Before the extraordinary commemoration of Wagner’s centenary in 2013 gets underway, Melba was right to release a double CD set of selected highlights from the label’s own recording of the Nibelung tetralogy. It is an orchestrally sumptuous production thanks to the poetic and often magical sensibility of the conductor.
Way back in 1958 Decca released the first stereo recording of the Ring, under the direction of the excellent, animated and quick-silver Solti. In 2004, the Australian Melba label dared to release its own complete version, magnificently recorded on SACD with the State Opera of South Australia. Electrified by the fluid and articulate baton of the pianist / conductor Asher Fisch, the musicians of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra succeed with a tour de force. They take us right into Wagner’s powerfully dramatic and sumptuous orchestral fabric; it’s a headlong plunge into the world of myths and legends. The SACD sound flatteringly captures the flow from one act into another, from one opera into another. The vision of progression across the whole work has never been more manifestly clear.
The spatialisation is fine and impressive with a seductive acuity of the various sections of the orchestra. The maestro’s interpretation never runs out of ideas and he remains sensitive to the diverse moods of the four operas. There is always a balance between stage and pit which favours the fusion of the whole cycle.
…Wotan, Siegfried and above all Brünnhilde keep something in reserve for the big moments: Wotan’s farewell to his daughter Brünnhilde at the end of Die Walküre; and the second extract from Siegfried confirms the sincere and human Brünnhilde of Lisa Gasteen. These portrayals are honestly performed, as are those of the highly-charged couple Siegmund and Sieglinde (a no less passionate Deborah Riedel), genuine precursors of Tristan and Isolde, thanks to an orchestral sound of rare opulence and sensual detail. Moreover, at the same time, we benefit from the long-term preparation of the orchestra; its richness dazzles from crescendo to whispered detail, as it ebbs and flows towards an ineluctable conclusion (The death of Siegfried and the Rhine journey from Götterdämmerung – with an ecstatic dance quality – and then the final excerpt, Brünnhilde’s Immolation, gains a clarity of intonation thanks to the dramatic and detailed orchestral playing – what breath and what intensity!)
The deluxe 2CD set of Wagner’s Ring highlights from the four complete operas certainly whets the appetite. Here is one of the most refreshing and impressive recent tetralogies because of its large-scale musical conception. Bravos for the conductor and to the Melba label for having enchanted us so. Proof that one doesn’t have to go to Bayreuth to be convinced. This is an urgent purchase for the centenary Wagner year in 2013.