Solt's Ring cycle vs Karajan's

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David S. Phipps

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Jul 2, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/2/98
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I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
sound like Wagner.

I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
not heard much of Karajan's.

To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
area required.

Opinions/Suggestions?

Simon Roberts

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Jul 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/3/98
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David S. Phipps (dph...@gte.net) wrote:
: I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near

: future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
: production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
: Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
: sound like Wagner.

This may all change in the remastering that's due out here soon (it's out
in Europe, I understand), but if you want a huge sound, you would be
better off with Solti's; one of the more distinctive features of Karajan's
is his attention to the quietness of much of the music and his creation
throughout of a rather light, clear orchestral tone. Also, the recorded
sound is more distant than Solti's; so for various reasons, Solti provides
the more obvious thrills.

: I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and


: also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
: different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
: sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
: How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
: Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
: sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
: not heard much of Karajan's.

Karajan's doesn't go in for the acoustic tricks that Solti's was given by
Culshaw; I rather like them, but wouldn't choose a recording based on
that. Karajan's conducting is more lyrical and relaxed than Solti's or
Boehm's, and I find his phrasing in key orchestral passages (such as the
big orchestral interlude in Wotan's Farewell) much more musical than
Solti's, largely because of better phrasing. I also prefer Karajan's
singers, especially in the main roles. I can't stand Nilsson or
Windgassen in anything, which is a problem for me with both Boehm and
Solti (they're better live with Boehm), and Hotter is way past it in
Walkuere. Crespin's Bruennhilde is a wonderful achievement; she may not
have quite the top for it, but no other singer in the stereo era offers
her combination of dramatic involvement and beauty of tone. Dernesch's
Bruennhilde in the last two operas sounds rather cool in comparison, but I
far prefer her tone and attacks to those of most others. I also prefer
Vickers' rather mannered (I suppose) Siegmund to King's (though he sings
well enough), and if Janowitz's Sieglinde is rather cool compared to
Crespin's for Solti, hers is still one of the most beautiful voices to
have tackled the role. Karajan's post-Rheingold Wotan, Thomas Stewart, is
woefully underrated; for me he's easily one of the best, both vocally and
dramatically (Adam's Wotan for Boehm is rather a trial; intelligently
acted, but tonally unattractively gritty and his incipient wobble is
always threatens to break loose and eventually does). So of the three I
suppose I would choose Karajan's, though I would miss Boehm's exciting,
fast, conducting and Solti's cheap thrills (though since I have all three,
plus others, that's easy for me to say...).

Simon

MSten4MHS

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Jul 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/3/98
to

David S. Phipps (dph...@gte.net) wrote:
: I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
: future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
: production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
: Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
: sound like Wagner.

Simon wrote:

>>This may all change in the remastering that's due out here soon (it's out
in Europe, I understand), but if you want a huge sound, you would be
better off with Solti's; one of the more distinctive features of Karajan's
is his attention to the quietness of much of the music and his creation
throughout of a rather light, clear orchestral tone. Also, the recorded
sound is more distant than Solti's; so for various reasons, Solti provides
the more obvious thrills.<<

Having heard the new remastering on the Karajan I can say it is simply
outstanding (as I reported earlier). The US release date was supposedly in
August, but it's not listed in the August Poly release book.

Beyond that, I agree with Simon's evaluation of the 3 recordings under
discussion, though I am a huge Nilsson fan and I find her hard to beat as a
post-war Brunnhilde. I'm less of a Janowitz fan, though her voice sounds less
tremulous in the new remastering. Brilioth and Windgassen are both horribly
overrated by most commentators. Thomas Stewart and Jess Thomas are horribly
underrated for the jobs they do in the Karajan. And Crespin IS wonderful as
both HvK's Walkure Brunnhilde and Solti's Sieglinde. I find that almost to a
person the singers involved in both the Solti & Boehm Rings sing better under
Boehm's direction.

It's hard to find any complete Ring with all around great singing. Eventually,
you end up buying multiple versions of everything - studio and live - to have
various roles sung well (I have a soft spot for Bernd Aldenhoff's Siegfried and
Martha Moedl's Brunnhilde, for example).

But, if your main criteria in a Ring is GREAT sound, I'd go with the remasterd
DGG Karajan version which now - IMHO - beats the Solti hands down in both
interpretation and sound, though both sets have singers ranging from great to
only adequate.

One note: if you've not heard the Solti in its latest remastered incarnation,
you haven't really heard it either. The improvement in the sound is less
dramatic than that of the Karajan, but it sounds the closest to the
reel-to-reel version (Barclay-Crocker??) I remember hearing many years ago
(caveat accepted for old memories being possibly unreliable). THAT version was
always superior to all of the various LP, CD and cassette versions of the Solti
Ring that were bought up by the general public.

Mark Stenroos
VP of Marketing & Catalog Development
Musical Heritage Society, USA

Gary Dale

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Jul 3, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/3/98
to

>Solti's cheap thrills

You said it. I've only heard excerpts from Solti's Ring on the radio,
and my impression was exactly of something frenetic/energetic in
an artificial way. Maybe Wagner is meant to sound like this. Only I don't
think so.

M. Leigh

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Jul 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM7/9/98
to

Simon Roberts <si...@dept.english.upenn.edu> wrote in article
<6nnouh$npg$2...@netnews.upenn.edu>...
> PlacidDen (plac...@aol.com) wrote:
> : >>>Having heard the new remastering on the Karajan I can say it is


simply
> : outstanding (as I reported earlier). The US release date was supposedly
in
> : August, but it's not listed in the August Poly release book.<<<
>

> : Whenever it is due, it is worth the wait. I would not buy Solti if I
knew the
> : vonK was to be coming soon, because I cannot think of anything else
that has
> : been improved more noticeably in remastering. This late sixties was not
one of
> : the best periods in sound quality for DGG, and the sound always has
been the
> : one big drawback for this Ring. I don't know how it was done exactly,
but the
> : improvement is truly magical. Anyone, whether they have heard this Ring
before
> : and loved the LP, whether they are coming new to this particular Ring,
or
> : newcomers to Wagner's Ring completely, is in for a real treat. Nothing
should
> : stand in the way now from it becoming the prime recommendation for a
stereo
> : Ring.
>
> : (Apologies for the English)

>
> I hope Mark is right that this will come out soon; I'm getting impatient.
> (Your English is excellent, by the way.)
>
> Simon

Same here! I too am getting impatient, as currently, I am having to put up
with playing rather scratched original LP's

Mike
>

gggg...@gmail.com

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May 1, 2019, 12:59:43 PM5/1/19
to
On Wednesday, July 1, 1998 at 9:00:00 PM UTC-10, David S. Phipps wrote:
> I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
> future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
> production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
> Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
> sound like Wagner.
>
> I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
> also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
> different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
> sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
> How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
> Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
> sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
> not heard much of Karajan's.
>
> To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
> sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
> orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
> area required.
>
> Opinions/Suggestions?

According to this:

- While the Decca Ring could be described as three-dimensional DG’s Ring seems merely two-dimensional.

https://www.ludwig-van.com/toronto/2017/09/24/record-keeping-karajans-ring-gets-the-high-end-audio-treatment/

O

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May 1, 2019, 5:15:10 PM5/1/19
to
In article <099ea7c1-7260-4af8...@googlegroups.com>,
<gggg...@gmail.com> wrote:

> On Wednesday, July 1, 1998 at 9:00:00 PM UTC-10, David S. Phipps wrote:
> > I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
> > future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
> > production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
> > Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
> > sound like Wagner.
> >
> > I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
> > also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
> > different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
> > sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
> > How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
> > Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
> > sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
> > not heard much of Karajan's.
> >
> > To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
> > sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
> > orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
> > area required.
> >
> > Opinions/Suggestions?
>
> According to this:
>
> - While the Decca Ring could be described as three-dimensional DGąs Ring
Thank God you weighed in on this just in time -- poor David S. Phipps
has been waiting 20 years to buy a complete Ring Cycle!

-Owen

Andy Evans

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May 1, 2019, 6:59:47 PM5/1/19
to
I haven't done much study of the Ring - I have Solti. He does have excellent ensemble, which is one virtue.

I prefer Boulez in Parsifal, but I haven't paid much attention to his Ring.

gggg...@gmail.com

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Jun 30, 2019, 8:38:19 PM6/30/19
to
On Wednesday, July 1, 1998 at 9:00:00 PM UTC-10, David S. Phipps wrote:
> I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
> future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
> production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
> Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
> sound like Wagner.
>
> I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
> also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
> different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
> sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
> How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
> Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
> sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
> not heard much of Karajan's.
>
> To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
> sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
> orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
> area required.
>
> Opinions/Suggestions?

According to this:

- I suspect that most any Wagnerian recognizes that there is no "perfect" recording of the Ring. Generally there are about 6 or so recordings that are recognized as being among the finest: Joseph Keilberth, Clemens Krauss, Hans Knappertsbusch, George Solti, Herbert von Karajan, and Karl Bohm. All have strengths and weaknesses. Solti has been faulted as excessively bombastic, Keilberth, Krauss, and Knappertsbusch are limited by the recording technology of the time... but are generally acknowledged as having the greatest singers at the height of the abilities at their disposal. Karajan's interpretation has been called a "chamber music" interpretation... stripped down or down-played.

https://www.talkclassical.com/16563-karajan-hero-hype-9.html

Oscar

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Jul 1, 2019, 3:16:35 AM7/1/19
to
Listened to Kempe’s 1961 recording at Bayreuth last week. Been my go-to stereo recording since I bought the official Orfeo set upon release in 2016. Usually listen in the days around the summer solstice. Great version. For a complete version you can get equal or better versions, but this is competitive in nearly every regard. Kempe’s pacing and dramatic pulse is lived-in and refined. Recommended!

gggg...@gmail.com

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Jul 1, 2019, 3:26:11 AM7/1/19
to
On Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 9:16:35 PM UTC-10, Oscar wrote:
> Listened to Kempe’s 1961 recording at Bayreuth last week. Been my go-to stereo recording since I bought the official Orfeo set upon release in 2016. Usually listen in the days around the summer solstice. Great version. For a complete version you can get equal or better versions, but this is competitive in nearly every regard. Kempe’s pacing and dramatic pulse is lived-in and refined. Recommended!

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!searchin/rec.music.classical.recordings/kempe$20ring%7Csort:date/rec.music.classical.recordings/WQBQtX3-I5s/MD3-6f2vBwAJ

RANDY WOLFGANG

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Jul 1, 2019, 7:09:03 PM7/1/19
to
On Monday, July 1, 2019 at 3:16:35 AM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> Listened to Kempe’s 1961 recording at Bayreuth last week. Been my go-to stereo recording since I bought the official Orfeo set upon release in 2016. Usually listen in the days around the summer solstice. Great version. For a complete version you can get equal or better versions, but this is competitive in nearly every regard. Kempe’s pacing and dramatic pulse is lived-in and refined. Recommended!

Stereo??? the box says remastered mono

Oscar

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Jul 2, 2019, 1:38:33 AM7/2/19
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On Monday, July 1, 2019 at 4:09:03 PM, RANDY WOLFGANG wrote:
>
> Stereo??? the box says remastered mono

It sounds like stereo, therefore it is stereo. But alas, it is mono. Wide mono.

O

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Jul 2, 2019, 1:48:13 PM7/2/19
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In article <f96b6925-7534-4128...@googlegroups.com>,
For particularly large values of the number one.

-Owen

gggg...@gmail.com

unread,
Jul 13, 2019, 11:11:47 PM7/13/19
to
On Wednesday, July 1, 1998 at 9:00:00 PM UTC-10, David S. Phipps wrote:
> I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
> future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
> production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
> Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
> sound like Wagner.
>
> I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
> also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
> different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
> sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
> How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
> Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
> sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
> not heard much of Karajan's.
>
> To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
> sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
> orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
> area required.
>
> Opinions/Suggestions?

According to this:

- Solti and Karajan have two great orchestras under them and what they draw from them is absolutely thrilling. The Berlin Philharmonic, however, has the advantage of a principal oboe with more ample tone than the Vienna Philharmonic and Karajan tends to restrain his brass section more. In general, I did not at all agree with some comments that Solti's interpretation lacked warmth. I found it full of feeling. Karajan tends, especially in Act 1, when the orchestra is so beautifully painting the awakening love of Sieglinde and Siegmund, to become emotionally indulgent - and understandably so. Solti builds his climaxes with rather more subtlety perhaps, but not less excitingly than Karajan.

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/feature/karajan-ring-reviews

gggg gggg

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Aug 3, 2021, 4:24:40 PMAug 3
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On Thursday, July 2, 1998 at 12:00:00 AM UTC-7, David S. Phipps wrote:
> I am planning on purchasing a copy of the complete Ring Cycle in the near
> future. Of course, traditionally, we all hear about the "fabulous"
> production quality of the Solti version. I've always been more a fan of
> Berlin's sound than Vienna's however, particularly in music needing a huge
> sound like Wagner.
> I'd like to know from those of you who are familiar with both recordings and
> also any other recordings worth mentioning, such as Karl Bohm's, what is
> different about them from each other, especially in the quality of recorded
> sound from the orchestra. How do Karajan's singers do compared to Solti's?
> How well does Karajan's version handle the production "problems", such as
> Fafner as the dragon? I have heard the entire Solti cycle and know how it
> sounds, as well as how they did Fafner and other unusual features, but I've
> not heard much of Karajan's.
> To my ears, the Wiener Philharmoniker plays very well in Solti's, but the
> sound in the Sofiensaal seems a little on the dry side, as well as the
> orchestra seeming a little distant, probably because of the massive staging
> area required.
> Opinions/Suggestions?

https://groups.google.com/g/humanities.music.composers.wagner/c/vwrt8_IURQ4
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