Magazine article The New Yorker

With This Ring; Classical Notes

Magazine article The New Yorker

With This Ring; Classical Notes

Article excerpt

For decades, Wagner fans have assumed that, first, Georg Solti's Decca recording of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" (made in Vienna from 1958 to 1966) was the finest one available, and, second, that it was the first set ever to be recorded in stereo. But the release (on Testament) of "Siegfried," the first installment of a complete cycle recorded at the Bayreuth Festival in 1955, has challenged both of those assumptions. This "Ring" was also a Decca product, but it was quietly shelved, partly because the powerful producer John Culshaw was beginning to question the appeal of bringing live recordings, complete with their unavoidable mistakes, into the increasingly high-tech modern home. Soon he would embark upon his studio "Ring" with Solti--which, in its immaculate perfection, is as much a product of its time as Philip Johnson's glass-box architecture.

"Siegfried" has always been the least beloved of the four operas, but you would never know it from the 1955 recording, which crackles with energy. …

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