Birgit Nilsson / Georg Solti

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Great Scenes

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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 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 in a class by itself. The selections on this disc offer a taste of the each of the operas. The focus of the CD is orchestral; even though most of the excerpts, which include "Entry of the Gods into Valhalla," "The Ride of the Valkyries," "The Magic Fire Music," and "Brünnhilde's Immolation Scene," do include voices, this is not the album for listeners looking primarily for vocal highlights from The Ring. It's a terrific sample of Solti's exemplary conducting, though, and should whet listeners' appetites to hear the complete operas.

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