Gergiev: Wagner - Das Rheingold (24 bit / 96 kHz, FLAC)
Gergiev: Wagner – Das Rheingold (24 bit / 96 kHz, FLAC)

Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Composer: Richard Wagner
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 2 SACD
Format: FLAC (tracks+m3u)
Label: Mariinsky
Size: 2.6 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Wotan – Rene Pape
Donner – Alexei Markov
Froh – Sergei Semishkur
Loge – Stephan Rugamer
Fricka – Ekaterina Gubanova
Freia – Viktoria Yastrebova
Erda – Zlata Bulycheva

Alberich – Nikolay Putilin
Mime – Andrei Popov

Fasolt – Evgeny Nikitin
Fafner – Mikhail Petrenko

Woglinde – Zhanna Dombrovskaya
Wellgunde – Irina Vasilieva
Flosshilde – Ekaterina Sergeyeva

Mariinsky Orchestra
Valery Gergiev

CD 01
01. Scene I: Vorspiel
02. Scene I: “Weia! Waga! Woge, du welle!”
03. Scene I: “Garstig glatter glitschriger Glimmer”
04. Scene I: “Wallala! Lalaleia!”
05. Scene I: “Lugt, Schwestern!”
06. Scene I: “Der Welt Erbe gewann’ ich zu eigen durch dich?”
07. Scene II: “Wotan, Gemahl! Erwache!”
08. Scene II: “Sanft schloss Schlaf dein Aug'”
09. Scene II: “Zu mir, Freia! Meide sie, Frecher!”
10. Scene II: “Umsonst, sucht’ ich und sehe”
11. Scene II: “Ein Runenzauber zwingt das Gold zum Reif”
12. Scene II: “Hor, Wotan, der Harrenden Wort!”
13. Scene II: “Was sinnt nun Wotan so wild?”
14. Scene II: “Auf, Loge! Hinab mit mir!”

CD 02
01. Scene III: “Schau, du Schelm!”
02. Scene III: “Nibelheim hier. Durch bleiche Nebel”
03. Scene III: “Nehmt euch in acht! Alberich naht”
04. Scene III: “Vergeh, frevelnder Gauch! Was sagt der?”
05. Scene III: “Ohe! Hahaha! Schreckliche Schlange”
06. Scene IV: “Da Vetter, sitze du fest!”
07. Scene IV: “Gezahlt hab’ ich; nun last mich zieh’n!”
08. Scene IV: “Bin ich nun frei? Wirklich frei?”
09. Scene IV: “Fasolt und Fafner nahen von fern”
10. Scene IV: “Gepflanzt sind die Pfahle Mass”
11. Scene IV: “Weiche, Wotan! Weiche!”
12. Scene IV: “Hort ihr Riesen! Zuruck, und harret!”
13. Scene IV: “Schwules Gedunst schwebt in der Luft”
14. Scene IV: “Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge”
15. Scene IV: “Rheingold! Rheingold! Reines Gold!”

The second (and highly anticipated) installment of the Mariinsky label’s Ring cycle conducted by Valery Gergiev features a powerful and star-studded rendition of Das Rheingold. Recorded in the sumptuous acoustics of the Mariinsky Concert Hall, the set’s cast is led by Rene Pape in the role of Wotan. Pape is ably supported by an international Wagnerian cast, and Gergiev’s absolute mastery of this repertoire is in evidence once again in this tremendously dramatic performance. Wagner himself conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre and it is also believed to be the first place where any of the music from the Ring was performed. Siegfried and Gotterdommerung will complete the cycle in 2014.

”This Mariinsky recording preserves the singing of some of Russia’s best Wagnerians and, with its richly-balanced sonics, gives Wagner’s score an opportunity to fully reveal its wonders via one of the world’s great orchestras… the Orchestra’s playing is never less than excellent and, in many passages, rises to genuine greatness.” –Voix des Arts

”Gergiev’s command of the score is most persuasive and his interpretation rarely, if ever, fails to convince. His steady unfolding of the narrative never lacks dramatic thrust, thanks above all to the superlative playing that he elicits from his mahogany-toned Russian orchestra with its sonorous burnished brass, crisp percussion and distinctive woodwind.” –SA-CD.net

”Thanks to Gergiev’s experience of touring Der Ring des Nibelungen with his Mariinsky Theatre ensemble, this recording has a lived-in, knitted-together character that suits the first opera in the cycle.” –Financial Times

A Wonderful Rendering

I’m not sure why Gergiev is the conductor people love to hate, particularly in Wagner. I’m one of those philistines who thought his Walküre was wonderful, and I feel the same about this one.

His conducting is lush and rich, but intensely dramatic. Yes, some of his tempi are a bit unconventional, as in the entrance of Fasolt and Fafner, but it works for me.

And the singing – ah, the singing! It’s truly impossible to imagine a better Wotan than René Pape; he’s simply perfect for the part. While he’s the standout, the other parts are all sung by wonderful singers, and I particularly like the Alberich and Froh. On the women’s side, Fricka is sung wonderfully by Ekaterina Gubanova, who was on the Walküre, and I was pleased to hear that Freia didn’t come across as the usual ninny; she’s a real character.

The sound quality is amazing.

Bottom line, I have thoroughly enjoyed the first two installments of the Gergiev Ring, and look forward to the balance.

Perhaps the best modern Rheingold, largely because of the consistent, wonderful singing

Skeptics will be reluctant to believe that this performance is as good as it is. To be most sympathetic to Gergiev’s Wagner, you have to consider the almost total ban on Wagner’s operas in the Soviet era, part of a well-earned antipathy to Germany after two annihilating wars. Using his power as czar of music in St. Petersburg, Gergiev has been rehabilitating many dropped strands of the standard repertoire, but it can’t be said that his Ring cycle shows a lived-in quality so far as reaching into a deep tradition. Of course, I may just be rationalizing a favorite conductor – Gergiev’s lumpish, slack Walkure, which opened this ongoing cycle based on live concert performances with the superb Mariinsky orchestra, seriously let down a world-class singing cast.

Here we move on to a much easier opera, Das Rheingold, which can be successfully mounted by any established opera house (no worries about underpowered Brunnhildes and Siegfrieds struggling to be heard). My complaints are few but not minor: I get the old fish-out-of-water feeling from Gergiev as the performance begins, where the Rhinemaidens sound jaunty rather than seductive, the rhythms skip along, and Alberich seems miffed rather than tantalized, outraged, and finally despairing. Gergiev skates over the wrenching moment when Alberich steals the gold by renouncing love forever – why isn’t this a deeply moving moment? Certainly the stable of Mariinsky singers, who must have sung in several staged Ring cycles, are very fine; the Alberich of Nikolai Putilin is vocally very satisfying, but he hasn’t been spurred to create a compelling character.

In the second scene a very mild-mannered Fricka (Ekaterina Gubanova) awakens her husband almost timidly. There’s no denying the beauty and authority of Rene Pape’s Wotan, but backed by Gergiev’s uninvolved conducting, he comes off at first as a great voice searching for a dramatic reason to sing. Once the alarmed family of the gods enter, however, threatened by Fafner and Fasolt, Gergiev perks up, and I must say that all the singing is impressive, with an especially engaging portrayal of Loge from the sweet-voiced Stephan Rügamer. As for the giants, who could better the two superlative Mariinsky basses, Evgeny Nikitin and Mikhail Petrenko? You can forgive the cast for not being great vocal actors; in our era of diminished Wagner singing, this cast is like a return to paradise.

The best news is that the performance continues to warm up, and the singers are consistently superior to the cast on the most recent rival, Marek Janowski’s Berlin recording, also done in concert, which I liked for its dramatic momentum. When a bitter, defiant Alberich is released from his bonds, Putilin’s singing is thrilling and dramatically riveting. There are many moments like this, and they serve to cover Gergiev’s tracks. He still fails to deliver the great orchestral passages at the heights of Furtwangler, Karajan, and Klemperer (and Donner’s hammer is unforgivably silent). In the end, however, this is the best modern Rheingold for its glorious singing, beautiful playing, and ear-ravishing recorded sound. On balance, I might even rank it above one of the recognized classics, Solti’s 1959 Vienna recording on Decca.

René Pape (Wotan), Nikolai Putilin (Alberich), Stephan Rügamer (Loge), Ekaterina Gubanova (Fricka), Viktoria Yastrebova (Freia), Zlata Bulycheva (Erda), Andrei Popov (Mime), Evgeny Nikitin (Fafner), Mikhail Petrenko (Fafner), Sergei Semishkur (Froh), Alexei Markov (Donner), Zhanna Dombrovskaya (Woglinde), Irina Vasilieva (Wellgunde), Ekaterina Sergeeva (Flosshilde)

Mariinsky Orchestra, Valéry Gergiev

4 Comments

  1. Wow, whatever!
    I highly appreciate this 24-96-recording. I am looking forward to hear this beautiful music in a – hopefully – great interpretation.

    Thanks a lot!
    Mario

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