KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle & Parsifal (Bayreuth, 1953) - PABX004

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KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle & Parsifal (Bayreuth, 1953) - PABX004

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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
WAGNER Parsifal

Recorded in 1953

conducted by Clemens Krauss
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus

Save 5% when you purchase the complete Ring & Parsifal

This set contains the following albums:

Click below to expand note:
KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 1. Das Rheingold (1953) - PACO039

Stunning sonic makeover for this classic Wagner recording

First opera in Krauss' classic 1953 Bayreuth Ring cycle - among the finest ever


This recording is part of what has long been regarded as one of the key Ring cycles, certainly of the mono era, but also more generally. A review by Steve Taylor at the Wagner Discography website states:

...it is certainly one of the great Rings. What makes it great? Firstly it has to be the cast of singers. I doubt that there has been a greater cast at Bayreuth in all the years since World War II. Astrid Varnay is nothing less than outstanding as Brünnhilde. She clearly has an intimate understanding of the role is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

Wolfgang Windgassen sings Siegfried. It is his first appearance in the role and he is heard to better advantage in other recordings. The thing that makes him special in this recording is his youthfulness. He is at his best in the first two acts of Siegfried but is also able to portray well the more mature character in Götterdämmerung. This is the performance of a major star in the making.

Towering over them both vocally as well as physically is the Wotan of Hans Hotter. He is at his prime here and it is worth buying the set for him alone. His singing in this set often astounds me. To my mind the best Wotan recorded. By the time he recorded with Solti he was past his peak. Listen to this and you will know exactly what I mean! All the other singers are equally fine. Josef Greindl (Hagen), Paul Kuen (Mime) Gustav Neidlinger (Alberich) deserve special mention. Only the Sieglinde of Regina Resnik fails to impress but this is a minor problem.

The conducting throughout is solid and Krauss gives the work the full structure which is needed. If there are any weaknesses in his reading they show up in Götterdämmerung. This was the first and only Ring which Kraus conducted at Bayreuth and he was clearly out to impress. His Parsifal of the same year was a record breaker. It was 23 minutes quicker than the previous record holder, his friend, Richard Strauss. No such haste with his reading of the Ring! It is a tragedy that he was to die the following year and we do not have any more Ring recordings by him.

However, he does go on to comment on the sound, labelling it as merely "acceptable". Meanwhile a correspondent and friend of this site wrote directly to me a short time ago:

"The Krauss 1953 Ring needs you. I think that Krauss' stock is rising, and you have already done him noble service. Now is the time for the killer edition of his Ring. Who better than you?"

I decided to investigate the possibility and started out with a few test settings for XR remastering. Quickly realising that these recordings most certainly could benefit enormously from this type of remastering I decided to bite the bullet and begin work on what we expect to become Pristine's first full Ring cycle.

The results are often astonishing - like the lifting of multiple layers of grime from an old painting to see bright colours resplendent beneath. Gone is the boxiness of previous issues, and in its place is a full and deep bass alongside a greatly extended treble, with huge impact on clarity of both voices and instruments, coupled with great dramatic impact.

Thanks to our download system we're also able to present the opera in a completely uninterrupted format both for FLAC and MP3 purchasers. The CDs are faded in such a way as to slightly overlap at the end of Scene Two and start of Scene Three, but nothing is lost here either.

This opera is of course already available - in its full cycle - on budget-priced CDs. I think when you hear the advances I've managed to make for this release you'll consider it an investment of time and effort worthy of your consideration.

Andrew Rose


KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 2. Die Walküre (1953) - PACO040

One of the greatest recorded performances of Die Walküre

An astonishing sonic resurrection of this all-time classic - superb in all respects


A few short weeks before this recording was issued we took our first tentative steps in the remastering of this, one of the greatest Ring cycles of all time, with our issue of Das Rheingold. Noting that the entire cycle was available elsewhere at budget price, the decision to spend the enormous time and effort involved in producing a full XR remastering of these increasingly lengthy operas was taken with some trepidation. I wanted to be absolutely sure that I could bring a major transformation to the sound quality of the recordings - one which not only satisfied me, but also the legions of Wagner lovers who already knew these recordings well.

The responses to that first Rheingold issue were nothing if not encouraging:

"...the Krauss is my favourite Ring of the moment, and I own it in two other incarnations, so I am in a good position to judge the improvements that Andrew Rose has achieved. The sound is more open and focused than ever before and it is a real treat to hear the finest singers of their generation sing their signature roles in a faithful representation of the Bayreuth ‘noise’. The audio spectrum has been cleaned at the top and opened out at the bottom. Hans Hotter sings his best Wotan, slightly more sensitively than for Keilberth in the Testament stereo Ring, and in far fresher voice than for Solti in the 1960s. Astrid Varnay is marvellous as Brunnhilde, and has the benefit of really attentive, flexible conducting. Clemens Krauss’ approach may not be to everyone’s taste, being at the other end of the tempo spectrum to Knappertsbusch, but to my ears the naturalness of what he does serves the composer without drawing attention to itself..."

"...I just downloaded and played he 53 Krauss Rheingold that you recently released. it is utterly fantastic! Much more alive than the CDs out there. When will Die Walkure be released?..."

"Yesterday I downloaded your XR remastering of Das Rheingold. What a superb job you have done with it. I own the Krauss Ring on Archipel, but what an astonishing improvement the Pristine version means. I just would let you know, since I am so enthusiastic about it. Looking forward to Die Walküre!..."

Since these initial comments from listeners, I've been continually nagged by e-mails requesting Die Walküre, and naturally given the success of Das Rheingold, I was somewhat nervous with regard to my ability to match up to that standard.

I should not have been. If anything, this was a better-made recording to begin with. This of course makes sense - recorded a day after the first Ring opera, the opportunity would have been there to make adjustments to microphone placement and recording equipment based on the experience of the previous day's taping.

As a result, Die Walküre frequently surpasses Das Rheingold in overall sound quality - it truly sounds wonderful throughout. I've managed to deal with various faults which existed in the recording - hums, high frequency tones, occasional drop-outs, a tendency to high-frequency 'fuzz' around 10kHz, and removed a number of coughs and other intrusions.

But above all the delight for this listener of this new remastering will be the absolute clarity and stunning sound quality of the whole - the perfect balance of orchestra and voice for which Bayreuth was designed is conveyed brilliantly in one of the finest opera recordings and performances I've ever heard.


Andrew Rose


KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 3. Siegfried (1953) - PACO041

The legendary Windgassen's first appearance as Siegfried

Krauss keeps up his incredibly high standard in this third Ring installment


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.

Andrew Rose

KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 4. Götterdämmerung (1953) - PACO042

The conclusion of Krauss's legendary 1953 Ring cycle

A superb Götterdämmerung in excellent XR-remastered sound


This recording of Götterdämmerung is another astonishingly well-captured document of Krauss in Bayreuth that was just waiting to be released from the sonic straight-jacket of previous presentations. Computer analysis of the tonal response of the entire 4hr 20min recording, a crucial first step in an XR remastering, revealed a basic shortcoming in both the bass and lower midrange and at the very top of the audible range. Using the immortal Solti Decca recording of Götterdämmerung as a guide - as well as referencing the previous three Krauss Ring operas released by Pristine - I was able to re-equalise the recording to bring out these previously somewhat submerged frequencies, allowing the performance to be heard in its full glory for perhaps the first time.

As is quite usual in this kind of work, the remastering also shone a light on one or two shortcomings of the original tapes, where mild cyclical semi-dropout affected the beginning of the opera for a few minutes, and was detected later in the recording as well, again for a relatively short time. There was one other spot where the tape sounded less than totally smooth, but for the vast majority of the recording there were no such worries. Having dealt with rumble and tape hiss and applied Ambient Stereo processing I was able to sit back and enjoy the experience with minimal further intervention bar the excising of the odd cough and sneeze from the audience.

A truly memorable recording to end one of the great Ring cycles, one that can at last be heard in its full glory. As I've commented before, this Ring can of course be obtained at budget price elsewhere, but without the advances that this remastering has brought to the cycle it can only ever be a somewhat thin and murky second-best listening experience by comparison.


P.S. During the summer festival of 1953 in Bayreuth, Krauss also conducted Wagner's Parsifal. During the weeks that I've been working on the Ring I've had e-mails requesting that, upon its conclusion, I consider tackling this recording as well. I'm pleased to report that at the time of writing work is well underway on Parsifal, and we (just a little tentatively) expect to have this ready for issue quite shortly.

Andrew Rose

KRAUSS Wagner: Parsifal (1953) - PACO043

Clemens Krauss' excellent, swiftly-paced 1953 Parsifal

Conductor's first Bayreuth appearance, just days before his epic Ring cycle


Following a number of requests, we decided to add this recording of Parsifal to our 1953 Krauss series, following the huge success with his Ring cycle, reissued here over the last few months - "...this enterprising remastering by Pristine Audio goes a long way towards countering those objections [on grounds of sound quality] and will for many permit this famous cycle to take its place at the head of a long line..." (MusicWeb International).

I noted an improvement in sound quality through the Ring cycle - one assumes that after each performance the engineers would have had opportunity to fine-tune both their equipment, its location and its settings. The Parsifal concert, which predates the Ring by a couple of weeks, would not have had that advantage. (I should note here that the date is based on detective work by a number of experts, who agree that it is most likely a recording of a transmission by Bavarian Radio, who broadcast the first performances of all of the Bayreuth Festival at that time in the 1950s - though he did conduct the opera twice more with the same cast, on 2nd and 15th August.)

Thus technically we're more or less at the same stage of development as Das Rheingold, with a sound which is at times not as up-front as might be liked. The recording was also quite hissy in places, and for lengthy periods suffered from a high-pitched whine, rumbling bottom end, mains hum and other assorted faults, all of which I've endeavoured to either cure or alleviate considerably.

I will refrain from commenting on the performance itself beyond a personal if rather uninformed view that I enjoyed it - I'm sure far more experienced and erudite commentators will no doubt bring great experience to bear over the next few weeks, and excerpts from the critics will be added to this page as they become available. However I do feel adequately qualified to make specific note of the remarkably swift pace at which Krauss moves in this, his first concert appearance at a Bayreuth Festival:

I used as musical and tonal reference the 1973 Decca recording of the opera with Solti - this also served as a template for my track markings (always a tricky job when music is as lengthy and continuous as here). Placing the two recordings side-by-side it was immediately apparent that there was a huge time discrepancy. Solti comes in a full 25 minutes longer than Krauss at 4hr 20min to Krauss's 3hr 55min. The swifter pace here is to be found throughout the opera - almost every track (and we've selected the same in points for each of the 47 tracks here as with the Decca CD issue) comes in quite a lot shorter, yet there are no (apparent) cuts or changes to the score (naturally - this is of course a Bayreuth production!).

A quick scan of other recordings shows this to be perhaps one of the swiftest Parsifals ever recorded - checking out the information in my Gramophone Good CD and Download Guide I find the next fastest to be Knappertsbusch's 1962 recording - widely regarded as the benchmark - which is some 15 minutes slower at 4hr 10min. Thereafter we have Karajan (1979/80) at 4hr 16min, the aforementioned Solti, and slowest of all, Thielemann (live, 2005) at 4hr 22min.

How this will play with the experts I will be very interested indeed to see - but if you like your Wagner crisp, swift and with a superlative cast, many of whom went on to deliver one of the finest Ring Cycles of all time, then this recording is surely one for your consideration.

Andrew Rose


Click below to expand track listing:
KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 1. Das Rheingold (1953) - PACO039


  • WAGNER - Das Rheingold WWV 86A

    Wotan - Hans Hotter
    Donner - Hermann Uhde
    Froh - Gerhard Stolze
    Loge - Erich Witte
    Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger
    Mime - Paul Kuen
    Fasolt - Ludwig Weber
    Fafner - Josef Greindl
    Fricka - Ira Malaniuk
    Freia - Bruni Falcon
    Erda - Maria von Ilosvay
    Woglinde - Erika Zimmermann
    Wellgunde - Hetty Plümacher
    Flosshilde - Gisela Litz

    Choir and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
    conductor Clemens Krauss


Live concert recording, Bayreuth Festival, 8th August 1953


KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 2. Die Walküre (1953) - PACO040
  • WAGNER - Die Walküre WWV 86B

    Siegmund - Ramón Vinay
    Sieglinde - Regina Resnik
    Wotan - Hans Hotter
    Brünnhilde - Astrid Varnay
    Hunding - Josef Greindl
    Fricka - Ira Malaniuk
    Gerhilde - Brünnhild Friedland
    Ortlinde - Bruni Falcon
    Waltraute - Lise Sorrell
    Schwertleite - Maria von Ilosvay
    Helmwige - Liselotte Thomamüller
    Siegrune - Gisela Litz
    Grimgerde - Sibylla Plate
    Rossweisse - Erika Schubert

    Choir and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
    conductor Clemens Krauss

Live concert recording, Bayreuth Festival, 9th August 1953


KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 3. Siegfried (1953) - PACO041


  • WAGNER - Siegfried WWV 86C

    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


KRAUSS Wagner Ring Cycle: 4. Götterdämmerung (1953) - PACO042
  • WAGNER - Götterdämmerung WWV 86D

    Brünnhilde - Astrid Varnay
    Siegfried - Wolfgang Windgassen
    Hagen - Josef Greindl
    Alberich - Gustav Neidlinger
    Gunther - Hermann Uhde
    Gutrune - Natalie Hinsch-Gröndahl
    Waltraute - Ira Malaniuk
    Woglinde - Erika Zimmermann
    Wellgunde - Hetty Plümacher
    Floßhilde - Gisela Litz
    1. Norne - Maria von Ilosvay
    2. Norne - Ira Malaniuk
    3. Norne - Regina Resnik


    Choir and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
    conductor Clemens Krauss


KRAUSS Wagner: Parsifal (1953) - PACO043
  • WAGNER - Parsifal WWV 111

    Amfortas - George London
    Titurel - Josef Greindl
    Gurnemanz - Ludwig Weber
    Parsifal - Ramón Vinay
    Klingsor - Hermann Uhde
    Kundry - Martha Mödl
    Altsolo - Maria von Ilosvay
    Gralsritter - Gene Tobin
    Gralsritter - Theo Adam
    Knappe - Hetty Plümacher
    Knappe - Gisela Litz
    Knappe - Hugo Kratz
    Knappe - Gerhard Stolze
    Blume - Rita Streich
    Blume - Erika Zimmermann
    Blume - Hetty Plümacher
    Blume - Anna Tassopoulos
    Blume - Gerda Wismar
    Blume - Gisela Litz


    Choir and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival
    conductor Clemens Krauss

Live concert broadcast recording, Bayreuth Festival, 24th July 1953