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linden518
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Keilberth's "Ring" on Testament

This won't be an in-depth review, for how can one do an in-depth review of Wagner's Ring in a forum post? But here's the gist: for many years, people have thought Solti's Ring was the 1st ever stereo recording of Wagner's Ring. Turns out that wasn't the case: this recording - finely captured by Testament - of Keilberth's live 1955 performance in Bayreuth is the first. If you want the audiophile recording of The Ring to wow you with hi-fi effects & bombast, stay away from this one, although this version surely electrifies. There are times, for example, when the strings mass together into forte passages, the sound betrays its age, and sounds like a good, aged mono recording coming through a stereo system. But those small moments do not take away from the power of the musical message at all, but rather add to the historical importance of the recording, at least for me. Let me stop qualifying the recording's sound: it sounds great. Testament has done an amazing job, especially with the human voice. I haven't heard a better sung version of The Ring yet; and the CDs capture the beauty & power of the singing amazingly well. The sense of drama & the stage is heart-stoppingly palpable. Keilberth's direction is protean and compulsively gripping, and his account (along with Bohm's) is the one of the few Ring Cycles that captures the whole narrative arc convincingly. I'm still not sure whether I prefer the Bohm set or this one... time will tell, I guess, but this Testament set will go down as one of the 2-3 greatest Rings on record, and many already regard it as the best ever. Right now, if I had to choose one Ring cycle for my library - you know, the desert island trope - I'd choose this one. It's pretty spectacular.

One caveat: this cycle retails for a bit above $200. Kind of steep, I guess, but considering that the Testament Gotterdamerung retails for $100 alone makes the set of 4 operas a relative bargain. I've been eyeing the individual operas ever since they've come out a few years ago, but they were too cost-prohibitive, if bought individually. I'm happy that Testament has released the box finally, and made it relatively more affordable for ordinary folks like me (I bought mine by using a 40% off coupon , the only way I could afford to purchase it.) But Testament, to save costs, puts each CD in a flimsy cardboard slip, which I hate b/c of the possibility of scratches, etc. (The photographs on these slips, though, are artworks, pure and simple; I think Testament has been taking lessons from Criterion in terms of using old stock photos for slick packaging.) The set also doesn't come with a book of libretti, a bum deal for a $200 opera set. Although you can go to the Testament site and download the libretti, I would have appreciated the libretti on nice quality paper...

Todd
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Re: Keilberth's "Ring" on Testament

The Keilberth 1955 Ring is indeed a wonderful take of the works. It's tough for me to choose between it and Clemens Krauss' 1953 Ring as my overall favorite, but Keilberth's is my favorite stereo set. Sound is good enough for me, and the performances mezmerizing. I couldn't wait when it came out; when the last set was released, I had them imported from the UK - it's worth the price.

For those who want a taste of what Keilberth can do with the Ring, there are other takes available more cheaply. His 1952 Ring is nicely priced on Archipel, for instance, though there the magic is mostly in the last two operas, and the sound is less impressive.

Testament has also just done Ring fans a big favor: they have reissued, at bargain price, Rudolf Kempe's 1957 Ring. It's currently available only in Europe, but I'm thinking I can't wait for it top hit US shores to buy.

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linden518
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Re: Keilberth's "Ring" on Testament


Quote:
Testament has also just done Ring fans a big favor: they have reissued, at bargain price, Rudolf Kempe's 1957 Ring. It's currently available only in Europe, but I'm thinking I can't wait for it top hit US shores to buy.


Thanks for this! I'll definitely keep on the look-out for the Kempe set. Happy to run into another Wagnerite here, Todd! Sometimes I like to put the Knappersbusch set on late at night, through headphones, while I'm writing or researching. It's definitely not an all-arounder, but for some reason, gets to me at the oddest hours.

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