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Discussion: Wagner: Siegfried - Fisch

Posts: 10

Post by Rudall Carte December 3, 2007 (1 of 10)
Like just about every Siegfried I have seen and heard, this one is, for me, another disappointment!

I will make this very brief because I could go on for ever about the above review by Christine Tham, but I will add a few salient points:

5 stars for the recording = agreed. Phil Rowlands' work for this complete cycle has been wonderful, with truly vivid, lifelike and dynamic recordings.

5 stars for the performance = impossible! Maybe from the orchestra (though even they sound tired in this recording as opposed to the other three) but the singing is what causes me distress.

1) Richard Greager's Mime sounds terribly strained

2) Gary Rideout sounds like he should have never attempted the role, as his voice cannot stand the strain, let alone considering his German sounds terrible and his covered voice is extremely unpleasant. To have a Siegfried that is the weak link of this opera is a bad omen and his singing drags this down!

3) Lisa Gasteen's Brünnhilde has gone down hill since these performances were recorded to the extent that her recent Covent Garden performances even received boos! Her intonation is all over the place and and when she manages to sing something in tune it is unpleasant. Her final glorious top C in this opera doesn't get anywhere near what iot should be.

I don't see how this is a "truly superb performance" ... The two (vocally) redeeming features on this recording are Wegner's marvellous Alberich and Keegan's rich and (appropriately) earth, Erda!

Post by Peter December 3, 2007 (2 of 10)
Asher Fisch is conducting Parsifal in Naples this week.

Peter

Post by Rudall Carte December 3, 2007 (3 of 10)
Peter said:

Asher Fisch is conducting Parsifal in Naples this week.

Peter

Asher Fisch's conducting is some of the best Wagner conducting I have heard anywhere. Hearing Parsifal under his baton would be marvellous I am sure!

Post by ramesh December 3, 2007 (4 of 10)
Rudall, I haven't read my colleague Christine's review of this. However, if you're familiar with the variance in music reviews, you'll notice that opera aficionados are very exacting in their grading of singers, but the quality of the recording is barely commented upon even if the source is a wind-up gramophone with the beak of a dead finch used as the pickup. At the other end are reviews of classical music in some audiophile mags, where criticism of singers is pretty rare, and almost every audiophile performance is lauded, even if the orchestra is the one-eyed paraplegic Tourettes sufferers of Transylvania chamber orchestra. This site attempts to steer between the Scylla and Charybdis of these extremes.

Post by Rudall Carte December 4, 2007 (5 of 10)
ramesh said:

Rudall, I haven't read my colleague Christine's review of this. However, if you're familiar with the variance in music reviews, you'll notice that opera aficionados are very exacting in their grading of singers, but the quality of the recording is barely commented upon even if the source is a wind-up gramophone with the beak of a dead finch used as the pickup. At the other end are reviews of classical music in some audiophile mags, where criticism of singers is pretty rare, and almost every audiophile performance is lauded, even if the orchestra is the one-eyed paraplegic Tourettes sufferers of Transylvania chamber orchestra. This site attempts to steer between the Scylla and Charybdis of these extremes.

Thanks for the comment, Ramesh!

I am certainly aware of the extremes to which reviews tend to go, be they for audiophiles or not. Regardless, I do think that anyone who posts a review on a site like this (or any other) *should* be aware of performance standards when talking about classical and operatic recordings.

It is all well and good to comment on how fabulous the sound stage is and how extremely detailed a recording is, but when it comes to stating "this is a fabulous performance" when it clearly isn't, this is not a good thing.

I have this complete SOSA/Fisch Ring and, on the whole, it is one of the finest Rings I have heard (and that includes from being at performances of the cycle). This Siegfried, however, is possibly one of the worst (sung) performances I have heard.

At the end of the day it is the listener who will decide in their own way as to whether they will keep the discs, sell them or use them as coasters, but please, whoever writes a review for such an important series of recordings, be aware that there are people out there who really are able to distinguish between a fabulous, a good, a mediocre and a downright awful performance.

Post by Ernani71 December 26, 2010 (6 of 10)
Rudall Carte said:

Gary Rideout sounds like he should have never attempted the role, as his voice cannot stand the strain, let alone considering his German sounds terrible and his covered voice is extremely unpleasant. To have a Siegfried that is the weak link of this opera is a bad omen and his singing drags this down!

Yes, Rideout is one of the worst Siegfrieds ever. One of several reasons to avoid this recording. I was just listening to the Clemens Krauss Ring (Bayreuth Festival, 1953) with Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried. What a difference when you have somebody good in the role.

Post by tream December 26, 2010 (7 of 10)
Ernani71 said:

Yes, Rideout is one of the worst Siegfrieds ever. One of several reasons to avoid this recording. I was just listening to the Clemens Krauss Ring (Bayreuth Festival, 1953) with Wolfgang Windgassen as Siegfried. What a difference when you have somebody good in the role.

And to think that John Culshaw didn't think that Windgassen was good enough!

Tom

Post by Ernani71 December 29, 2010 (8 of 10)
tream said:

And to think that John Culshaw didn't think that Windgassen was good enough!

Tom

I guess it's relative. Compared to Rideout, Windgassen's certainly terrific. It's been so long since I heard the Solti Ring that I don't recall Windgassen's performance there. (I assume that's the performance Culshaw was referring to?) I don't know what the context for the statement is, whether Culshaw might have opined about Windgassen before the Solti Ring was recorded and later changed his mind about him, or whether he thought Windgassen's performance in the Solti Ring itself was weak (let alone whether he heard Windgassen's performance for Krauss). It's only in mono, but Clemens Krauss is my benchmark when judging Ring cycles.

Post by tream December 29, 2010 (9 of 10)
Ernani71 said:

I guess it's relative. Compared to Rideout, Windgassen's certainly terrific. It's been so long since I heard the Solti Ring that I don't recall Windgassen's performance there. (I assume that's the performance Culshaw was referring to?) I don't know what the context for the statement is, whether Culshaw might have opined about Windgassen before the Solti Ring was recorded and later changed his mind about him, or whether he thought Windgassen's performance in the Solti Ring itself was weak (let alone whether he heard Windgassen's performance for Krauss). It's only in mono, but Clemens Krauss is my benchmark when judging Ring cycles.

The book on this is, of course, The Ring Resounding, which is Culshaw's great book about the making of the Ring cycle with Solti and the VPO. He didn't want to hire Windgassen, because had heard him a number of times and didn't think he was good enough - he worked very hard to find an alternative - he first hired Ernst Kozub, in fact, who for a variety of reasons, didn't work out, and finally conceded that the only choice was Windgassen - reading the book, one comes to the view that Windgassen was better than Culshaw expected- maybe not his ideal, but much better than he feared. Windgassen comes off as a very honorable person by the way.

Post by Fitzcaraldo215 December 29, 2010 (10 of 10)
tream said:

The book on this is, of course, The Ring Resounding, which is Culshaw's great book about the making of the Ring cycle with Solti and the VPO. He didn't want to hire Windgassen, because had heard him a number of times and didn't think he was good enough - he worked very hard to find an alternative - he first hired Ernst Kozub, in fact, who for a variety of reasons, didn't work out, and finally conceded that the only choice was Windgassen - reading the book, one comes to the view that Windgassen was better than Culshaw expected- maybe not his ideal, but much better than he feared. Windgassen comes off as a very honorable person by the way.

The real problem, of course, is that there was no one better AT THAT TIME for this peculiarly demanding role. So, yes, we idealize Windgassen today, but he was, in fact, controversial at the time - past his prime, etc. - due the the usual flawed comparisons between the then current realities and some inflated, often mythical, ideal. I do love his unforgettable performance in the Solti/Culshaw Ring.

I do not think I have ever heard the "perfect" Siegfried in most performances, especially not in my few visits to the Valhalla of Bayreuth. I probably never will. But, I have greatly admired the efforts of Siegfried Jerusalem in the early years of the great previous Met Ring production which I attended, now preserved on DVD and unfortunately not on Blu-ray. I was also impresssed, imperfectly as usual, by Lance Ryan in the Mehta/Valencia Ring. At bit clumsy and over the top at times, he was, nonetheless, quite true to a very sensible interpretation of the very flawed character Wagner, in his greatness, gave us.

Closed