Gun-Brit Barkmin, Daniel Brenna, Shenyang, Eric Halfvarson, Amanda Majeski, Peter Kálmán, Michelle DeYoung, Eri Nakamura, Aurhelia Varak, Hermine Haselböck, Sarah Castle, Stephanie Houtzeel, Jenufa Gleich; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden
Naxos 8.660428 263.02 mins (4 discs)
When Das Rheingold, the first instalment of the Naxos Hong Kong Ring, was released back in 2016, critics and other listeners were significantly impressed if not actually surprised to discover the remarkable standards on display. By then, Jaap van Zweden had already been the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s music director for four years, and his appointment to succeed Alan Gilbert in the same position with the New York Philharmonic had already been announced.
Two years later the clear and decisive approach he brought to Rheingold is once more apparent in a Götterdämmerung that brings Wagner’s cycle to its conclusion in a blaze of glory, the orchestral standards and Van Zweden’s light but effective touch both elements of the highest quality. Wagner’s vocal challenges are also met full-on, if with less consistent success. While Daniel Brenna’s Siegfried is tireless, his nasal vocalism doesn’t always provide an easy listen. Though Shenyang’s Gunther is firm, even at times fierce, his tonal colours rather suggest a future Hagen – a role taken here with a blend of subtlety and command by Eric Halfvarson. Peter Kálmán provides a creepy intervention as Alberich. Of the female roles, Gun-Brit Barkmin’s Brünnhilde is once again admirable in her ability to maintain quality tone throughout in an approach that combines lyricism with dramatic focus. Amanda Majeski’s liquid soprano is well cast as Gutrune, though Michelle DeYoung’s at times ungainly tone limits the impact of Waltraute’s scene. The three combined choirs form a fearsome gang of Vassals, and the smaller roles are all finely done.