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Opera - Released January 1, 1966 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Distinctions Choc de Classica - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Opera - Released January 1, 2014 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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This first complete studio recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, made between 1958 and 1966, was a groundbreaking technical and artistic achievement, the most ambitious and intricately involved opera recording project of the 20th century. Produced for Decca by John Culshaw, whose vision and untiring devotion brought the gargantuan project to completion, the 14 ½-hour release set a new standard for opera recordings. The details Culshaw lavished on the production, which included building new musical instruments, precisely calculating the placement and choreography of each singer to maximize the theatricality of each scene, and creating an array of fabulous special effects resulted in a landmark recording that has lost none of its power with the passage of time. Culshaw and conductor Georg Solti assembled the most impressive Wagnerian musicians available. The Vienna Philharmonic, one of the very finest orchestras in the world, plays with a sure grasp of Wagner's style, with passionate intensity and with impeccable musicianship. Solti's epic vision of the Ring glows in its details and overwhelms in its sweeping drama. A number of very fine interpretations of the Ring have been recorded since, but Solti's version remains close to the top and is in a class by itself. Casting the many daunting roles was a challenge, but for the most part the soloists are wonderfully effective. The producers were able to enlist Birgit Nilsson, one of the outstanding Wagnerians of the century, as Brünnhilde, when her voice was at its peak, with both a youthful bloom and a towering artistic maturity, as well as Kirstin Flagstad, the leading Wagnerian soprano of her generation, then in the twilight of her career, as Fricka in Das Rheingold. Heldentenors are a rare breed, and two of the few weak links in the cast are Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried and James King as Siegmund. George London is superb as Wotan in Das Rheingold, but Hans Hotter brings even greater gravity and insight to the role in Die Walküre and Siegfried, even if his voice had lost some of its luster. Régine Crespin is warmly ardent as Sieglinde. Gustav Neidlinger's Alberich is appropriately forceful, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a smoldering, fiercely troubled Gunther. The cast list is dazzling, with principals including Set Svanholm, Gottlob Frick, Christa Ludwig, Brigitte Fassbaender. Even relatively minor roles feature such luminaries as Eberhard Wächter, Helga Dernesch, Lucia Popp, Helen Watts, and Joan Sutherland. Listeners looking for an introduction to Wagner's massive opus can't go wrong with this monumental version. © TiVo
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Full Operas - Released November 3, 1971 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Symphonic Music - Released September 2, 2016 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Recorded in concert by the audiophile label PentaTone, Marek Janowski's brilliant performances of Richard Wagner's ten mature operas were issued as hybrid SACDs between 2011 and 2013, in celebration of the composer's bicentennial year. The most famous concert excerpts are presented here in the multichannel format, and include overtures, preludes, and orchestral music from Der fliegende Holländer, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Parsifal, and Wagner's masterpiece, Der Ring des Nibelungen. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra is exemplary in its dynamic performances showcasing Wagner's splendid orchestration, and the exceptional playing and high-quality engineering are apparent in the deep and rich sound of this package. There are many compilations of Wagner's greatest hits, including some of comparable musicianship and historical value, but few can match this generous collection for the excitement of the live performances and the spaciousness of the reproduction. Highly recommended, especially for anyone looking for a first-rate introduction to Wagner. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 7, 2012 | PentaTone

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Parsifal is the second installment in Pentatone's ambitious project to record Wagner's ten important operas between in 2011 and 2013 in celebration of the bicentennial of his birth, featuring live concert performances with Marek Janowski leading Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and Rundfunkchor Berlin. Janowski is an old hand at Wagner, having conducted the first (and very fine) digital recording of The Ring, and he brings a sure understanding and unified conception to Parsifal. One of its most immediately noticeable characteristics is its urgency, which essentially means faster tempos. His version at three and three-quarters hours is nearly a half hour shorter than classic recordings like Knappertsbusch's 1951 Bayreuth version and Solti's Decca release. What's gained is a momentum and sense of dramatic movement in an opera that's notorious for bogged-down performances. It also has the effect of making the opera seem more personal, even intimate at moments, because the momentum gives the dialogue between characters such immediacy. Janowski is sensitive to allowing the music plenty of space to unfold where it calls for evoking a timeless expansiveness, such as the scenes in the Hall of the Grail. The orchestra and chorus perform with seamless assurance and with a velvety sensuality. Janowski keeps textures transparent so that details of the scoring are easily audible, and that transparency also contributes to the intimacy of his reading. The exemplary vocal performances are uniformly very fine, and the singers bring an acute sense of drama to their roles and their interactions The recording is blessed with a wealth of expressive, resonant, tonally sumptuous, and clearly differentiated low voices, including Evgeny Nikitin as Amfortas, Dimitry Ivashchenko as Titurel, Franz-Josef Selig as Gurnemanz, and Eike Wilm Schulte as Klingsor. Christian Elsner is a passionate Parsifal and his ringing tenor is heroic and robust. As Kundry, Michelle DeYoung sings with warmth and poignancy and is especially effective in her rich lower register. The sound of the hybrid multichannel SACD is immaculate and spacious. © TiVo
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Opera - Released June 7, 2019 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Opera - Released November 11, 2016 | Naxos

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The second part of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Die Walküre relates the story from Norse mythology of Siegmund and Sieglinde, whose illicit love angers the goddess Fricka and leads inevitably to the birth of the hero Siegfried. This is the second installment in Jaap van Zweden's ambitious Ring cycle with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, a project he regards as central to his work with the orchestra. The production features Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Heidi Melton as Sieglinde, and Falk Struckmann as Hunding, the jealous husband of Sieglinde, along with Matthias Goerne as Wotan, Michelle DeYoung as Fricka, and Petra Lang as the Valkyrie of the title, Brünnhilde. This cast may not have the name recognition of the great Bayreuth veterans, but these are strong voices well trained in Wagner's notoriously demanding music, and the performance as a whole is convincing. The Hong Kong Philharmonic may not seem like a rising Wagnerian orchestra, but in spite of some occasional rough edges, it plays its heart out and gives the score the intensity, color, and grandeur it requires. This live performance was recorded at the spacious Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall in 2016, and is the second of four recordings issued annually until the cycle is completed in 2018. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 1, 2019 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released April 1, 1973 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

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When he records Parsifal in studio, in 1972—three years after Pierre Boulez—Sir Georg Solti still possesses all of his vocal glories from his youth. After the majestic recording of Ring, Decca gathers around him an exceptional Areopagus: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Hotter, Gottlob Frick, René Kollo, Zoltán Kelemen, Christia Ludwig, Robert Tear and no less than the best flower maidens that are called Popp, Te Kanawa, Howells and Knight. This is also the time of legendary sound takes by the English label, in which the balance between the vocals and the orchestra is almost ideal, with a really successful spatialization and a captivating sound impressiveness thanks to a Vienna Symphony Orchestra more sensual than ever. In studio, everything is thought-out, measured, idealized, far from the stage and its risk-taking, but the result is an absolute success. We don’t know what to admire more between the incredible, monstrous, frenzied Kundry of Christa Ludwig or the Parsifal filled with a still adolescent sweetness of René Kollo, without mentioning the chiseled and particularly sparkling direction from Solti. It’s a reference worth listening to (or listening to again), especially in the majestic HD remaster that is now proposed by the publisher. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released June 5, 2012 | PentaTone

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This live 2011 recording is the fourth installment in Pentatone's ambitious Wagner cycle, set to be completed in 2013 to celebrate the bicentennial of the composer's birth, featuring Marek Janowski leading Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin and Rundfunkchor Berlin. Janowski's reading, which is in general snappier than the average, wisely leans toward emphasizing the extremes in the score; the slow sections are ethereally serene and the fast have a buoyant, sometimes almost reckless energy. It makes for an exciting and propulsive performance, and the orchestra plays with agility and rich, sensuous tone. This is a concert performance, but everyone involved performs with urgency and strong sense of drama. Günther Groissböck as Heinrich stands head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. His oaken, ringing, authoritative bass rivets attention whenever he sings; he's entirely persuasive as a powerful medieval monarch. As Telramund, Gerd Grochowski has less commanding vocal equipment, but he's a terrifically engaging singing actor and his scenes with Susanne Resmark as Ortrud crackle with energy and are among the highlights of the performance. The romantic leads are overall less effective. Klaus Florian Vogt as Lohengrin sings with musicality but has a relatively light tenor that sounds like he would be more at ease in bel canto and Mozart; he just doesn't have the heroic timbre and bearing this role requires. Annette Dasch sounds somewhat out of her comfort zone as Elsa, particularly in the first act and when she is called on to sing at full volume. Their voices are beautifully suited to the third act duet, though; its more intimate emotions and more delicate orchestration give them a chance to shine without strain, and they have real chemistry as their tender lovers' conversation devolves into a nightmarish confrontation of broken trust. The sound of the hybrid SACD is wonderfully clear and is as clean and well-balanced as a studio recording. © TiVo
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Opera - Released September 9, 2014 | Avie Records

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The Seattle Opera's 2013 production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen was presented during the international celebrations of the composer's bicentennial year and recorded live, making it the company's first audio recording of the tetralogy since 1975. The sumptuous traditional staging and compelling performances received critical raves, and the 2014 release of the recording on Avie earned its own round of glowing reviews. Seattle Opera has been mounting productions of the Ring in its core repertoire since 1973, staking a claim on the operas that is unmatched by other opera houses in the United States, and it has presented an alternative to the controversial avant-garde productions at Bayreuth. Leading the cast are Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Stefan Vinke as Siegfried, Alwyn Mellor as Brünnhilde, Richard Paul Fink as Alberich, and Stephanie Blythe as Fricka, all offering some of the strongest Wagnerian singing heard since the 1980s. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Asher Fisch, provides rich sonorities and vibrant tone colors, so fans of Wagner's brilliant orchestral writing will hear many passages with new ears. Avie's reproduction is remarkable in its clarity and depth, and despite the festival conditions, the sound is quite clean and relatively free of extraneous noises. Issued as a 14-CD box set with complete libretti and color photographs, as well as a digital download, and as online streaming, this release gives Wagner fans options that are usually unavailable for other Ring recordings. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 2, 2012 | PentaTone

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As the conductor for PentaTone's ambitious project to record all of Richard Wagner's music dramas, Marek Janowski has delivered a fine live concert version of Tristan und Isolde that has received critical praise for its strong cast and extraordinary sound quality. Janowski draws out some exciting playing from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the multichannel super audio recording gives the ensemble the depth and fullness that is absolutely vital in Wagner's richly scored music. The cast is assured and vocally capable, but the star is soprano Nina Stemme, whose Isolde is vividly rendered and strong enough to carry the performance through to the Liebestod, setting standards of expressive power and stamina for the other singers to match. Considering the difficulty in finding vocalists who can handle Wagner's demanding roles, the performances by Stephen Gould as Tristan, Johan Reuter as Kurwenal, and Kwangchul Youn as King Mark are certainly better than average, and satisfying for the purposes of this concert performance. While this recording does not rank among historic Tristans for the thrills of a fully staged production, or for any legendary artists in the main roles, this is still an admirable effort that promises even greater things for the remainder of PentaTone's series. © TiVo
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Opera - Released April 3, 2020 | BR-Klassik

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Opera - Released November 9, 2018 | Naxos

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The Tetralogy in China: even Wagner himself would never have dreamt it, even in his wildest dreams of world conquest armed with his "Gesamtkunstwerk". But Hong Kong Philharmonic finished recording the Götterdämmerung in January 2018, led by their musical director Jaap van Zweden. It is the product of four years of public performances and live recordings, a fine recipe for preserving the vivaciousness and continuity of the work. And if Wagner had had such a high-quality orchestra at his disposal, maybe he would have had the Bayreuth festival set up on the bank of the Pearl River in order to see real justice done for his masterpiece... The record itself brings in some of the most experienced voices of the time. The "touchstone versions" have some stiff competition in the form of this new complete edition. The Hong Kong Philharmonic may lack some of the sometimes-weighty "traditions" of some other outfits, but they play this music as if it had just been written… © SM/Qobuz
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Opera - Released January 29, 2013 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica - Hi-Res Audio
Continuing his extraordinary SACD series of Richard Wagner's music dramas for PentaTone, Marek Janowski presents Tannhäuser in the original Dresden version, with a dynamic cast, choir, and orchestra that give the performance their all. Like the previous recordings in this project, issued in celebration of the bicentennial of Wagner's birth, the performance is live and the sound quality is exceptional in capturing both the exciting playing of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the dramatic power of the singers onstage. The standouts are Robert Dean Smith as Tannhäuser, Marina Prudenskaja as Venus, and the exceptional Nina Stemme as Elisabeth, leading a cast that is strong and evenly matched to the roles. The mutichannel format fairly accurately re-creates their movements and positions, so there's little confusion about the direction of the vocals or trailing off. (The voice of the Shepherd, sung beautifully by Bianca Reim, is remote by design but perfectly audible.) The choir is rich and vibrant, particularly in the Pilgrims Chorus, and the Berlin orchestra has great presence and burnished sonorities; many listeners will prize this recording for its playing, perhaps even more than for the singing. Taken as a whole, this is a highly desirable recording of Tannhäuser that Wagner buffs should consider adding to their collections. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Hi-Res Audio
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Opera - Released November 1, 2011 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Hi-Res Audio
In anticipation of the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth, Marek Janowski and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra embarked on an ambitious project to record the ten major music dramas for PentaTone; the recording of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was made on June 3, 2011, as a concert performance without costumes or staging, the better to concentrate all energies on the music. This is a stunning package, presented on four hybrid multichannel SACDs in a thick hardcover book that is replete with background notes and the libretto. Janowski has distinguished himself with his previous releases with this audiophile label, and his reading of Meistersinger is entirely at the service of the score, without any idiosyncrasies or novelties, and the orchestra plays with equal seriousness and dedication. The experienced cast is captivating and the singers audibly inhabit their roles, even without the benefit of a full production. Especially noteworthy is the charismatic singing by the leads, tenor Robert Dean Smith as Walther von Stolzing, soprano Edith Haller as Eva, baritone Albert Dohmen as Hans Sachs, and tenor Peter Sonn as David, who embody the most appealing of Wagner's characters. The sound is superb, offering close-up microphone placement for the vocalists, but also ample coverage of the orchestra and choir, so the illusion of being physically present is quite successful, especially when the music is heard over headphones. For newcomers, this is an excellent introduction to Wagner and to Die Meistersinger, and it is sure to win many admirers, even among connoisseurs who already own a cherished version. © TiVo
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Opera - Released November 6, 2015 | Naxos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
The opening evening of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Das Rheingold is the prologue of the cycle, which is followed in turn by the music dramas Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. The first instalment in Jaap van Zweden's projected Ring with the Hong Kong Philharmonic -- an undertaking he regards as central to his tenure with the orchestra -- is a promising beginning that may surprise many experienced Wagnerians. Van Zweden is ambitious in presenting the Ring with this orchestra, which plays it for the first time, though in fairness to the musicians, they offer an intensity and vigor that more than makes up for any minor scrappiness. This Naxos recording also boasts an impressive cast that stars baritone Matthias Goerne as Wotan, mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung as Fricka, and baritone Peter Sidhom as the dwarf Alberich, and their singing is as secure as many of the better-known voices at Bayreuth. The only problem worth mentioning is the strange balance of the sound, which is presumably due to miking the live performance, but it may also be a result of the mixing, which in places seems subdued. However, the concert hall's spacious acoustics give credible presence to the singers. The remaining operas are expected to be released on an annual basis, with the cycle's completion in 2018. © TiVo
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Opera - Released August 2, 2011 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Hi-Res Audio
In preparation for the Wagner bicentennial in 2013, Marek Janowski and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester and Rundfunkchor Berlin began an ambitious project of recording the composer's ten major operas for Pentatone with Der fliegende Holländer in 2010. The recording's strongest points are the stellar performances by the orchestra and chorus; there's real fire and passion in their playing and singing. This is not Wagner's most dramatically coherent opera, but Janowski manages to keep the momentum going and the big moments are genuinely stirring. The leads are mostly very fine but not consistently memorable; the general lack of real distinction keeps this from being a contender as a top-ranked recording of the opera. Daland has been a signature role for Matti Salminen, who delivers the strongest performance among the leads; his characterization is sharply and vividly realized, and while his noble voice shows its age, it's appropriate for the role. As the Dutchman, Albert Dohmen has a vocal quality not sufficiently differentiated from Salminen's, and although his singing is never less than adequate, he fails to convey the character's mythic dimensions. Ricarda Merbeth as Senta has a voice that's large enough for the part but that's somewhat hard and inflexible, and that fails to generate much sympathy for her character. Robert Dean Smith usually sounds strained as Erik, except in his relatively rare quiet passages. The singer who makes the strongest and most lingering impression is Steve Davislim in the small role of the Steersman. The sound is clean, full, and nicely nuanced. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 28, 2013 | Warner Classics International

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio