Originally intended by London to celebrate Sir Georg Solti's 85th birthday, this new release of Solti's complete Ring Cycle at mid-price is an eloquent eulogy to his greatness. Solti was the first to record the entire Ring Cycle, and even now, three decades after, it remains the standard by which all others are judged. Birgit Nilsson, Kirsten Flagstad and a young Joan Sutherland star. $167.00 list price.
Modern storage media (CD/DVD) offer both high fidelity and great reliability in the playback of music. Yet only a bit more than a generation ago, the possibilities inherent in the long-playing record inspired John Culshaw, a young producer for Decca, to attempt the most ambitious recording project ever contemplated up to that time--a complete studio recording of the Ring. Though other Rings were issued after this landmark enterprise, none have equaled the Decca Ring in popularity. There are those who prefer live performances, or who feel that the sound and theatrical effects in this recording are overdone; nonetheless this remains the benchmark Ring, as shown by its seemingly endless rerelease schedule. The Ring effort was high profile at the time and helped nail down Sir Georg Solti's status as a "superstar" conductor and authoritative interpreter of the Wagnerian repertory. Another key contributor to the success of the project was the uniform excellence in the casting. Definitive performances given include Neidlinger's nietzschean Alberich, Stolze's whining Mime, Boehme's rumbling Fafnir, along with Nilsson in her prime-more a force of nature than a human voice. The care lavished on the capture of the music was unmatched at the time of the recording, and still leaves this as one of the best sounding Rings even today, when the oldest part (Rheingold) has reached its 40th anniversary. --Christian C. Rix