The Best Ring Cycle Of All Time: The Winners

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 16 March 2014 | 3:20:00 pm

What would a Wagner related awards ceremony be without a significant prelude? This year will see the first of what will be an annual "Wagnerian Readers Awards" (affectionately - and henceforth known - as the Erdas - the reasons for which shall become apparent later in the month) but first, we asked readers to chose the "greatest" recorded Ring cycle in four different categories:

On CD - Overall Winner?
Which Is The Greatest Furtwangler Ring?
On CD Which Is The Greatest Studio Ring?
Which Is The Greatest Bayreuth Ring On CD - the one Ring to rile them all?

The response was overwhelming and we offer our sincere thanks to everyone that took part  and made some very difficult choices. After all, many readers here are people with vast experience of Wagner and his work and there are few people who take Wagner "seriously" who tend to have only one Ring cycle - or at least have listened to only one. The truth is that many people are like us; they have different Rings for different moods. And is any recording truly "perfect? Indeed this - and peoples differing tastes - seemed to be reflected in voting where people, in perhaps everything but the overall category winner, where clearly divided.



However saying that -  apart from one category - the winners are perhaps not that surprising. What was surprisingly was how newer recordings fared. If we look at "The Greatest Bayreuth Ring On CD" for example newer recordings - with one exception - attracted very few votes. .Although, whether this reflects upon the conductor or the recordings overall is a difficult to matter to judge - even if  the latter seems more likely. Yet despite this, we shall see two relatively new (although one is only "new"  in that it has only recently become available) cycles make a substantial impact on what might be expected.

Finally, given the diverse range of voting we have decided to publish  not only the overall winner but the silver and gold winners in each category also. We suspect that anyone new to Wagner or contemplating buying a cycle for the first time would do worse then to select anyone of these recordings.

Before starting however,  a quick thank you and some background. We made a request for designs for the award and received a great number of replies. To everyone that did reply can we again thank you. For this we have decided to use one - there is a second design that we will be using for the up and coming more general awards.

But for now: The "Wagner" found in this article was designed by the contemporary artist  Elizabeth Gordon-Werner. As well as her blog you might want to check out her professional site. Of especial interest to readers here will be her to Wagner gallery - well worth visiting by clicking here.


The Greatest Bayreuth Ring On CD.

In third place: Daniel Barenboim (1991-1992) 

  . 
Das Rheingold

John Tomlinson (Wotan), Günter von Kannen (Alberich), Bodo Brinkmann (Donner), Helmut Pampuch (Mime), Kurt Schreibmayer (Froh), Matthias Hölle (Fasolt), Graham Clark (Loge), Philip Kang (Fafner), Linda Finnie (Fricka), Hilde Leidland (Woglinde), Eva Johansson (Freia), Annette Küttenbaum (Wellgunde), Birgitta Svendén (Erda), Jane Turner (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

Paul Elming (Siegmund), Nadine Secunde (Sieglinde), Matthias Hölle (Hunding), Anne Evans (Brünnhilde), John Tomlinson (Wotan), Ruth Floeren (Ortlinde), Shirley Close (Waltraute), Hitomi Katagiri (Schwertleite), Eva-Maria Bundschuh (Helmwige), Linda Finnie (Siegrune/Fricka), Birgitta Svendén (Grimgerde), Eva Johansson (Gerhilde), Hebe Kijkstra (Rossweisse)

Siegfried

Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried), Günter von Kannen (Alberich), Anne Evans(Brünnhilde), Philip Kang (Fafner), John Tomlinson (Wanderer), Birgitta Svendén (Erda),Graham Clark (Mime), Hilde Leidland (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried), John Tomlinson (Wanderer), Anne Evans (Brünnhilde), Birgitta Svendén (Erste Norn), Philip Kang (Hagen), Linda Finnie Zweite Norn), Bodo Brinkmann (Gunther), Uta Priew (Dritte Norn), Eva-Maria Bundschuh (Gutrune), Hilde Leidland (Woglinde), Waltraud Meier (Waltraute), Annette Küttenbaum (Wellgunde), Günter von Kannen (Alberich), Jane Turner (Flosshilde)

Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Choir, Daniel Barenboim

In second place: Karl Bohm (1966-1967)



Das Rheingold

Theo Adam (Wotan), Gerd Nienstedt (Donner), Hermin Esser (Froh), Wolfgang Windgassen(Loge), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Mime), Martti Talvela (Fasolt) Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Annelies Burmeister (Fricka), Anja Silja (Freia), Vera Soukupova (Erda), Dorothea Siebert (Woglinde), Helga Dernesch (Wellgunde), Ruth Hesse (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

James King (Siegmund), Leonie Rysanek (Sieglinde), Gerd Nienstedt (Hunding), Birgit Nilsson(Brünnhilde), Theo Adam (Wotan), Annelies Burmeister (Fricka), Danica Mastilovic (Gerhilde),Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde), Gertraud Hopf (Waltraute), Sieglinde Wagner (Schwertleite), Liane Synek (Helmwige), Annelies Burmeister (Siegrune), Elisabeth Schärtel (Grimgerde), Sona Cervena Rossweisse

Siegfried

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Mime), Theo Adam (Der Wanderer), Gustav Neidlinge (Alberich), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Vera Soukupova (Erda), Erika Köth (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Thomas Stewart (Gunther), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich),Josef Greindl (Hagen), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Ludmila Dvoraková (Gutrune), Martha Mödl(Waltraute), Dorothea Siebert (Woglinde), Helga Dernesch (Wellgunde), Sieglinde Wagner (Flosshilde), Marga Höffgen (1. Norn), Annelies Burmeister (2. Norn), Anja Silja (3. Norn)

Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele, Karl Böhm




And the winner is: Keilberth (1955) on Testament (Stereo)



Das Rheingold 

Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Georgine von Milinkovič (Fricka), Rudolf Lustig (Loge), Paul Kuen (Mime), Ludwig Weber (Fasolt), Josef Greindl(Fafner), Josef Traxel (Froh), Hertha Wilfert (Freia), Jutta Vulpius (Woglinde), Elisabeth Schärtel (Wellgunde), Maria Graf (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

 Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gré Brouwenstijn(Sieglinde), Ramón Vinay (Siegmund), Josef Greindl (Hunding), Georgine von Milinkovič (Fricka/Grimgerde), Hilde Scheppan (Helmwige), Gerda Lammers (Ortlinde), Hertha Wilfert (Gerhilde), Elisabeth Scheppan (Waltraute), Jean Watson (Siegrune), Maria von Ilosvay (Schwertleite)

Siegfried

 Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Hans Hotter (Der Wanderer), Paul Kuen (Mime),Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Josef Greindl (Fafner), Maria von Ilosvay (Erda), Ilse Hollweg (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

 Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Josef Greindl (Hagen), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Hermann Uhde (Gunther), Gré Brouwenstijn(Gutrune), Maria von Ilosvay (Waltraute/First Norn), Georgine von Milinkovič (Second Norn), Mina Bolotine (First Norn), Jutta Vulpius (Woglinde), Elisabeth Schärtel (Wellgunde), Maria Graf (Flosshilde)

Chor und Orchester der Bayreuth Festspiele, Joseph Keilberth

Recorded Bayreuth 1955. The first stereo Ring Cycle.

The Greatest Furtwangler Ring On CD



RAI Ring Of 1953



Das Rheingold

Ferdinand Frantz (Wotan), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Wolfgang Windgassen (Loge), Julius Patzak (Mime), Josef Greindl (Fasolt), Gottlob Frick (Fafner) Elisabeth Grümmer (Freia), Ira Malaniuk (Fricka), Ruth Siewert (Erda), Sena Jurinac (Woglinde), Magda Gabory (Wellgunde),Hilde Rössl-Majdan (Flosshilde), Lorenz Fehenberger (Froh), Alfred Poell (Donner)

Die Walküre

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegmund), Hilde Konetzni (Sieglinde), Gottlob Frick (Hunding),Martha Mödl (Brünnhilde), Ferdinand Frantz (Wotan), Elsa Cavelti (Fricka)

Siegfried

Ludwig Suthaus (Siegfried), Martha Mödl (Brünnhilde), Julius Patzak (Mime), Ferdinand Frantz (Der Wanderer), Alois Pernerstorfer (Alberich), Josef Greindl (Fafner), Margarete Klose (Erda), Rita Streich (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Ludwig Suthaus (Siegfried), Martha Mödl (Brünnhilde), Josef Greindl (Hagen), Alfred Poell (Gunther), Alois Pernerstorfer (Alberich), Sena Jurinac (Gutrune/Woglinde/Dritte Norn), Margarete Klose (Waltraute/Erste Norn), Hilde Rössl-Majdan (Flosshilde/Zweite Norn), Magda Gabory (Wellgunde)

RAI Milano Orchestra & Chorus, Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded in 1953

The Greatest Studio Ring 


In third place: James Levine's New York Ring on DG


Das Rheingold

James Morris (Wotan), Ekkehard Wlaschiha (Alberich), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Siegfried Jerusalem (Loge), Heinz Zednik (Mime), Kurt Moll (Fasolt), Jan-Hendrik Rootering (Fafner), Mark Baker (Froh), MarieAnne Häggander (Freia), Hei-Kyung Hong (Woglinde), Diane Kesling (Wellgunde), Meredith Parsons (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), James Morris (Wotan), Jessye Norman (Sieglinde), Gary Lakes (Siegmund), Kurt Moll (Hunding), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Linda Kelm (Helmwige), Marilyn Mims (Ortlinde), Marita Napier (Gerhilde), Reinhild Runkel (Waltraute), Diane Kesling (Siegrune), Anne Wilkens (Rossweisse), Meredith Parsons (Grimgerde), Ruthild Engert-Ely (Schwertleite)

Siegfried

Reiner Goldberg (Siegfried), James Morris (Der Wanderer), Heinz Zednik (Mime), Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), Kurt Moll (Fafner), Birgitta Svendén (Erda), Kathleen Battle(Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), Reiner Goldberg (Siegfried), Matti Salminen (Hagen), Ekkehard Wlaschiha (Alberich), Bernd Weikl (Gunther), Cheryl Studer (Gutrune), Hanna Schwarz (Waltraute), Hei-Kyung Hong (Woglinde), Diane Kesling (Wellgunde), Meredith Parsons (Flosshilde), Helga Dernesch (First Norn), Tatiana Troyanos (Second Norn), Andrea Gruber (Third Norn)

Metropolitan Opera & Chorus, James Levine

In second place: DG Cycle - Karajan



Das Rheingold

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Wotan), Zoltán Kelemen (Alberich), Josephine Veasey (Fricka),Gerhard Stolze (Loge), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Mime), Martti Talvela (Fasolt), Karl Ridderbusch(Fafner), Donald Grobe (Froh), Simone Mangelsdorff (Freia), Helen Donath (Woglinde), Edda Moser (Wellgunde), Anna Reynolds (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

Régine Crespin (Brünnhilde), Thomas Stewart (Wotan), Gundula Janowitz (Sieglinde), Jon Vickers (Siegmund), Martti Talvela (Hunding), Josephine Veasey (Fricka), Danica Mastilovic (Helmwige), Carlotta Ordassy (Ortlinde), Liselotte Rebmann (Gerhilde), Ingrid Steger (Waltraute), Barbro Ericson (Siegrune), Helga Jenckel (Rossweisse), Cvetka Ahlin (Grimgerde), Lilo Brockhaus (Schwertleite)

Siegfried

Jess Thomas (Siegfried), Thomas Stewart (Der Wanderer), Gerhard Stolze (Mime), Helga Dernesch (Brünnhilde), Karl Ridderbusch (Fafner), Oralia Dominguez (Erda), Catherine Gayer (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Helga Dernesch (Brünnhilde), Helge Brilioth (Siegfried), Karl Ridderbusch (Hagen), Zoltán Kelemen (Alberich), Thomas Stewart (Gunther), Gundula Janowitz (Gutrune), Christa Ludwig(Waltraute), Liselotte Rebmann (Woglinde), Edda Moser (Wellgunde), Anna Reynolds (Flosshilde), Lili Chookasian (First Norn), Christa Ludwig (Second Norn), Catarina Ligendza (Third Norn)

Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan



And the winner is: Decca Cycle - Solti (an overwhelming win, with 62 percent of the vote)



Das Rheingold

George London (Wotan), Kirsten Flagstad (Fricka), Claire Watson (Freia), Set Svanholm(Loge), Waldemar Kmentt (Froh), Eberhard Wächter (Donner), Paul Kuen (Mime), Jean Madeira (Erda), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Walter Kreppel (Fasolt), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Oda Balsborg (Woglinde), Hetty Plümacher (Wellgunde), Ira Malaniuk (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

James King (Siegmund), Régine Crespin (Sieglinde), Gottlob Frick (Hunding), Hans Hotter(Wotan), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Brigitte Fassbaender(Waltraute), Berit Lindholm (Helmwige), Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde), Vera Schlosser (Gerhilde), Helen Watts (Schwertleite), Vera Little (Siegrune), Claudia Hellmann (Rossweise), Marilyn Tyler (Grimgerde)

Siegfried

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Hans Hotter (Wanderer),Gerhard Stolze (Mime), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Marga Höffgen(Erda), Joan Sutherland (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Gottlob Frick (Hagen), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Claire Watson (Gutrune), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Gunther), Christa Ludwig (Waltraute), Lucia Popp (Woglinde), Gwyneth Jones (Wellgunde), Maureen Guy (Flosshilde), Helen Watts (Erste Norn), Grace Hoffman (Zweite Norn), Anita Välkki (Dritte Norn)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Sir Georg Solti

And finally: 

The "Greatest" Ring Cycle On Record - Overall Winner


In third place: Karl Bohm (1966-1967)


Das Rheingold

Theo Adam (Wotan), Gerd Nienstedt (Donner), Hermin Esser (Froh), Wolfgang Windgassen(Loge), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Mime), Martti Talvela (Fasolt) Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Annelies Burmeister (Fricka), Anja Silja (Freia), Vera Soukupova (Erda), Dorothea Siebert (Woglinde), Helga Dernesch (Wellgunde), Ruth Hesse (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

James King (Siegmund), Leonie Rysanek (Sieglinde), Gerd Nienstedt (Hunding), Birgit Nilsson(Brünnhilde), Theo Adam (Wotan), Annelies Burmeister (Fricka), Danica Mastilovic (Gerhilde),Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde), Gertraud Hopf (Waltraute), Sieglinde Wagner (Schwertleite), Liane Synek (Helmwige), Annelies Burmeister (Siegrune), Elisabeth Schärtel (Grimgerde), Sona Cervena Rossweisse

Siegfried

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Erwin Wohlfahrt (Mime), Theo Adam (Der Wanderer), Gustav Neidlinge (Alberich), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Vera Soukupova (Erda), Erika Köth (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Thomas Stewart (Gunther), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich),Josef Greindl (Hagen), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Ludmila Dvoraková (Gutrune), Martha Mödl(Waltraute), Dorothea Siebert (Woglinde), Helga Dernesch (Wellgunde), Sieglinde Wagner (Flosshilde), Marga Höffgen (1. Norn), Annelies Burmeister (2. Norn), Anja Silja (3. Norn)

Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele, Karl Böhm


This complete set of the Ring Cycle, made during performances in Wagner's theatre at Bayreuth, remains one of the greatest 'Rings' on record. Legendary Wagner singers Theo Adam as Wotan and Birgit Nilsson as Brühnnhilde lead an outstanding cast in this fast-moving and dramatic reading by conductor Karl Böhm.

In second place: Keilberth (1955) on Testament (Stereo)

Das Rheingold 

Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Georgine von Milinkovič (Fricka), Rudolf Lustig (Loge), Paul Kuen (Mime), Ludwig Weber (Fasolt), Josef Greindl(Fafner), Josef Traxel (Froh), Hertha Wilfert (Freia), Jutta Vulpius (Woglinde), Elisabeth Schärtel (Wellgunde), Maria Graf (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

 Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gré Brouwenstijn(Sieglinde), Ramón Vinay (Siegmund), Josef Greindl (Hunding), Georgine von Milinkovič (Fricka/Grimgerde), Hilde Scheppan (Helmwige), Gerda Lammers (Ortlinde), Hertha Wilfert (Gerhilde), Elisabeth Scheppan (Waltraute), Jean Watson (Siegrune), Maria von Ilosvay (Schwertleite)

Siegfried

 Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Hans Hotter (Der Wanderer), Paul Kuen (Mime),Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Josef Greindl (Fafner), Maria von Ilosvay (Erda), Ilse Hollweg (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

 Astrid Varnay (Brünnhilde), Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Josef Greindl (Hagen), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Hermann Uhde (Gunther), Gré Brouwenstijn(Gutrune), Maria von Ilosvay (Waltraute/First Norn), Georgine von Milinkovič (Second Norn), Mina Bolotine (First Norn), Jutta Vulpius (Woglinde), Elisabeth Schärtel (Wellgunde), Maria Graf (Flosshilde)

Chor und Orchester der Bayreuth Festspiele, Joseph Keilberth

Recorded Bayreuth 1955. The first stereo Ring Cycle.



And the winner is - the One Ring To Rule Them All 2014: 



Decca Cycle - Solti

Das Rheingold

George London (Wotan), Kirsten Flagstad (Fricka), Claire Watson (Freia), Set Svanholm(Loge), Waldemar Kmentt (Froh), Eberhard Wächter (Donner), Paul Kuen (Mime), Jean Madeira (Erda), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Walter Kreppel (Fasolt), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Oda Balsborg (Woglinde), Hetty Plümacher (Wellgunde), Ira Malaniuk (Flosshilde)

Die Walküre

James King (Siegmund), Régine Crespin (Sieglinde), Gottlob Frick (Hunding), Hans Hotter(Wotan), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Brigitte Fassbaender(Waltraute), Berit Lindholm (Helmwige), Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde), Vera Schlosser (Gerhilde), Helen Watts (Schwertleite), Vera Little (Siegrune), Claudia Hellmann (Rossweise), Marilyn Tyler (Grimgerde)

Siegfried

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Hans Hotter (Wanderer),Gerhard Stolze (Mime), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Kurt Böhme (Fafner), Marga Höffgen(Erda), Joan Sutherland (Waldvogel)

Götterdämmerung

Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Gottlob Frick (Hagen), Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich), Claire Watson (Gutrune), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Gunther), Christa Ludwig (Waltraute), Lucia Popp (Woglinde), Gwyneth Jones (Wellgunde), Maureen Guy (Flosshilde), Helen Watts (Erste Norn), Grace Hoffman (Zweite Norn), Anita Välkki (Dritte Norn)

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus, Sir Georg Solti