hanna Schwarz, Kim Begley, Nancy Gustafson, Franz-Josef Kapellmann, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Walter FinkCleveland Orchestra/Christoph von Dohnányi
Do we really need another Ring? With major recordings from EMI (Haitink), DG (Levine) and Teldec (Barenboim) in recent years, Decca clearly thought it was time to re-establish their credentials (the 1958-64 Solti/Culshaw Ring was a milestone in the history of the gramophone).


The new Decca recording under Christoph von Dohnányi has a long way to go to prove itself. Gabriele Schnaut is a bold choice for Brünnhilde (Die Walküre is due next autumn), and Robert Hale’s Wotan/Wanderer has been admired on stage though not heard on disc until now. But no Siegfried has yet been found, and it is not even certain the project will be completed.

Unfortunately, too, Dohnányi does not have the interpretative breadth, the gravitas of his greatest rivals, Barenboim and Haitink. He steers Rheingold along efficiently enough, and occasionally strikes home with force (the Descent to Nibelheim is quite exciting). But not often enough: too many dramatic high points are devoid of terror or passion. This may be as much the fault of a somewhat recessed recording as of Dohnányi, but to my ears Hale’s Wotan also lacks authority and weight, and Franz-Josef Kapellmann’s Alberich sufficient menace.


There are, however, several fine vocal contributions, notably from Peter Schreier as a wheedling, needle-sharp Mime and Kim Begley as a quixotic Loge. For the time being, though, Barenboim’s Ring would be my first choice. Barry Millington