Happy Birthday, Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
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In recognition of Richard Wagner’s birthday, (born May 22nd, 195 years ago) Wagnerians will appreciate forthcoming releases this year of more rare Ring recordings. Coming off the widely acclaimed historic first stereo recording of the complete Ring cycle at the 1955 Bayreuth under conductor Joseph Keilberth, the Testament label will release two more complementary recordings–performances of Die Walkure and Gotterdammerung–from 1955 (same year but different performances of these operas from the Ring cycle).

Keilberth’s 1955 Bayreuth Ring (Testament SBT141412), according to music critics, ranks as one of the all-time great recordings. Michael Kennedy, writing in London’s Sunday Telegraph, lists Keilberth’s Ring in his choice of 100 essential classical recordings. A team of Decca sound engineers recorded the live Bayreuth performances but they remained unavailable until Testament issued the remastered recordings.  The New York Times accurately describes the sound quality of Keilberth’s Flying Dutchman, also recorded during the summer of 1955 and released by Testament in 2006, as having ”body, richness, and detail.”

Testament has just released the full Ring cycle under the baton of Rudolf Kempe from 1957 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The fully remastered recording of the complete cycle will feature Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter and Wolfgang Windgassen along side a stellar cast in what is considered to be an outstanding performance of Wagner’s Ring.

As the allmusic.com website notes, Kempe, an accomplished conductor, is ”One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique.”

2008 is shaping up as a promising year for Wagnerites.


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