OP0038. DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN, Live Performance, 1953, w. Clemens Krauss Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Hermann Uhde, Josef Greindl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Ramon Vinay, Astrid Varnay, Regina Resnik, Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, etc.: (Portugal) 14-Gala 100.519, 652, 653 & 654, in Slipcase w.booklets. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 8712177020874
“As the number of RING recordings increases the collector with a limited budget has some difficult decisions to make. The choice of recordings is now quite staggering. It does not seem all that long ago when there were two or three to choose from but now there are substantially more. So, which recording would I recommend to someone new to Wagner? Probably the 1967 Böhm Bayreuth set. The virtues of these recordings have long been extolled by the music press and the Good CD guides. To my mind the 1953 Krauss recording comes pretty close and, if it is not the ‘best’ RING, it is certainly one of the great RINGs.
What makes it great? Firstly it has to be the cast of singers. I doubt that there has been a greater cast at Bayreuth in all the years since World War II. Astrid Varnay is nothing less than outstanding as Brünnhilde. She clearly has an intimate understanding of the role is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Wolfgang Windgassen sings Siegfried. It is his first appearance in the role and he is heard to better advantage in other recordings. The thing that makes him special in this recording is his youthfulness. He is at his best in the first two acts of SIEGFRIED but is also able to portray well the more mature character in GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. This is the performance of a major star in the making. Towering over them both vocally as well as physically is the Wotan of Hans Hotter. He is at his prime here and it is worth buying the set for him alone. His singing in this set often astounds me; to my mind the best Wotan recorded. By the time he recorded with Solti he was past his peak. Listen to this and you will know exactly what I mean! All the other singers are equally fine. Josef Greindl (Hagen), Paul Kuen (Mime) Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich) deserve special mention. Only the Sieglinde of Regina Resnik fails to impress but this is a minor problem.
The conducting throughout is solid and Krauss gives the work the full structure which is needed. If there are any weaknesses in his reading they show up in GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. This was the first and only RING which Kraus conducted at Bayreuth and he was clearly out to impress. His PARSIFAL of the same year was a record breaker. It was 23 minutes quicker than the previous record holder, his friend, Richard Strauss. No such haste with his reading of the RING! It is a tragedy that he was to die the following year and we do not have any more RING recordings by him.
The sound on the set is acceptable. There are some annoying stage noises at some points most problematically in the Immolation Scene. These do not, however, detract from what is a magnificent and desirable set.”
- Steve Taylor
“Clemens Krauss’ RING, which many, including myself, consider to be the most compelling and best-cast cycle, is available again, and in much improved sound….you hear the work in a theatrical perspective and a live acoustic.”
- Alan Blyth, GRAMOPHONE, June, 2004