OP0140. DAS RHEINGOLD, recorded 1958, w. Solti Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad, George London, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, etc. 3-London 414 101, w.147pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028941410122
"Distance can sometimes lend a nostalgic enchantment that disappears on reacquaintance, but such has not been the case here: this RHEINGOLD goes right back to the top of the list….When Wotan praises the newly-created Valhalla (‘Vollendet das ewige Werk’) and Fricka replies that she is more worried about the fate of Freia (‘Mir bangt es um Freia’) reminding Wotan of the price he must pay (‘Vergaßest du was du vergabst?’) the slight tremulousness is actually a vocal advantage. What makes this version extra special is the sense of drama, achieved through Solti’s direction and the commitment of the singers and aided by John Culshaw’s magic as producer….even in 1958 the Decca engineers were achieving a fidelity which is still remarkable….When Wotan and Loge descend to Nibelheim, you can really imagine their descent; when Alberich bullies Mime, the menace is palpable and it becomes even more so as Wotan and Loge work their trick on him. When Alberich dons the Tarnhelm to transform himself, the magic is conveyed in the very sound that we hear.
The effects would all have counted for nothing had the performers not played their parts. Set Svanholm’s Loge, for example, is masterful. Compared with his earlier Wagner performances, the part of Loge may have seemed a let-down, but he sings it perfectly. Without adopting the sneering tone that some singers bring to the part, he plays the role forthrightly but he hints at the detached role of this misfit among the gods, the one who stands back at the end of the opera and observes that Wotan has sown the seeds of his own destruction.
That the magic should be a joint effort between musicians and engineers is appropriate. Some of the effects which Wagner envisaged could not be realised in live performances, then or even now. Such is the entry of the gods into Valhalla, signalled by Donner’s earth-shattering hammer stroke as the rainbow bridge shimmers into existence. On stage, Donner’s hammer stroke comes over as not much more than a loud ting, as it does also on the rival recordings; on Decca the effect is still shattering even fifty years on.”
- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International