DG's 20-bit transfer reveals more tape hiss than before, while the orchestral image is better focused, with more definition at the bottom end. Some have likened Herbert von Karajan's "chamber-music approach" to Wagner's Ring cycle in terms of his scaling down or deconstructing the heroic roles. This approach has less to do with dynamics per se than it does with von Karajan's masterful balancing of voices and instruments. He achieves revelations of horizontal clarity, allowing no contrapuntal strand to emerge with an unwanted accent or a miscalibrated dynamic. The texts are unusually pinpointed and distinct, although the singers don't convey the experience and dimension of Sir Georg Solti's cast on London. There are exceptions. Jon Vickers's probing, complex Siegmund, for instance, is paired with Gundula Janowitz's radiant SIeglinde. Martti Talvela is arguably the most sympathetic, touching Fasolt on record, and Gerhard Stolz's Mime is less caricatured and more direct here than for Solti. I similarly prefer Christa Ludwig's Waltraute for von Karajan. The underrated Helge Brilioth's warmly ringing and musically solid Götterdämmerung Siegfried will be a welcome surprise. Smaller roles benefit from strong casting, notably the well-tuned Rheinmaidens and Valkyries. When all is said and done, however, it's von Karajan's show, and the glorious Berlin Philharmonic are the stars. --Jed Distler
NR (Not Rated)
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