FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle (1953, Rome) - PABX003

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FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle (1953, Rome) - PABX003

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Overview

WAGNER Der Ring Des Nibelungen: 1. Das Rheingold
WAGNER Der Ring Des Nibelungen: 2. Die Walküre
WAGNER Der Ring Des Nibelungen: 3. Siegfried
WAGNER Der Ring Des Nibelungen: 4. Götterdämmerung

Recorded in 1953

Rome Symphony Orchestra & Chorus of RAI
conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler

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This set contains the following albums:

Click below to expand note:
FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 1. Das Rheingold (1953, Rome) - PACO057

Furtwängler's mighty 1953 Ring Cycle - Part 1: Das Rheingold

An astonishing sonic transformation thanks to XR remastering:
"Until now, the best transfer has been EMI - Pristine’s is in another league"

There are two full recordings of Wagner's Ring cycle conducted by Furtwängler, but neither is the full studio recording planned by EMI to begin in 1954 and left incomplete by the conductor's death at the age of 68 on 30th November of that year. There is a 1950 recording of his La Scala cycle, and this, a series of recordings made for broadcast on Italian radio (RAI) across ten sessions in October and November 1953 in front of a very quiet invited audience. The final broadcasts were cut from both these recordings and taped rehearsal sessions, as chosen by Furtwängler and the RAI engineers the day after recording.

The recordings were broadcast a short time after but were not commercially issued until the early 1970s on LP by EMI. Generally the sound quality I've been able to achieve from these recordings - after some considerable difficulties - has been remarkably fine. However the first Scene is of a dimmer sound quality than the rest of the opera, for reasons which are probably now lost to time. Thereafter, despite some variable and occasionally noticeable (but not intrusive) hiss, the sound is generally excellent for a radio recording of this era.

Andrew Rose

FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 2. Die Walküre (1953, Rome) - PACO058

Furtwängler's mighty 1953 Ring Cycle - Part 2: Die Walküre

Another astonishing 32-bit sonic transformation thanks to XR remastering
"Until now, the best transfer has been EMI - Pristine’s is in another league"

There are two full recordings of Wagner's Ring cycle conducted by Furtwängler, but neither is the full studio recording planned by EMI to begin in 1954 and left incomplete by the conductor's death at the age of 68 on 30th November of that year. There is a 1950 recording of his La Scala cycle, and this, a series of recordings made for broadcast on Italian radio (RAI) across ten sessions in October and November 1953 in front of a very quiet invited audience.

The final broadcasts were cut from both these recordings and taped rehearsal sessions, as chosen by Furtwängler and the RAI engineers the day after recording. The recordings were broadcast a short time after but were not commercially issued until the early 1970s on LP by EMI.

Two CD reissues I've examined closely - EMI in 1990 (reissued without apparent alteration in 2011) and Gebhardt in 2005 - managed between them to reduce the quality achieved by those 1972 LPs. EMI's issue has come under criticism for its dull and rather dead sound, whilst the Gebhardt's choice of equalisation is at best unusual, and the sound quality is - according to one's tastes - either improved or severely degraded by the kind of dynamic compression which more usually graces rock music recordings. The latter, which raises the levels of everything by squashing them all into a smaller dynamic space, has the additional side effect of boosting hiss levels throughout.

Pristine's 32-bit XR remastering aims to avoid these pitfalls: using predictive, ultra-sensitive re-equalisation to tease out of the recording the precise frequencies expected from Die Walküre in the proportions expected of them, it expands the lower frequencies to provide a fuller and more convincing bass whilst extending the upper treble to produce natural clarity and sparkle, whilst avoiding excessive noise or hiss. Although this recording had a number of shortcomings: a tendency to peak distortion in places; a large number of bass thuds and bumps; these have largely been eradicated or ameliorated, and the result is particularly satisfying and enjoyable - especially if you have the Ambient Stereo version!

Andrew Rose

FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 3. Siegfried (1953, Rome) - PACO059

Furtwängler's mighty 1953 Ring Cycle - Part 3: Siegfried

Another astonishing 32-bit sonic transformation thanks to XR remastering
"Pristine deserves nothing but praise for what it has done"


There are two full recordings of Wagner's Ring cycle conducted by Furtwängler, but neither is the full studio recording planned by EMI to begin in 1954 and left incomplete by the conductor's death at the age of 68 on 30th November of that year. There is a 1950 recording of his La Scala cycle, and this, a series of recordings made for broadcast on Italian radio (RAI) across ten sessions in October and November 1953 in front of a very quiet invited audience.

The final broadcasts were cut from both these recordings and taped rehearsal sessions, as chosen by Furtwängler and the RAI engineers the day after recording. The recordings were broadcast a short time after but were not commercially issued until the early 1970s on LP by EMI.

In working on these new Pristine 32-bit XR remasterings I've made a few interesting discoveries and come to a few conclusions. First of all, the recordings were most probably originally recorded onto tape at 30 inches per second, with each reel running for about 15 minutes. The recordings were made an act at a time, and where necessary rehearsal material was cut into the live performance recording prior to broadcast a few days later.

The final masters were preserved as vinyl discs (with metal masters), each side representing a tape reel - at this time it was common to preserve radio broadcasts on disc; the medium was both proven and much less space-hungry than tape, which was expensive and could of course be erased and re-used. Thus when EMI mastered the original 1972 LP release, they worked from tape dubs of new vinyl pressings made from RAI's metal masters, and it is likely that these same tape dubs served for future releases, both on vinyl and CD. Certainly there is more than enough evidence of vinyl origins in EMI's 1990 CDs which matches flaws on their 1972 LPs - swish, clicks etc. The bizarre difference between the two is in badly-dubbed applause at the end of each act, present on the CDs but absent on the LPs. Bizarre indeed - the same canned applause was used at the ends of both Acts Two and Three in the present recording! It also appears in the same form in the Gebhardt CD reissue but is absent here.

Andrew Rose

FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 4. Götterdämmerung (1953, Rome) - PACO060

Furtwängler's mighty 1953 Ring Cycle - Part 4. Götterdämmerung

The monumental finale to this superlative performance
"Pristine deserves nothing but praise for what it has done"


The final instalment in Furtwängler's superb Italian Radio Ring, Götterdämmerung offers for much of its duration perhaps the finest sound of the entire cycle. With each act being recorded on a different day, one notices slight changes in quality, and for me the best of the lot technically, from Das Rheingold onwards, is to be found in the second act here. From a musical point of view it is also interesting to assess how Furtwängler and the Italian orchestra increasingly gel through the performances, and listening to Götterdämmerung leaves little doubt that by this point all the musicians, soloists and conductor were performing with a single, unified vision and purpose.

However, this does not mean to say that Götterdämmerung didn't through up a whole heap of technical difficulties to be addressed. As with all the Ring operas I found hundreds upon hundreds of thumps, like someone stamping on a wooden stage. Götterdämmerung was no exception, though inexplicably not all of the acts in all of the operas suffered this, and here Act Two escaped.

Tape hiss too was barely noticed during Act 2, though a major issue throughout Act 3 and here quite variable. Act 2 suffered other short noise problems which, although simple enough to deal with singly, involved again hundreds of individual, manual interventions and many hours of work. The greatest difficulty, though, was reserved for the final act of the entire Ring - extensive sections of repeated treble dropout at approximately quarter-second intervals, repairable only by hand-selecting each section and boosting it sufficiently to smooth it out - a hugely tedious and time-consuming task. Curiously I noticed the same problem afflicting the first 45 minutes or so of the EMI CD transfer of Act 1, yet it was happily absent from EMI's original 1972 LPs used here.

Overall, the end result I hope more than justifies the time and effort spent in restoring it and remastering it. The transformation here with XR remastering has been quite amazing to hear and hugely rewarding - one embarks on lengthy projects such as this without any firm idea of how much success (or otherwise) one might be fortunate enough to witness. To paraphrase Furtwängler's words slightly, and echo them back to the conductor with perhaps some similar feelings after spending several weeks almost entirely immersed in Wagner, "I hope he would have been satisfied with me"!

Andrew Rose

Click below to expand track listing:
FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 1. Das Rheingold (1953, Rome) - PACO057

WAGNER - Das Rheingold WWV 86A

Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI
conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded by Radio Audizioni Italiane (RAI) 26 October, 1953,
Auditorio del Foro Italico, Rome


CAST

Wotan Ferdinand Frantz
Donner Alfred Poell
Froh Lorenz Fehenberger
Loge Wolfgang Windgassen
Fricka Ira Malaniuk
Freia Elisabeth Grümmer
Erda Ruth Siewert
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger
Mime Julius Patzak
Fasolt Josef Greindl
Fafner Gottlob Frick
Woglinde Sena Jurinac
Wellgunde Magda Gabory
Flosshilde Hilde Rössl-Majdan


FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 2. Die Walküre (1953, Rome) - PACO058

WAGNER -Die Walküre WWV 86B

Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI

conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded by Radio Audizioni Italiane (RAI) 29 October, 3 & 6 November 1953 (plus possible material edited in from ealier rehearsals during this period), Auditorio del Foro Italico, Rome



CAST

Siegmund Wolfgang Windgassen
Hunding Gottlob Frick
Wotan Ferdinand Frantz
Sieglinde Hilde Konetzni
Brünnhilde Martha Mödl
Fricka Elsa Cavelti
Helmwige Judith Hellwig
Ortlinde Magda Gabory
Gerhilde Gerda Scheyrer
Waltraute Dagmar Schmedes
Siegrune Olga Bennings
Rossweisse Ira Malaniuk
Grimgerde Elsa Cavelti
Schwertleite Hilde Rössl-Majdan


FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 3. Siegfried (1953, Rome) - PACO059

WAGNER - Siegfried WWV 86C

Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI

conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded by Radio Audizioni Italiane (RAI) 10, 13 & 17 November 1953 (plus possible material edited in from ealier rehearsals during this period), Auditorio del Foro Italico, Rome


CAST

Siegfried Ludwig Suthaus
Wanderer Ferdinand Frantz
Mime Julius Patzak
Alberich Alois Pernerstorfer
Fafner Josef Greindl
Woodbird Rita Streich
Brünnhilde Martha Mödl
Erda Margarete Klose


FURTWÄNGLER Wagner Ring Cycle: 4. Götterdämmerung (1953, Rome) - PACO060

WAGNER - Götterdämmerung WWV 86D

Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI

conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recorded by Radio Audizioni Italiane (RAI) 20, 24 & 27 November 1953 (plus possible material edited in from ealier rehearsals during this period), Auditorio del Foro Italico, Rome



CAST

Siegfried Ludwig Suthaus
Gunther Alfred Poell
Hagen Josef Greindl
Brünnhilde Martha Mödl
Gutrune Sena Jurinac
Waltraute Margarete Klose
First Norn Margarete Klose
Second Norn Hilde Rössl-Majdan
Third Norn Sena Jurinac
Alberich Alois Pernerstorfer
Woglinde Sena Jurinac
Wellgunde Magda Gabory
Flosshilde Hilde Rössl-Majdan