RSO Berlin, Marek Janowski – Wagner: Das Rheingold (2012) 2x SACD ISO

Richard Wagner – Das Rheingold WWV 86a
Tomasz Konieczny / Christian Elsner / Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin / Marek Janowski
2xSACD ISO (2.0/MCH): 6,49 GB | Full Artwork
Label/Cat#: Pentatone # PTC 5186 406 | Country/Year: Netherlands 2012
Genre: Classical | Style: Romantic, Opera

PentaTone’s epic project, to record the ten mature Wagner operas in concert performances conducted by Marek Janowski, has now been completed. The six operas already issued have garnered wide critical acclaim, and Wagnerians eagerly awaiting the release on SACD of the four operas that comprise ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ are unlikely to be disappointed by this first instalment of the cycle – ‘Das Rheingold’.

I was fortunate to attend the performance of this opera given on November 22nd, 2012 in the Philharmonie, Berlin from which this recording derives (and, incidentally, the even more gripping Die Walküre performed two nights later that is planned to be the next release in this series). These two SACDs convey as vivid a realisation of the live event as one could wish for – minus any audience noise or applause. They attest to the success of recording opera in this way rather than live in the opera house (Fisch Wagner: Das Rheingold – Fisch and Haenchen Wagner: Das Rheingold – Haenchen) where stage noise can be disturbing and microphone placing difficult, or in the studio (Solti Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen – Solti) where some of the spontaneity of a live performance must inevitably evaporate.

In terms of recorded sound this issue matches the standard of the previous releases. Voices, by and large, are very well balanced with the orchestra though the spatial limitations of the Philharmonie platform means that the impression of stage movement is somewhat limited. Cheesy electronic effects as found on the Solti recording are thankfully absent, but I do regret the absence of spine-chilling screams of the Nibelungen in Scene 3 as these are specified in the stage directions in the score. However, the thrilling sound of the seventeen percussionists playing anvils during the descent into Nibelheim was a more than adequate compensation.

For ‘Das Rheingold’ Janowski has assembled a very fine cast with no weak links; one, in fact, that is as good if not better than any likely to found in the world’s opera houses today.
The finest singing on this recording unquestionably comes from the Polish baritone Tomasz Konieczny who on the basis of his performance here is set to become one of the great Wotans of our time. His voice is rich and dark in timbre, his diction immaculate and throughout he conveys an appropriate god-like nobility. As his wife ‘Fricka’, Iris Vermillion sings with passionate involvement, but some squally moments occasionally mar her otherwise accomplished assumption of the role and it must also be admitted that occasionally she does sound a tad matronly.

In the important role of ‘Loge’ Christian Elsner is as impressive as he was as ‘Parsifal’. He captures the character’s wiliness, but never resorts to caricature, and he deliver’s Loge’s narration ‘Immer ist Undank’ (Disc 1 tr. 13) with a winning bel canto elegance – quite an achievement.

Jochen Schmeckenbecher is an excellent Alberich, sounding rather more youthful than some of the singers one often encounters in this role. He is able to convey the character’s many facets – from initial lust to eventual rage and bitterness – most convincingly and without unwarranted exaggeration.

The Rhinemaidens are a spirited trio, with the Flosshilde of the rich-voiced Brazilian contralto Kismara Pessatti being especially memorable. Andreas Conrad turns in a convincing and characterful ‘Mime’ and the minor gods and giants are uniformly praiseworthy.

Janowski’s control of his forces and pacing of the work is superb, and he constantly illuminates many inner details of Wagner’s score with a skill acquired only through long experience of conducting this composer’s music. He moves the drama forward with considerable momentum, but avoids the sudden frenetic bursts of energy that mark sections of Solti’s venerable recording – overall his timing is just five minutes shorter than Solti.

As on the previous six issues, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin play magnificently for their artistic leader and chief conductor. Each section of this orchestra possess a finespun tonal refinement and remarkable litheness that makes the most of the opportunities Wagner offers them in this work.

This recording augurs the promise of an outstanding ‘Ring des Nibelungen’ for the 21st Century, and as such can be wholeheartedly recommended.

Copyright © 2013 Graham Williams and

Disc 1
1 Vorspiel 4:13
2 Weia! Waga! 2:25
3 Garstig glatter glitschiger Glimmer! 4:58
4 Wallala! Lalaleia! 2:23
5 Lugt, Schwestern! Die Weckerin lacht 5:45
6 Der Welt Erbe gewänne zu eigen 1:47
7 Orchesterzwischenspiel 3:45
8 Wotan, Gemahl, erwache! 1:51
9 Nur Wonne schafft dir, was mich erschreckt? 6:19
10 Sanft schloss Schlaf dein Aug’ 7:02
11 Zu mir, Freia! 1:38
12 Endlich, Loge! 3:27
13 Immer ist Undank Loges Lohn! 5:30
14 Taugte wohl des goldnen Tandes 4:15
15 Hör’, Wotan, der Harrenden Wort! 4:38
16 Jetzt fand’ ich’s 3:51
17 Verwandlungsmusik 2:37
18 Hehe! Hehe! 4:08

Disc 2
1 Wer hälfe mir? 3:32
2 Mit eurem Gefrage 2:28
3 Was wollt ihr hier? 4:35
4 Habt acht! Habt acht! 4:41
5 Riesenwurm winde sich ringelnd 3:34
6 Verwandlungsmusik 3:19
7 Da, Vetter, sitze du fest! 3:10
8 Wohlan, die Nibelungen rief ich mir nah’ 3:16
9 Zu deiner Lösung musst du ihn lassen 4:37
10 Bin ich nun frei? 4:03
11 Lauschtest du seinem Liebesgruß? 3:07
12 Halt! Nicht sie berührt! 3:18
13 Nicht so leicht und locker gefügt! 2:01
14 Freia, die Schöne 2:41
15 Weiche, Wotan! Weiche! 5:30
16 Hört, ihr Riesen! 3:22
17 Furchtbar nun erfind’ ich des Fluches Kraft! 2:27
18 Schwüles Gedünst schwebt in der Luft 2:45
19 Zur Burg führt die Brücke 4:23
20 Rheingold! Rheingold! 3:05

Live-Mitschnitt der konzertanten Aufführung vom 22. Novmeber 2012 in der Philharmonie Berlin.

Wagner: Das Rheingold

Tomasz Konyechuni (Wotan)
Christian Elsner (Loge)
Iris Vermillion (Fricka)
Gunter Groissbock (Fasolt)
Jochen Schmeckenbecher (Alberich)
Andreas Conrad (Mime)
Antonio Yang (Donner)
Kor-Jan Dusseljee (Froh)
Ricarda Merbeth (Freia)
Maria Radner (Erda)
Timo Riihonen (Fafner)
Julia Borchert (Woglinde)
Katharina Kammerloher (Wellgunde)
Kismara Pessatti (Floßhilde)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin
Marek Janowski