Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Rheingold Lament

No, not the lament of the Rheintöchter. In fact, it's a lament that could extend to the entire Ring. The Lothar Zagrosek recording of his Stuttgart Ring on Naxos, and Hartmut Haenchen's recent effort on Etcetera are two Rings reasonably well-played and beautifully recorded. EMI, which is in the throes of serious trouble, I understand, has trotted out the largely lackluster Haitink Ring. Philips has reissued Boulez' set, out-of-print on CD for ages. Deutsche Grammophon hasn't done much since Levine's mixed bag from the late 1980s. Decca abandoned its early '90s project with von Dohnányi when things became difficult. Warner (Teldec, if you want to get picky) reissued Barenboim's Bayreuth set. In other words, none of the major classical labels has done much in the way of a Ring in better than a decade. This inactivity is in spite of major advances in recording technology, new delivery vectors, and a wide-open market.

I've harped on this subject before, but it's a disgrace to the major record labels to malinger around with decade-old, if not older, Ring recordings when "minor" labels are attacking what must be the most daunting project imaginable. John Culshaw took a great risk with his Solti Ring project, and he created one of the greatest recordings ever. Perhaps the Bayreuth Festival this year will inspire some bright young thing to return to the tried-and-true strategy of recording live at the Festspielhaus. I'd rather see Peter Schneider do a Ring than Thielemann, who is still spotty, despite that Parsifal.

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