Karl Ridderbusch's Hagen
Listening to Act 2 of Herbert von Karajan's Götterdämmerung. My thoughts on this recording are fairly clear: Von Karajan's "chamber-Wagner" managed to create a performance more obsessed with orchestral textures than with the singers. The generally second-rate performers (with some exceptions) reflect this. In other words, I find Von Karajan's Ring to be an enormous Wagner Without Words set, but no one told him that he could cut the singers.
One performance that I rather like is Karl Ridderbusch's Hagen. Now, for sheer inhumanity and evil, Matti Salminen for James Levine is the reference. The lack of vibrato most of the time is pretty terrifying, if you ask me. Ridderbusch sounds more human and slightly less Satanic. This is a Hagen who remembers his human nature, but is forced to deal with his Nibelung patronage. Ridderbusch has a suitably dark tone, and has a certain nobility that one must grapple with in Hagen. He is doing his duty, as awful as that is.
However, my single favorite performance of Hagen has to be Fritz Hübner for Boulez in Bayreuth. Like my affection for Graham Clark's Loge for Barenboim, this has more to do with the filmed performance. Hübner has a sweaty, nervous quality that makes him seem like more of a schemer and the brains behind the whole Gibichung operation. The fact that he has Franz Mazura's aristocratic Gunther to play off of really helps.
In any event, Ridderbusch's Hagen is an attraction to a set with a few good moments. I really must get around to doing a guide to the Ring.