Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen

By Galo, Gary A. | ARSC Journal, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen


Galo, Gary A., ARSC Journal


Wagner; Der Ring des Nibelungen. Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hans Hotter, George London, Kirsten Flagstad, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Gerhard Stolze, Kurt Bohm, Walter Kreppel, Jean Madeira, Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, James King, Regine Crespin, Claire Watson, Waldemar Kmentt, Eberhard Wachter, Set Svanholm, Joan Sutherland, et al. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, The Vienna State Opera Chorus (Wilhelm Pitz, chorus master), Georg Solti, conductor. (Recorded in Stereo, 1958-1965), Esoteric/Decca ESSD 90021/35 (14 Hybrid SACDs plus 1 DVD; Limited Edition of 1000 copies worldwide). Distributed in the US hy Teac, www.esoteric.teac.com; Available from The Elusive Disc, www.elusivedisc.com.

In the Spring 1998 issue of the ARSC Journal I reviewed Decca's second CD reissue of the George Solti/Vienna Philharmonic recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (1998;29[1];144-146). Deeea's first digital transfer of this recording had been done in 1984 using their ADRM (Analog-to-Digital ReMastering) process which, though technically dated today, was well ahead of what most of their competitors were achieving with reissues of analog material. Decca's ADRM process included digitally repairing some of the razor-blade edits that had been audible on LP, but one pesky editing error crept into the digital remastering. In Act I, Scene 3 of Die Walkure, where Siegmund sings "O suBeste Wonne!," the dotted-eighth rest at the beginning the measure was eliminated (Dover full score, p.122, measure 1), No such editing problem exists on any LP edition I have heard, including a British-pressed London copy, my German Decca set mastered and pressed by Telefunken, as well as the sonically inferior Time-Life version, mastered and pressed in the United States. Unfortunately, this editing error was not corrected in the 1997 remastering. Another editing discrepancy occurs two measures earlier (Dover p.121, measure 3). On the LPs, the triplet in the French horns on the third beat is slightly truncated, and it almost sounds as though it was played that way. That triplet is much more carefully and deliberately articulated in the Decca CD edition. Producer John Culshaw obviously wanted "'0 silGeste Wonne!" from another take, but the LP and CD editions of this recording reflect two different ways of accomplishing this.

For the 1997 remastering, the late Decca engineer James Lock converted Decca's original 48kHz/18-bit transfer to 96kHz/24-bit, presumably with lower levels of clock jitter than they could achieve in 1984. The final step in the process, after conversion to the 44.1 kHz/16-hit CD standard, was tape hiss reduction using Cedar's DH-2 De-Hisser. In my 1998 review I noted significant improvements over the 1984 transfer; "The midrange is now warmer and more mellow, with the hardness and glare of the 1984 CDs minimized. There is still some high frequency hardness, particularly in the Gotterdammerung, but far less than before. The size of the soundstage has been increased slightly relative to the 1984 transfer ... Room boundaries and dimensions are even more readily apparent than before. Low level details emerge with greater clarity, and dynamics, particularly low level changes, are more effectively revealed."

Esoteric is a Japanese high-end audio company manufacturing premium digital-to-analog converters, a precision master clock based on Rubidium rather than conventional crystals, digital players, preamplifiers, power amps, and their Mexcel line of high-performance cables. Their products are distributed in the US by Teac Corporation of America. About two years ago Esoteric began a series of SACD remasterings of outstanding analog classical recordings originally made by Decca (formerly London in the US), Deutsche Grammophon and Sony Classical. Esoteric's SACDs are all dual-layer hybrids, which include a CD layer that renders the discs playable on any conventional CD player, though the sonic benefits of SACD will only be realized when the discs are played in an SACD player (including the many "universal" or "multi-format" players that support this format). …

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