The opening evening of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Das Rheingold is the prologue of the cycle, which is followed in turn by the music dramas Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung. The first instalment in Jaap van Zweden's projected Ring with the Hong Kong Philharmonic – an undertaking he regards as central to his tenure with the orchestra – is a promising beginning that may surprise many experienced Wagnerians. Van Zweden is ambitious in presenting the Ring with this orchestra, which plays it for the first time, though in fairness to the musicians, they offer an intensity and vigor that more than makes up for any minor scrappiness.
This first complete studio recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, made between 1958 and 1966, was a groundbreaking technical and artistic achievement, the most ambitious and intricately involved opera recording project of the 20th century. Produced for Decca by John Culshaw, whose vision and untiring devotion brought the gargantuan project to completion, the 14 ½-hour release set a new standard for opera recordings. The details Culshaw lavished on the production, which included building new musical instruments, precisely calculating the placement and choreography of each singer to maximize the theatricality of each scene, and creating an array of fabulous special effects resulted in a landmark recording that has lost none of its power with the passage of time.
"…Janowski's pacing and preparation of the orchestra is masterly. Reacting with sensitivity to the score, the tender & reflective scenes are given space to breathe without taxing the singers into strained tone. (…) The more one hears, the more one appreciates the vocal acting as well as the superlative orchestral contribution (make no mistake, there are at least 3 world class orchestras resident in Berlin today). This listener (at least) is eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Ring." ~sa-cd.net