The Ring – An Orchestral Adventure

0 of 5 stars

Wagner/Henk de Vlieger
The Ring, an orchestral adventure
Siegfried Idyll

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Järvi

Recorded 5-7 August 2007 in Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Reviewed by: Alexander Campbell

Reviewed: June 2008
Duration: 76 minutes



Of course, no selection of ‘best bits’ from the ‘Ring’ is going to please everyone. The “Das Rheingold” compilation includes the opening scene in the Rhine, and then covers the descent from the mountain-top to Nibelheim, and finally morphs into the Rainbow Bridge and Valhalla themes. In the “Die Walküre” section, there is no music from Act One is and Act Two is represented by an extremely short slice from the Siegmund-Hunding fight before a headlong launch into ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ and thence to ‘Magic Fire Music of the final act. Thus the ‘human’ dimension of the ‘Ring’ is essentially missing until one arrives at “Siegfried”. This is a mistake – as much of the music and leitmotifs associated with the gods and monsters is the more grandiose, whereas the music of Siegmund and Sieglinde is the more emotionally direct, even if less obviously extractable as viable orchestral units.

The forest scene from “Siegfried” Act Two, incorporating the death throes of Fafner the dragon is well represented. Indeed this was the passage where one wished those beautiful lines sung by the bass had been re-ascribed within the orchestra. Siegfried’s approach to Brünnhilde’s rock and her subsequent awakening is deftly covered. From “Götterdämmerung” are – of course – ‘Siegfried’s Rhine Journey’, ‘Siegfried’s Funeral March’ and ‘Brünnhilde’s Immolation’ form the bulk of the ‘finale’.

Therein lies the problem with this sort of arrangement. Even keen Wagnerians may find this collection of highlights rather too fatty a meal to take in its one-hour sitting and long for something a little palette-cleansing in between. I wanted some voices to add variety – not least as they are integral to scenes like the ‘Immolation’ and ‘Magic Fire’.

In terms of performance, Neeme Järvi’s tempos are generally on the fleet side and his players provide some vivid and exciting playing – though I felt some moments such as the descent to Nibelheim, the ascent to Valhalla and ‘Siegfried’s Rhine Journey’ were heading from the heroic and closer to the bombastic at times. That may be partly the acoustic, which is spacious and clear, resulting in sound very bright and immediate; a shame that the anvils tinkle lightly and the ‘Funeral March’ needed more subtlety.

Generally, Järvi seems happiest in the Siegfried passages, which have a naturalness and mystique that is very appealing. This is also evident in the lovely performance of Siegfried Idyll that is attractive and satisfying. No complaints about the polished playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, its members entering into the spirit of the music with aplomb.

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