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 twentieth 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 is in a class by itself. The selections on this two-disc set feature substantial scenes and offer a taste of the each of the operas, including two especially impressive excerpts, the primordial opening to Das Rheingold and the transcendent finale to Götterdämmerung. The soloists include Birgit Nilsson, Régine Crespin, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gerhard Stolze, James King, and Hans Hotter. These highlights make a fine introduction to Solti's exemplary recording and should whet listeners' appetite to hear the complete operas.