Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (excerpts); Siegfried Idyll

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LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Der Ring des Nibelungen (excerpts); Siegfried Idyll
PERFORMER: Dresden Staatskapelle/Donald Runnicles
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-17109-2
The best compliment one can pay these discs is that the voices are not really missed with the music in the hands of such experienced Wagnerian conductors as these two. Their orchestras take full advantage of the limelight and play with full-blooded sound and sumptuous textures, an outstanding example being the Dresden players in 30 minutes of music from Götterdämmerung, wonderfully paced and thrilling to the ear. This should have concluded the disc, but, instead the Siegfried Idyll cleanses the palate in a performance full of exquisite detail. The sooner Runnicles conducts a complete Ring on disc the better. Levine, on the other hand, is well known both on disc and video for his Met Ring. The DG sound is very forward, the impact of Walküre breathtaking after the warm vibrato of the strings in the Lohengrin Prelude. For the rest, the bird calls in ‘Forest Murmurs’ are lovingly shaped, Hans Sachs’s sombre mood is clearly phrased in horns and cellos in the Meistersinger Act III Prelude after a searing ‘Liebestod’ from Tristan and, to conclude, the oboe is haunting and appropriately magical in the Good Friday Music from Parsifal. Christopher Fifield