COMPOSERS: Richard Wagner
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Das Rheingold
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne, Michelle DeYoung, Kim Begley, Deborah Humble, Peter Sidhom, Anna Samuil, Kwangchul Youn, Stephen Milling, David Cangelosi, Charles Reid, Oleksandr Pushniak, Eri Nakamura, Aurhelia Varak, Hermione Haselböck; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden
CATALOGUE NO: Naxos 8.660374-75
Naxos presents Jaap van Zweden and the Hong Kong Philharmonic in their first ever Ring, rarely the best idea. However, the cast is compensatingly strong, even stellar. Peter Sidhom’s dark-leather tone and malevolent characterisation make an impressive Alberich, fellow Briton Kim Begley is a smooth, sardonic Loge, ideally lyrical in his narration, and Mathias Goerne, no less, sings Wotan. While his dark-velvet bass-baritone sometimes recalls the great Hans Hotter, though, Goerne’s prosaic characterisation, underdeveloping the god’s headstrong charisma, is surprising in such a distinguished lieder singer.
Stephen Milling’s and Kwangchul Youn’s giants, David Cangelosi’s Mime, and Anna Samuil’s Freia continue the luxury casting, along with excellent lesser gods, especially Erda, and a really lively Rhinemaiden trio. Van Zweden conducts with an easy sweep that would carry one along in the opera house, drawing some splendid sound from the orchestra, but recording highlights how much of Rheingold’s pointed dramatic detail he doesn’t yet catch, at the fulfilment of the Valhalla motif, for example. The anvils sound curiously gamelan-like. What makes this most remarkable, therefore, is the price. This knocks spots off rival bargain versions, especially Naxos’s earlier Stuttgart recording, and many more expensive – and on audio Blu-ray it should sound superb.
Michael Scott Rohan