Hartmut Haenchen

Wagner: Götterdämmerung

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Because this is the premiere recording of the Neue Richard-Wagner-Gesamtausgabe's Götterdämmerung, the first thing every compulsive Wagnerian -- and is there really any other kind of Wagnerian? -- will want to know is how much difference a new edition makes. And while nothing major is formally changed, texturally, thematically, or harmonically, the new edition does make a huge difference in many details. From the very slightly altered articulation of Siegfried's horn call to the very conspicuously missing general pause before the redemption theme's final appearance at the opera's end, all these details add up to a significantly altered version of the work all Wagnerians will have to hear.

And they'll give thanks that this live performance, recorded in vivid super audio sound by Etcetera, is so fine. Led by Hartmut Haenchen, this is a tightly argued, tautly dramatic Götterdämmerung, a performance with enough weight, strength, and determination to challenge if not quite surpass its major-label rivals. Of the soloists, only the furious Kurt Rydl as a Hagen is internationally well-known. But the rest of the cast, from the robust Siegfried of Stig Andersen through the clarion Brünnhilde of Linda Watson to the demonic Alberich of Günter von Kannen admirably acquits itself. The Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest plays the symphonic score with terrific power and tremendous conviction, and the Koor van de Nederlands Opera sings with surprising, almost shocking, enthusiasm. In sum, all Wagnerians will have to hear this Götterdämmerung, and all but the most churlish of purists will be glad they did.

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