Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Bargain

Some years ago, I asked Alex Stepanov what his favorite Ring was, and to my surprise, he named Marek Janowski's. I had heard this performance in the early/mid 1980s because one of my housemates owned it, but I was not any kind of judge of singing or Wagner performances then.

Alex's recommendation stuck in my head, and when the Janowski was re-released by RCA a couple of years back I picked up a copy, for all of $80. It seemed a bargain to me; among other things, I paid only $20 more than I would have paid for a single opera in the outrageously-priced Testament set conducted by Keilberth.

It took some time for me to listen through the Janowski, and I'm sorry I didn't blog it at the time. The cycle gets off to a slowish start; with a comparatively anonymous Rheingold and a Walkuere first act that needs more impetuousness. (That said, it's still one of the best-sung recorded versions of Act I, with Jerusalem, Moll, and Norman.) Then it picks up, and it's a really fine performance up to the very end. The biggest problem is Theo Adam's barky, scrawny Wotan, and that is certainly a big problem. Everyone else sings well, some much better than that. Jeanine Altmeyer is a terrific Bruennhilde; no, she doesn't have the Nilsson trumpet in her throat, but she has a beautiful voice and is one of the most interesting and expressive Valkyries on record. Peter Schreier's Mime has to be heard, as well.

I found out today that Berkshire Record Outlet has the Janowski for all of $42. Get yourself a copy; you won't regret it.


Henry Holland said...

I've been reading great reviews of the 1955 Bayreuth Ring that was recorded by Decca and never released (in deference to Solti's cycle), conducted by Keilberth. The problem: it's hideously expensive, the last three operas are easily $75 apiece. I'll just wait until they come down in price or I see it used, cheap.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is the "outrageously-priced Testament set" I mentioned. I'm very curious to hear it, given the reviews. Also, John Culshaw denigrates it in Ring Resounding, for, it seems, highly self-serving reasons.