Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bargains: Hoisted from the Comments

Over on my Stage Directions posting, Joe Barron is asking about bargains in Ring recordings. Here are some suggested methods for locating deals, but because what's available where at good price points shifts madly, I can't really point to many specific offers.
  1. LPs. If you've got a turntable and you're willing to frequent garage sales, look at Craig's List, eBay, opera-l, and used record stores, you can find some great bargains. I picked up 120 opera recordings in the 1990s from a fellow opera-l reader who had replaced his LPs with CDs and wanted as many as possible to go to good homes. My finds including most of the Janacek operas, a number of rarities (Der Vampyr, anyone?), and copies of the Goodall and Solti Rings.
  2. Berkshire Record Outlet.Check frequently; do searches on "Ring des Nibelungen," know what you're looking for, ask questions of the knowledgeable. At the moment, they've got the 1952 Bayreuth Ring for $48 on Melodram (Keilberth); the 1950 La Scala Ring for $28 on Opera d'Oro (Furtwangler); and the 1953 Bayreuth Ring for $52 (Krauss). Those are all mono, and none of them are official issues, meaning I can't vouch for the sound quality. Note that the 1952 with Keilberth is not the first stereo Ring, which is the 1955 Bayreuth recording available only on Testament at a much higher price.
  3. MDT. MDT has frequent big sales organized by label. They once had the Goodall on CD for 60 pounds, far and away the cheapest price I've ever seen for it, considering that the individual operas can run $60 apiece. Watch the shipping because MDT is in England. Right now, they have Furtwangler's RAI Ring for $38, Krauss for $67 (on Orfeo, which is supposed to have the best sound for this set), Barenboim for $43 (a mixed bag that I know by reputation only...), Keilberth 1955 for $114.
  4. eBay. Used and new! Again, know what you're looking for, set alerts, be ready to pounce. Watch those shipping costs, especially for LPs. At the moment "Ring des Nibelungen" returns 198 results, including Levine on DVD for under $70, the Solti on LP for $45, the stereo Keilberth for $70, Furtwangler's RAI Ring for $60, etc.


Joe Barron said...

With all due respect, Your Grace, I'm not really asking for ways to find deals. I'm asking fro which Ring you think I should get.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Given the following parameters, what is the order of you priorities?

Sound quality (mono vs. stereo)
Price (name your limit)

And do you have any preferences among Wagnerian singers and conductors?

Joe Barron said...

You make it sound like buying a car. I thought at some point you were going to simply going to tell us which recording is your favorite.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Gosh, no. The singing is best on the 50s Bayreuth sets and maybe the Goodall, which is variable but has wonderful singers as Wotan, Brunnhilde, and Siegfried.

I like the conducting of Furtwangler (both his live Rings) and Knappertsbusch the best. Janowski is also excellent and I have a soft spot in my heart for the eccentric Goodall. (I've never heard any of Haitink, Barenboim, or Dohnanyi's Ring recordings - Dohnanyi only got half way through - and while I'm sure the conducting is fine, the singers look....more variable than I would find tolerable.)

The orchestral playing is good to great on most, with the exceptions being the scrappy RAI and La Scala orchestras for Furtwangler and the Sadler's Wells for Goodall. I'm willing to live with weak orchestras for great conducting, though.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I accidentally cut a crucial sentence:

I don't have a favorite Ring. I think I have nine complete sets plus the Pearl Potted Ring, and there are good things on all of them - even the overrated Solti.

Joe Barron said...

Sigh. I have the Levine Met on DVD. Maybe I'll just stick with that.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Joe, I am not much into telling people what to do. Tell me just a little bit about your priorities and I will try to narrow down the choices.

However, given that my priorities are the conducting and singing, here are some easy recommendations -

You cannot, will not go wrong with one of the Furtwangler Rings. I prefer the RAI Ring to the Scala, perhaps owing to the presence of the great Sena Jurinac in a bunch of smaller roles, but you will not go wrong with either the Scala for $28 at BRO or the RAI for $38 at MDT.

Ferdinand Frantz is the Wotan on both of those sets, and I like him just fine; Flagstad is Brunnhilde on the Scala set, Modl on the RAI.

f you want Hotter and Varnay, get the Krauss or the stereo Keilberth. Krauss is the better and more vivid conductor.

Not discussed, Kna on Music & Arts, also with Hotter and Varnay and a great set. Not sure what it is currently selling for but I paid around $60.

Joe Barron said...

"=->>You cannot, will not go wrong with one of the Furtwangler Rings.

But you said the orchestras sucked.

Lisa Hirsch said...

This is why I asked you about your priorities.