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Thread: Ring cycle : Barenboim vs. Levine vs. Karajan oh my!

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    Karajan, Barenboim, Levine in that order.
    "...it is said that first your heart sings, then you play. I think if it is not like that, then it is only just combination of notes, isn't it? " - Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Master of the Sitar.

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    Senior Member Faustian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    It has to be Barenboim out of those choices. Levine is ok, but there isn't a sense of a unified structure of the cycle as a whole, each opera and each act of each opera.

    Von Karajan's is a beautiful reading as others have said, but I feel it lacks drama.
    I would agree with this. I don't think the entire Levine cycle is necessary at all, and have always found him to be rather slow and stodgy as a Wagner conductor.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    How about Boulez?

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    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Becca View Post
    How about Boulez?
    400.00 ?.........
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Senior Member Becca's Avatar
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    by it on DVD and rip it to a set of CDs

    but then I wasn't discussing relative price, rather the cycle itself

  7. #21
    Senior Member Faustian's Avatar
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    The Boulez isn't really a top contender for me personally; the singing is of variable quality, and Boulez's conducting is sometimes ardent, sometimes more interested in texture than dramatic cogency.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    It has to be Barenboim out of those choices. Levine is ok, but there isn't a sense of a unified structure of the cycle as a whole, each opera and each act of each opera.

    Von Karajan's is a beautiful reading as others have said, but I feel it lacks drama.

    I think overall Barenboim has the better singers, he manages to make the whole cycle seem like a single phrase, whilst also bringing more passionate drama and excitement to the music. The transitions from scene to scene are seamless and he gets the most out of singers, some of whom I'm not particularly fond of elsewhere.

    Perhaps if you tell us which is your favourite Wagner recording we can advise on which of those cycles will probably appeal to you best.

    N.
    You are joking of course????

  9. #23
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    The Karajan is the one which comes off the shelf when I'm in the Wagner mood. He makes the music more human than others. I can almost love it rather than just admire it. One or two cast weaknesses but nothing really serious. Walkure is absolute magic with voices different to usual and Act 3 of Siegfried has a radiance that is simply unmatched. Wonderful Immolation too. Karajan was a great Wagner conductor.
    Janowski is very good, very consistent in casting, although Altimeyer is a tad over parted as Brunnhilde.
    Solti is dynamic but I do feel a bit battered after listening to it. His cast could mostly not be bettered though for traditional Wagner voices. However, Hotter's wobbly Wotan (caught too late) and Stoltz's screeching Mime are serious drawbacks for me.
    Bohm has much the same cast with a better Mime in Wolfhart and a steady wotan in Adam. However, Bohm rushes through allowing too little reflection and light and shade.
    I have Barenboim on DVD and it is a generally superb production, well sung, though I have not heard it in audio only.
    Bohm

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    Senior Member Steatopygous's Avatar
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    Sonata, I've only been here a short time, but what I've learned is that this place is enjoyably peopled by obsessives like myself. If you are like us, you will end up getting all three, plus Solti and a 1950s set, probably one of Keilberth's.
    So just go with the flow and surrender to the inevitable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    You are joking of course????
    No, I think we have both observed before now that I find some of Karajan's recordings too refined, and the stylish (almost classical) way he sometimes conducted romantic rep lacks drama for me. I have observed that you (and Greg) both find that Mozartian slant of Karajan's the epitome of dramatic excitement. We both agree on the refinement, but not on that approach making the work more dramatic.

    N.

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  14. #26
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Conte View Post
    No, I think we have both observed before now that I find some of Karajan's recordings too refined, and the stylish (almost classical) way he sometimes conducted romantic rep lacks drama for me. I have observed that you (and Greg) both find that Mozartian slant of Karajan's the epitome of dramatic excitement. We both agree on the refinement, but not on that approach making the work more dramatic.

    N.
    Well just listen to the funeral march in Gotterdamerung.

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    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    With just those three as options, I'd get the Karajan, Barenboim, Levine in that order.

    But I'd pick the Bohm over all three by a pretty significant margin. You're right that Bohm has the reputation as a speed merchant, but I wonder how valid that reputation is now that Wagner fandom has had a while to absorb performance practice at Bayreuth in the classic post-war period where everyone other than Knappertsbusch was taking the Ring at similar timpi to Bohm's.

    Those cycles from Krauss and Keilberth and Kempe are great but Bohm has the benefit of the greater Brunnhilde (in my book, the *greatest* Brunnhilde, better than Varnay and Modl by a pretty large margin) at the loss of the greatest Wotan in Hotter, who is uniquely wonderful in the role. I think that's a good tradeoff but I know others disagree. The sound quality is orders of magnitude better in the Bohm than in any of the Bayreuth cycles from the 50s, including the 1955 stereo cycle from Keilberth.

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  17. #28
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    With just those three as options, I'd get the Karajan, Barenboim, Levine in that order.

    But I'd pick the Bohm over all three by a pretty significant margin. You're right that Bohm has the reputation as a speed merchant, but I wonder how valid that reputation is now that Wagner fandom has had a while to absorb performance practice at Bayreuth in the classic post-war period where everyone other than Knappertsbusch was taking the Ring at similar timpi to Bohm's.

    Those cycles from Krauss and Keilberth and Kempe are great but Bohm has the benefit of the greater Brunnhilde (in my book, the *greatest* Brunnhilde, better than Varnay and Modl by a pretty large margin) at the loss of the greatest Wotan in Hotter, who is uniquely wonderful in the role. I think that's a good tradeoff but I know others disagree. The sound quality is orders of magnitude better in the Bohm than in any of the Bayreuth cycles from the 50s, including the 1955 stereo cycle from Keilberth.
    The problem with Bohm is not the speed as Krauss was also swift. The problem is the lack of light and shade. This may be partly due to the recording which is not one of Bayreuth's best.

  18. #29
    Senior Member Sonata's Avatar
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    I went ahead and ordered Barenboim yesterday!! There was a good sale on opera at Presto Classical and I got it for 43 dollars including shopping.

    I am very excited to have a complete set on the way. I finally "get" Wagner. The good news: all sorts of Ring cycles on Amazon music so I'll definitely get a taste of other versions too.

    I'd like Karajan but decided I can't justify the price right now....I might buy it one at a time later on if I decide I need more!

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    Senior Member Orfeo's Avatar
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    Barenboim: great singing, great orchestra, great sound and overall presentation, very nice dramatic flow.
    Levine (DVD/DG): close in contention with Barenboim, though not as erratic as Barenboim is in places. Love Siegfried Jerusalem, Hildegard Behrens, Jessie Norman, James Morris, et al. A very nice German tradition performance-wise. His audio recordings of the Ring pale in comparison: too light and not as convincing as that 1989 MET production.
    Karajan: Nice clarity in the orchestral response, but why the different singers playing the particular roles. Annoying and perplexing.

    So it's Barenboim all the way.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

    ~All good art is about something deeper than it admits.
    Roger Ebert

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