RSS feed RSS Twitter Twitter Facebook Facebook 15 Questions 15 Questions

CD Feature/ Richard Wagner: "Das Rheingold"

img  Tobias

Prepare yourself for an artistic ride which has every potential to change your perception of a night at the theatre and of music as such. “Das Rheingold” is not Wagner’s most famous work, nor does it represent his most archetypical nor most extreme effort. But this is where it all started, everything you might love and all you could hate about opera. Some claim that it has done as much for the genre as Shakespeare has done for drama – and that without the two of them the world would be a different place. How to approach such a supposedly mind-blowing and infinitely influential piece of music? By listening, mainly and by trying to stay as far away from any third-party opinions as possible.

If that is possible at all. Here’s a (shortened) list of all rumours, quasi-facts and frequently found information on the subject: “Rheingold” is the first epiosde of the über-famous “Ring”-tetralogy, it took Wagner 25 years to complete all four volumes, he had an entire theatre built especially for it, he composed the first piece of orchestral drone music on the trot, some parts of the score came to him in his sleep and he had to take a break from his work for more commercial music and to “work” on his rather complicated love life. To find some morejuicy bits n pieces, heed my advice and check out some of the audience’s comments and critics’ reviews of the various ring-reinterpretations since its debut, starting with German provocative cinematographist Chrsitoph Schlingesieff’s “Parsifal”, its surprising success and succesive excessive arguments. It seems that while even the most unitiated dare repeating the same cliches about Wagner over and over again (that he was a antisemit, a macho and – frankly – a mean bastard), the deeper one dives into Wagner, the more ludicrous and childish the debate becomes. Partly, this has to do with the world Wagner’s works are alluding to, which are mostly occupied by gods, elves, sprits and sprites – it is not that far from  the “Walküre” to the “Lord of the Rings”. The other half can be attrbuted to the sheer uniqueness and idiosyncrasy of the material. To everyone who grew up on music of the 21st century, the sounds, melodies and harmonies of “Das Rheingold” must seem strangely close and familar. The opening four minutes, which lead right into the first scene, are indeed an effervescent, bubbling and streaming miracle, full of different looped lines, crossing each other to create harmonics and a steady gentle pulse. And the revelations just keep coming: The way the singers pick up these seemingly static themes in the ensuing act, creating a dense and mysterious ambiance, the ebb and flow of the music, culminating half-way in the triumphant repetition of the opera’s title, the way the music fades behind the rhythm at the end of the second act and then reappears again, as well as the seemless undulation of the first two acts, which appear more like a shimmering stream in the golden sunlight than your usual collection of arias. There are short moments of recognaissance, before the piece returns to its state of timbral propulsion. On disc two, movement is slower, with melodic lines tending more to the spoken workd at first, then becoming all quiet and whispery. When the “Rheingold” motive rears its head again in the end, it has turned into an ephemeral, yet soothing echo.

For some it will be interesting to note that this Naxos recording documents the 2002/2003 staging of the “Ring” by the “Staatsoper Stuttgart”, which presented a different producer and cast for each opera, that its line-up of artists represents a feliticitous handshake of the young and the experienced and that it truly sounds like a live recording with all the benefits and disadvantages that bring forth. At the end of the day, it is a great first contact with Wagner. Whether an indivual can really single-handedly change the course of history is a subject we’ll not touch upon today. But regardless of its influence or importance, this recording of “Das Rheingold” is everything we promised you in the first line of this review and more.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Naxos

Related articles

CD Feature/ Koscak Yamada: "Nagauta Symphony/InnoMeiji/Maria Magdalena"
Follows a reverse chronology: A ...
CD Feature/ Peter Maxwell Davies: "Naxos Quartets Nos. 7 and 8"
Stone-made allegories and a musical ...
CD Feature/ Alla Pavlova: "Symphony No. 5"
A circle dance of modulations ...
Philip Glass: Leonard Cohen & "Book of Longing"
Philip Glass has teamed up ...
CD Feature/ J. Corigliano/J. Friedman: "String Quartet/String Quartet No.2"
A handshake between generations: The ...
CD Feature/ The Fibonacci Sequence: "Ned Rorem: Chamber Music"
Strong enough to stand on ...
CD Feature/ Pedro Carneiro: "Improbable Transgressions"
A work of dialogues: Carneiro’s ...
The Fibonacci Sequence: "John McCabe - Chamber Works"
Yearning and demanding: The night ...
CD Feature/ Lex van Delden: "Complete String Quartets"
Harmony and atonality: Like drinking ...
CD Feature/ Peter Maag: "Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro"
Remorselessly catchy and relentlessly creative.
CD Feature/ Jay Weigel: "The Mass of John Paul II The Great"
Includes all of the elements ...
CD Feature/ Douglas Lilburn: "A song of Islands"
A second hint at what ...
CD Feature/ Arvo Pärt: "Music for Unaccompanied Choir"
The old terminologies have finally ...
Wagner 2006
Cristopher Cook and Naxos have ...
CD Feature/ Monteverdi: "Madrigals Book 5"
A classic of sorrow and ...
CD Feature/ Paul Moravec: "The Time Gallery"
A concept work which doesn't ...
CD feature/ Ana Maria Martinez: "Soprano Songs and Arias"
Mellow, dreamy and addictive

Partner sites