The Janowski Studio Ring - an overview

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 22 October 2012 | 11:53:00 pm

Readers may have realised by now that our taste in performances can be on occasion "idiosyncratic". This is probably no more so than in Ring Cycles. While we must admit to owning we think, every Ring Cycle recorded - and several not - one of the studio recordings (live recordings are another matter) that we return to frequently is Janowski's 1983 studio recording - the first digitally recorded Ring.

We grow somewhat "tired" of hearing Wagner of late that sounds more like Verdi. Janowski, we are pleased to say here, has a firm grasp of what Wagner "is" and should sound like. "Line" remains throughout but without a hint of any lack of "drama" or "excitement" that maintaining such "line" can result in. Janowski, at least to our ears, in this Ring understands what Wagner considered to be the "secret" of his style - as Wagner explains here in a letter to Mathilde Wesendonck in October 1859 :

"My greatest masterpiece in the art of the most delicate and gradual transition is without doubt the great scene in the second act of Tristan and Isolde. The opening of this scene presents a life overflowing with all the most violent emotions - its ending the most solemn and heartfelt longing for death. These are the pillars: and now you see, child, how I have joined these pillars together, and how the one of them leads over into the other. This, after all is the secret of my musical form, which, in its unity and clarity over an expanse that encompasses every detail, I may be bold enough to claim has never before been dreamt of."

(Note: It is due to this that we feel there is a "danger" in concentrating on the leitmotifs at the risk of so much else - it is not the "motifs" that are important, we would argue, but how they develop, change, meld and, to use Wagners terms, are involved in (and, at the risk of becoming too abstract, become) the act of "transition")

Others of course have understood this, Karajan comes to mind in particular, but, in our opinion it is possible to lose some of the "passion" or "drive" in Wagner while trying to maintain these transitions to closely - Janowski does not make this mistake. He seems to understand Wagner's notion of "transitions" but is nevertheless not slave to them like some. But perhaps this is what Wagner wanted? (At the other end of the spectrum, and at the risk of upsetting a number of readers, Solti is considered by some to have the least understanding of this process - in his studio Ring at least. Although this does mean, again to us, that he has individual moments of sheer genius that are unforgettable).

But this is not the only reason for buying this Ring - especially we would argue for those buying their first Ring "on a budget". We shall list these below:



Dresden Staatskapelle is at its finest here
A very fine cast - see below. Although some have argued against Altmeyer's Brunnhilde. Ignore them, she is not as "bad" as you will hear argued. Is she Nielsen or Flagstad? No, but who is? With many "stars" hidden away in "lesser roles". Lucia Popp for example performs as Woglinde in Rheingold.
A wonderfully clear, yet warm, digital studio recording. 
It can be bought new and complete for only $40 in the USA and £20 in Europe! (and of course at similar prices worldwide)

Of course, as they say, "talk is cheap" and if we have discovered anything over the years - in Wagner as in elsewhere - individual "tastes" and "likes" vary greatly - and over time.  So for those with access to Spotify you may sample the entire cycle below. For those without access,  a few samples found on youtube are also included. For those that decide it is worth £20 pound I include links to amazon UK and USA below but as always recommend you look around and buy from your favorite "store"


Cast:

Das Rheingold:


Wotan: Theo Adam

Donner: Karl-Heinz Stryczek

Froh: Eberhard Buchner

Loge: Peter Schreier

Alberich: Siegumnd Nimsgern
Mime: Christian Vogel
Fasolt: Roland Bracht
Fafner: Matti Salminen
Fricka: Yvonne Minton
Freia: Marita Napier
Erda: Ortrun Wenkel



Woglinde: Lucia Popp

Wellgunde: Uta Priew

Flosshilde: Hanna Schwarz



Die Walkure:



Siegmund: Siegfried Jerusalem

Hunding: Kurt Moll

Wotan: Theo Adam

Sieglinde: Jessye Norman

Brunnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer
Fricka: Yvonne Minton
(Valkyries:)
Gerhilde: Eva-Maria Bundschuh
Ortlinde: Cheryl Studer
Waltraute: Ortrun Wenkel
Schwertleite: Anne Gjevang
Helmwiege: Ruth Falcon
Siegrune: Christel Borchers
Grimgarde: Kathleen Kuhlmann
Rossweisse: Uta Priew



Siegfried:



Siegfried: Rene Kollo

Mime: Peter Schreier

Der Wanderer: Theo Adam

Alberich: Siegmund Nimsgern

Fafner: Matti Salminen
Erda: Ortrun Wenkel
Brunnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer
Voice of a Forest Bird: Norma Sharp



Gotterdammerung:



Siegfried: Rene Kollo

Gunther: Hans Gunter Nocker

Alberich: Siegmund Nimsgern

Hagen: Matti Salminen

Brunnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer
Gutrune: Norma Sharp
Waltraute: Ortrun Wenkel
First Norn: Anne Gjevang
Second Norn: Daphne Evangelatos
Third Norn: Ruth Falcon
Woglinde: Lucia Popp
Wellgunde: Uta Priew
Flosshilde: Hanna Schwarz