Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Not So Fast.

A.C. Douglas has some comments on Christian Thielemann and this year's Bayreuth Ring. I heard parts of Das Rheingold and Siegfried, and hope to catch most of the rest on rebroadcast. Still, I have to comment on a couple of ACD's remarks:
...Christian Thielemann is, hands down and far and away, the best Wagner conductor working today, and can be counted among and is the equal of the greatest Wagner conductors of whom we have recorded record.....His Wagner readings recall the Wagner readings of the Wagner Gene possessors of times past — Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Krauss, and Solti — with an added touch of that elegant sense of orchestral color and ensemble that was von Karajan's..
First, off, before naming anyone the best Wagner conductor working today, I'd suggest experiencing in person the genius of Donald Runnicles at his best. His Tristan last year was overwhelming; magnificently proportioned, and gorgeously played and conducted, with astonishingly beautiful orchestral balances.

More seriously, I just can't put Solti in the same class as Furtwängler or Knappertsbusch. His Ring is certainly exciting and colorful, but he falls down when the score is contemplative or intimate rather than exciting. Compare, for example, his conducting of the passage starting "O ihr, der Eide, ewige Huetter" in the Immolation, with how almost anyone else handles it, from Toscanini with Traubel to Furtwängler with anyone to Goodall with Hunter. It's as though Solti goes to sleep whenever the music gets quiet and introspective. The Walkuere is seriously studio-bound, as well, compared to the other three recordings. His Ring is about the last one I put on, although there are reasons other than the conducting for that. As far as Solti's other Wagner recordings go, well....the Tristan is undistinguished, for the reason I detail above: there's too much intimate give-and-take for Solti's conducting style, which is best in highly theatrical music such as Goetterdaemmerung.

I have a caveat to this, as well:
All that's needed now is the surfacing of another Flagstad or Nilsson, another Melchior, and another Hotter, and we'd be all set to record for posterity a Ring for the ages.

Alas, not going to happen.
You need to hear Christine Brewer, an Isolde for the ages who will soon be a Bruennhilde for the ages.

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