Siegfried - Wolfgang Windgassen Mime - Paul Kuen Brünnhilde - Astrid Varnay Wanderer - Hans Hotter Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger Fafner - Josef Greindl Erda - Maria von Ilosvay Waldvogel - Rita Streich
Choir and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
conductor Clemens Krauss
Live concert recording, Bayreuth Festival, 10th August 1953
CD, MP3 and FLAC information:
CDs: Quadruple set - Due to the length of the three acts it has been necessary to span them over four CDs. Extra care has been taken to find natural breaks or appropriate points during the music at which to begin and end discs. Very short fades have been applied at the start and finish of each disc.
FLACs: No fades have been applied to the FLAC files. If you wish to transfer FLACs to audio CD you may of course split the recording wherever you prefer from the tracks you download. If you're listening from a non-CD source replay will be continuous through each act. There is a "fade to black" between acts.
MP3: Purchasers will receive two sets of files, both as Zip files within a single large Zip file:
- a single long, continuous MP3 with no breaks within acts, together with accompanying cue sheet for track splitting
- a set of four MP3s which correspond to the four CDs as outlined above, complete with individual cue sheets
Please check our help section for help with FLAC, MP3, Cue and Zip files.
My notes for the two previous operas in this Ring cycle suggested clear sonic improvements between the first and second opera. Here is Siegfried from day three of Krauss's August 1953 Ring cycle, and technically it's often better still. This XR remastering has succeeded at both ends of the audio spectrum - bringing out a much fuller, deeper and richer bass than previously heard whilst also extending and brightening the top end.
The approach has revealed a very slight peak distortion in the original which generally only affects a narrow frequency range during fortissimo vocals, but it's a minor quibble. There was also some minor audible quality variation between recorded sections - manifested as a slightly lower treble response for some periods during the recording - which I've generally managed to even out, but overall the sound quality is excellent and notable for a lack of drop-outs and the other sonic shortcomings one might normally expect from any recording of this vintage, be it studio or live.
In short, it's technically pretty remarkable, with low noise levels, clear constant sound and, if you choose the FLAC or MP3 downloads, uninterrupted listening through each act, something impossible with standard CDs. I followed the example of Solti's classic 1962 recording in selecting track marker points throughout (a surprisingly laborious process!) but used different (and perhaps more appropriate to the present recording) point in the music with which to end and begin discs 1-3. The Solti also served as a sonic reference for the overall re-equalisation of the recording, which had previously been very thin in the bass and lower mid-range.
Wolfgang made his début at Pforzheim as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. After army service he became a member of the Stuttgart opera company, and succeeded his father as principal tenor. Stuttgart opera remained his home base throughout his career, and for the last two years of his life he was its artistic director.
Windgassen sang at all the important opera houses all over the world. He was invited to perform at the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 and continued to appear there till 1970, singing all the great Wagner tenor roles: Erik, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan, Walter, Loge, Siegmund, both Siegfrieds and Parsifal, his debut role in 1951.
His voice was not as heroic as pre-war Heldentenors such as Lauritz Melchior or his immediate predecessor Max Lorenz, but he used it with such skill and musicianship that he is generally regarded as the most accomplished Wagner tenor of the past half century.
He is well represented on record, both in studio recordings and live tapings. Pre-eminent among the former is the famous DeccaRing, conducted by Georg Solti and produced by John Culshaw. He was not Culshaw’s first choice for Siegfried, the more powerful and beautiful voice of Ernst Kozub being preferred. But Kozub's musical limitations (largely due to his ailing health) led to his removal from the cast; Windgassen magnanimously stood in for him at the last minute. His live Bayreuth recording of Tristan und Isolde with Birgit Nilsson as Isolde, conducted by Karl Böhm, is still highly regarded by many critics.
Windgassen was the Siegfried in several complete, live Rings from Bayreuth that have been issued commercially on CD, conducted by such now-legendary figures as Hans Knappertsbusch, Clemens Krauss, Joseph Keilberth and Karl Böhm. He was also the Loge and Siegmund in Wilhelm Furtwängler's Ring broadcast by the Italian Radio (RAI) in 1953, and subsequently issued as a best selling CD box. All these have contributed to the growing posthumous reputation of this remarkable tenor.
A Kammersänger of the Federal Republic of Germany, Paul Kuen taught singing following his retirement from the operatic stage. Amongst his pupils was the noted Lieder singer, Christian Gerhaher. In 1976 he published his autobiography, Allgäuer Lausbub erobert die Bühnen der Welt (A rascal from Allgäu conquers the stages of the world).