Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner: Götterdämmerung
WORKS: Götterdämmerung
PERFORMER: Lance Ryan; Petra Lang; Matti Salminen; Markus Brück; Edith Haller etc.; Berlin Radio Choir & SO/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186409

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No other recorded cycle of Wagner’s ten complete mature operas has been completed as swiftly as Marek Janowski’s, the Ring’s final instalment fittingly concluding the enterprise. The greatest cause for satisfaction in it is the playing of the magnificent Berlin Radio Symphony, which shows no signs whatever of tiring in this enormous work, despite the immense demands made on it during a recording made – if the booklet is to be believed – in a single live performance. The sound, too, does justice to the intensity of the playing, and to Janowski’s eliciting crucial details in even the most thickly scored passages. It is a comparatively quick performance, knocking about 25 minutes off the average time for Götterdämmerung, but there is rarely a sense of hurry, thanks to the skilful judging of relative tempos.

That’s most of the good news: unfortunately this version can’t possibly be recommended, due to the casting of the two chief roles: Lance Ryan as Siegfried and Petra Lang as Brünnhilde. Ryan is quite peculiarly poor and tight-throated, and he almost never shows any insight into the part. Tantalisingly, in Siegfried’s finest – and last – hour, Ryan finally shows signs of sensitivity but ‘too little, too late’ would be an understatement. I wish I could say much more favourable things about Petra Lang, but she is a mezzo who should not have undertaken this demanding role. Her voice sounds too small, she has trouble reaching her high notes and her low notes aren’t what they were. The other singers are all good, with the veteran bass Matti Salminen still a superb Hagen – but he is heard in better company elsewhere. It’s frustrating for anyone who has been collecting the whole Janowski series – Parsifal was BBC Music Magazine Recording of the Month in June 2012 – but there are so many fine recordings of this masterwork that it would be irresponsible to recommend this one.

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Michael Tanner