Maazel: Wagner - Der Ring Without Words (FLAC)
Maazel: Wagner – Der Ring Without Words (FLAC)

Composer: Richard Wagner
Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
Conductor: Lorin Maazel
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Telarc Classical
Size: 261 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: no

01. Thus, We Begin In The ‘Greenish Twilight’ Of The Rhine
02. Float Up To The Home Of The Gods (Entrance Of The Gods Into Valhalla)
03. Fall Amongst Hammering Dwarfs ‘Smithying’ Away
04. Ride Donner’s Thunderbolt, Crawl With The Thirst-Crazed Siegmund To The Haven…
05. In The Sound Code, We ‘See’ His Loving Gaze
06. Their Flight
07. Wotan’s Rage
08. The Cavalcade Of BrÃ1/4nnhilde’s Sisters, (Ride Of The Valkyries)
09. Wotan’s Farewell To His Favorite Daughter, (Wotan’s Farewell And Magic Fire Music)
10. Mime’s Fright
11. Siegfried’s Forging Of The Magic Sword
12. His Wanderings Through The Forest, (Forest Murmurs)
13. His Slaying Of The Dragon
14. The Dragon’s Lament
15. Day Breaking ‘Round Sigfried’s And BrÃ1/4nnhilde’s Passion
16. Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, (Dawn And Sigfried’s Rhine Journey)
17. Hagen’s Call To His Clan
18. Siegfried And The Rhinemaidens
19. His Death And The Funeral Music, (Siegfried’s Death And Funeral Music)
20. Immolation. (Immolation Scene)

The first “potted” CD-length Ring suite

Wagner’s Ring cycle must be very trying for even the most patient of listeners. As such I am grateful that conductors and arrangers have come up with stand-alone concert arrangements and even CD-length distillations of excerpts from the operas in the cycle.

Maazel got the ball rolling when Telarc suggested he put together a jumbo-sized Ring suite and record it as a CD with the Berliners. Up until then most people who wanted a taste of the Ring without words could get recordings of the concert arrangements that Herrman Zumpe prepared during Wagner’s lifetime. These were stand-alone excerpts and did not quite gel well together into a whole. Maazel’s potted Ring was the first such digest that I know of at this date of writing. Since then, Henk de Vlieger and Friedmann Dressler have come up with similar jumbo-sized Ring suites.

My general impression of this Maazel digest is that it seems better at conveying the various moods of the opera than at telling the story. He is generous in including many well-known passages, but at times the joins are sudden and clunky. As such the brushstrokes are not exactly smooth. Also, I note that at times Maazel’s selection might not be where the action is. We hear a chunk of Wotan’s farewell to Brunnhilde but not the Magic Fire because the music dissolves so abruptly into the Siegfried stretch. That said, I find that the synthesis is stronger in the second half than in the first.

This particular compilation gets off to a shaky start after the Rhinegold prelude. It cuts straight to the first iteration of the Valhalla theme rather than to the opening scene with the Rhinemaidens. To my mind, the use of the first iteration of the Valhalla theme overlooks the pyrrhic victory that was achieved when the gods built it. In the Zumpe concert arrangement we hear the theme in its last iteration in this opera and it might be more apt to use this instance and context in a Ring digest like this. After the music for the Nibelheim dwarfs, Donner’s thunderbolt dissolves rather abruptly into the storm at the start of The Valkyrie. Another abrupt dissolution comes after Wotan’s farewell to Brunnhilde. That scene cuts off before Wotan calls Loge to surround Brunnhilde’s rock with the magic fire. However, things wake up from the Forest Murmurs stretch. I don’t mind the omission of the “Siegfried cadenza” in which he plays his horn before he kills Fafner. The Twilight of the Gods sequence fares best. It presents Hagen’s horn call, the vassals’ chorus, and Siegfried’s scene with the Rhinemaidens. It skips over the moment Hagen kills Siegfried and cuts straight to his recollections of finding Brunnhilde.

I know that there are rough spots in this compilation, but Maazel is still to be commended for making the Ring palatable. No complaints about the playing of the Berliners and the superb Telarc recording. So I give credit for encouraging others to follow suit with their own jumbo-sized Ring suites. Since Maazel’s suite came out, Henk de Vleiger, Friedmann Dressler and Andreas Tarkmann have produced similar Ring distillations that have been recorded. Dressler’s version seems to be modelled on Maazel’s suite, offering more music and getting close to the heart of the action. Still, this disc is readily affordable compared to the recent SACDs of Ring distillations. In an ideal world, a Ring suite would bring out the narrative more clearly. The Dressler and de Vlieger suite do a better job at highlighting the narrative. I tend to like De Vlieger’s suite better, But I’m not disparaging this Maazel distillation for its weaknesses. In any case, let’s be grateful that he opened the door for others to present their potted versions of the Ring.

TELARC and Wagner… a match made in heaven

TELARC recordings, for the most part, sound magnificent, and this one is no different. Wagner’s score leaps from the speakers. For those who want an introduction to Wagner’s music, or those who want to sample Wagner’s revolutionary music and instrumentation without voices this is a great recording. Maazel has often been criticized for being too “clinical” in his approach to music, but the clarity and transparency of his interpretations often allow you to hear so many musical lines that you thought weren’t there… this is one of his greatest performances and if you want to sample a live concert, just do a search on youtube and you’ll find Maazel leading the BPO, just like in this recording

7 Comments

  1. Ring without words? I’m curious. Maazel and the BPO – too big to fail. Thanks for the upload!

  2. Thanks for this.

    The purists will say that Der Ring isn’t meant to be played like this. It is very well played by the Berliners and Telarc have supplied excellent sonics.

    It is most enjoyable although the Dressler arrangement conducted by Jonathan Darlington on Acousence in audiophile sound (available on this website) is longer and more seamless as a listening experience.

  3. I have absolutely loved this “arrangement” (more accurately, “transcription”) ever since it first came out in the 80s. Thanks for sharing it. :-)

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