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Thread: Help Choosing a First Ring Cycle (Not Solti)

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    Smile Help Choosing a First Ring Cycle (Not Solti)

    Okay, here goes, long time lurker, rare poster. I'm looking to buy my FIRST complete Ring Cycle. I've watched the 1990 Met performance (James Morris, Siegfried Jerusalem, et al) and I liked it. I would like an audio recording (not of that particular show). I've been searching using Amazon and Spotify to find a Ring worth buying. My rules were thus:

    1) Not the Solti recording. I don't like his thunderous style of conducting.

    2) Good Sound quality (this nips some recordings like the live Furtwangler and a noisy Knappertsbusch).

    3) Reasonable (75$ or less) price.

    So after all that searching, here are 3 Rings that I have looked at and think might be good. I'd like your replies and maybe some alternate choices.

    1) Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden: has Theo Adam, Jessye Norman, Siegfried Jerusalem, and Jeannine Altemeyer as Brunnhilde. Stereo, DDD recording from the 80s. I find it has a nice separation and is easy to follow. This has good audio quality and a decent cast. It's also a steal and has librettos and all. Suspicious of such a good price. It is RCA though.

    2) Clemens Krauss, 1953 Bayreuth. Mono, live but without audience. It's on Opera D'Oro so I don't know the quality of the discs. This one has slightly less quality but has Hans Hotter as Wotan, Windgassen as Siegfried and Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde. I like this one quite a bit. Bayreuth just sounds different. Can't explain it. Another nice package, I like the art.

    3) Böhm, Bayreuth 1966/67. Live recording, Stereo (I think). This is (if I understand) a Decca reissue of a Phillips set. Sadly this has no libretto (big minus) but the sound is good and it's got the stars: Birgit Nilsson, Windgassen, Theo Adam, and a bunch of others.

    If you guys know anything more about these or have another recommend (under 75$) I would appreciate it. Thanks.

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    The Krauss has ok mono sound. Voices ahead of orchestra. Not a good FIRST choice.

    The Bohm has excellent sound, no libretti tho. The most exciting RING.

    The Janowski has good sound and libretti, but I didn't care for it much. But if you like it, its a GREAT deal.

    The Barenboim has fantastic sound no libretti.
    Last edited by Itullian; Dec-22-2013 at 16:15.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Senior Member GioCar's Avatar
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    Among the 3 Rings you mentioned, I'd have no doubt, I'd choose the Boehm.
    Very good (stereo) sound, outstanding singers (much better than the Janowski Dresden edition).
    I am not a great fan of Boehm, but in this case he did a very good job IMO. At 75$ or less it's a real bargain.

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    As already mentioned. I'm not really sold on Bohm's rigid conducting but he does do a tidy job with this. The pick of the cycles that were recorded for CD is possibly Barenboim.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Couac Addict View Post
    As already mentioned. I'm not really sold on Bohm's rigid conducting but he does do a tidy job with this. The pick of the cycles that were recorded for CD is possibly Barenboim.
    I agree, but I thought there was a budget limit.

    I don't know if with Barenboim you can stay below 75$.

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    Barenboim is around 50 dollars.
    Great RING. no libretti
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    You would not be happy with 53 Krauss Ring live mono sound quality on opera d oro
    (Pristine Classical XR remaster much better sound but very expensive)

    Bohm has very good live sound and performance for super low price, $35 at Amazon USA sellers
    Janowski also super cheap in newest Sony budget boxset, but Bohm is preferred choice for me (you can buy both new for $60)

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Dec-22-2013 at 23:39.

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    Well Solti's set is my favorite. I also like Karajan and Barenboim. Böhm is ok. Great singing, ok orchestral, ok sound. Barenboim is awesome. Amazing sound, wonderful conducting and very good signing. Janowski's set is a dreadful bore with a pretty weak Brunnhilde. Krauss is great, but subpar sound. It's a shame you don't like Solti. I'd give Barenboim your utmost consideration. Or Karajan.

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    If the Solti Ring is too much for you, then Sawallisch (available in the EMI great Wagner Opera box) or Haitink.
    Böhm is a live performance and I think for one's first Ring, a good studio recording with libretto is necessary.
    Alternatively the Karajan Ring is top class in every way. It was billed as the antidote to Solti back then.

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    Well Solti's set is my favorite. I also like Karajan and Barenboim. Böhm is ok. Great singing (except for an awful Wotan), ok orchestral playing, ok sound. Barenboim is awesome. Amazing sound, wonderful conducting and very good signing. Janowski's set is a dreadful bore with a pretty weak Brunnhilde and the same awful Wotan Böhm has). Krauss is great, but subpar sound. It's a shame you don't like Solti. I'd give Barenboim your utmost consideration. Or Karajan. Karajan"s set I consider the 2nd best overall, after Solti. Barenboim would be my 3rd choice. I have 14 Ring Cycle recordings FYI, including the ones the OP mentioned.
    Last edited by gellio; Dec-23-2013 at 00:49.

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    Default Three bargains for you to consider

    I have a dozen complete Rings including the New limited “Super” edition SOLTI and the new 2013 Thielemann. I love Solti, and Karajan but there are interesting less expensive Ring Cycles you should consider.

    Bargain 1. Hans Swarowsky (on mp3 at Amazon for $ 11.95)
    Very clear sound and decent performances and a true bargain. (a few tech glitches but look at the price)

    Bargain 2: Marek Janowski and Staatskapelle Dresden 2013 (on Amazon for $ 33.51)

    Get the edition with the Stewart Spencer librettos. They are excellent.
    I disagree with many of the reviewers who dislike this set. There are some outstanding performances in this edition and the sound is excellent. I would not call Janowski’s conducting dull.

    Bargain 3: Karl Bohm and Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele (2010) Get the newer Decca box set (on Amazon for about $ 45.00)

    Very good performances but too much stage noise for my liking.


    If you like BEAUTIFUL sound, then Karajan is your man. You can pick up each SEPARATE opera from secondary sellers for much less than the complete set. (The Karajan Siegfried is only $ 11.00 on Amazon from a secondary seller and Gotterdammerung is about $ 16.00)

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    Quote Originally Posted by leepee View Post
    I have a dozen complete Rings including the New limited “Super” edition SOLTI and the new 2013 Thielemann. I love Solti, and Karajan but there are interesting less expensive Ring Cycles you should consider.

    Bargain 1. Hans Swarowsky (on mp3 at Amazon for $ 11.95)
    Very clear sound and decent performances and a true bargain. (a few tech glitches but look at the price)

    Bargain 2: Marek Janowski and Staatskapelle Dresden 2013 (on Amazon for $ 33.51)

    Get the edition with the Stewart Spencer librettos. They are excellent.
    I disagree with many of the reviewers who dislike this set. There are some outstanding performances in this edition and the sound is excellent. I would not call Janowski’s conducting dull.

    Bargain 3: Karl Bohm and Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele (2010) Get the newer Decca box set (on Amazon for about $ 45.00)

    Very good performances but too much stage noise for my liking.


    If you like BEAUTIFUL sound, then Karajan is your man. You can pick up each SEPARATE opera from secondary sellers for much less than the complete set. (The Karajan Siegfried is only $ 11.00 on Amazon from a secondary seller and Gotterdammerung is about $ 16.00)
    Can you please provide a link for the Swarowsky? I can't seem to find the complete set for $11.

    Re: Janowsky - despite the conducting (we we disagree on) and some fine singing - an inadequate Brunnhilde, Wotan and Siegfried make this set a huge disappointment.

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    I actually had the Swarovsky at one point (on MP3) but without much cast info and no libretto and a less than amazing sound I don't listen to it.

    The Karajan sounds good but it's out of my price range. The Barenboim is closer to what I was looking for. But I was reading that the reissue doesn't have a libretto. So far the Janowski looks best. Are these the same? The one on left is a reissue on RCA. I think it's the same recording as the one at right from Phillips.

    71qMmu73yeL._SL1338_.jpg 51VeMuMrSoL.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tehzim View Post
    I actually had the Swarovsky at one point (on MP3) but without much cast info and no libretto and a less than amazing sound I don't listen to it.

    The Karajan sounds good but it's out of my price range. The Barenboim is closer to what I was looking for. But I was reading that the reissue doesn't have a libretto. So far the Janowski looks best. Are these the same? The one on left is a reissue on RCA. I think it's the same recording as the one at right from Phillips.

    71qMmu73yeL._SL1338_.jpg 51VeMuMrSoL.jpg
    They are the same.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

    "Life's a long song, but the tune ends too soon for us all." Ian Anderson lyric

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." Hamlet

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    This one is easy. If not Solti, then Bohm.

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