Wagner’s ‘Das Rheingold’ starring Michael Volle and Tomasz Konieczny

'For sheer dramatic dash and glowing orchestral sound this is remarkable'

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Das Rheingold
PERFORMER: Michael Volle, Tomasz Konieczny, Burkhard Ulrich, Elisabeth Kulman, Herwig Pecoraro, Peter Rose, Eric Halfvarson, Annette Dasch, Janina Baechle, Christian Van Horn, Benjamin Bruns, Mirella Hagen, Stefanie Irányi, Eva Vogel; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: BR Klassik 900133

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Simon Rattle has chalked up substantial Ring experience in recent years, at Baden, Aix-en-Provence, Vienna and elsewhere; but this performance is surprisingly different. His conducting is fast, as Wagner preferred and intensely dynamic but he avoids Boulez’s glibness, illuminating the drama of the moment in a mercurial, almost Solti-like fashion. If this sometimes occasions some choppy phrasing, it’s more than made up for by the translucent lustre of the Bavarian playing, the brass especially.

Alberich’s frenzied bounding, the crashing giants, Froh and Donner’s explosive arrival and Nibelheim’s cavernous confusion have seldom sounded more vivid, or Valhalla and the gold more alluring. Rattle’s cast is as stellar as Naxos’s and he seems to have encouraged his singers to act – with a vengeance, as when Elisabeth Kulman’s Fricka drips sarcasm over Michael Volle’s Wotan. Lighter-toned than Goerne, Volle comes far more keenly alive, brushing off Annette Dasch’s convincingly distraught Freia and positively spitting rivets at the Giants as he entangles himself in compromised ideals. Tomasz Konieczny’s Alberich, initially less malevolent than Sidhom, soon matches him, especially in his Curse. The Giants are excellent, especially Peter Rose’s Fasolt, and the lesser gods also. Burckhard Fritz’s Loge is characterful but arid-voiced, too like Herwig Pecoraro’s veteran Mime, but only Rattle’s Rhinemaidens, two mezzos and a soprano instead of the reverse, and Erda concede anything to Naxos’s. BR Klassik include a translation, but it’s the same inadequate one Naxos provides online. Altogether, though, for sheer dramatic dash and glowing orchestral sound this is remarkable, promising an exciting Ring to come. Not everyone may like it, but I did.

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Michael Scott Rohan