Richard Wagner
Der Ring des Nibelungen — III. Siegfried

Media Review / Comparison

2013-06-09— Original posting (on Blogger)
2014-11-09 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-07-12 — Brushed up for better readability

Table of Contents

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883): Der Ring des NibelungenIII. Siegfried

This is part 3 of my quick “Ring” review, which started with

The Recordings

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Orchestra Sinfonica della Radio Italiana

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Furtwängler, CD cover

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Wilhelm Furtwängler, Orchestra Sinfonica della Radio Italiana
Recorded 1953, live, for radio broadcasting (for the soloists see below)

EMI classics 9 08161 2 (13 CDs, mono); ℗ 1972 / 1990 / © 2011

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Furtwängler, EAN-13 barcode
amazon media link

Marek Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatsopernchor Dresden

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Janowski, CD cover

Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen

Marek Janowski, Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatsopernchor Dresden
Recorded 1980 – 1983, Lukaskirche, Dresden (for the soloists see below)

Sony Music / RCA 88691915482 (14 CDs, stereo); ℗ / © 2012

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen, Janowski, UPC-A barcode
amazon media link

The Vocal Soloists

Wilhelm Furtwängler

Wilhelm Furtwängler (1886 – 1954) recorded “Siegfried” in Rome, on November 10th – November 18th, 1953, in Rome — this is a live recording for the RAI (though apparently only one act was recorded per evening). His soloists were (in the order of appearance)

  • Siegfried: Ludwig Suthaus
  • Mime: Julius Patzak
  • Wanderer: Ferdinand Frantz
  • Alberich: Alois Pernerstorfer
  • Fafner: Josef Greindl
  • Erda: Margarete Klose
  • Waldvogel: Rita Streich
  • Brünnhilde: Martha Mödl

Marek Janowski

Marek Janowski (*1939) recorded “Siegfried” on February / March, 1982, in the Lukaskirche in Dresden. His soloists were

  • Siegfried: René Kollo
  • Mime: Peter Schreier
  • Wanderer: Theo Adam
  • Alberich: Siegmund Nimsgern
  • Fafner: Matti Salminen
  • Erda: Ortrun Wenkel
  • Waldvogel: Norma Sharp
  • Brünnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer

Comments / Quick Comparison

For general remarks see the preceding postings

Marek Janowski


  • Introduction: Needless to say: the sound is much better than in Furtwängler’s historic recording — a very good introduction into the (apparently) most popular opera of this cycle, and well played. My only criticism is about the very end of the piece, when the curtain opens: the anvil sounds rather harmless (like a toy) — as already in “Das Rheingold“.
  • Scene_1: In “Das Rheingold“, Peter Schreier was an excellent Loge (devious, deceitful); now here, he is Mime — and he plays pure comedy: even without the visual one can easily picture the ugly dwarf, and his voice — well, one can barely call this singing: he omits all vibrato, shouting, screaming what a change from the same singer performing the Schemelli-Lieder at the Bach Festival in Schaffhausen at about the same time!) — and real fun.
    One could claim that this is neither nice nor particularly aesthetic — but don’t think that’s needed here! René Kollo as Siegfried: his voice is strong, brilliant, has a youthful timbre and is actually (in my opinion) the better choice than Suthaus (see below) for this part of the opera — unfortunately, his singing is far too “artful / artificial”, with a strong vibrato, which is detrimental overall: he does not reach my heart, his singing sounds less “truthful” than Suthaus.
  • Scene_2: As expected from the preceding operas, Theo Adam‘s Wanderer (Wotan) with his heavy “over-vibrato” more than offsets Schreier’s talent as a comedian — too bad!
  • Scene_3: (see scene 1 above)
  • Rating: 4.0 / 5


  • Introduction, Scene 1: Siegmund Nimsgern as Alberich (as already in “Das Rheingold”) is superb, impressive. Unfortunately, there’s againTheo Adam as Wanderer …
  • Scene_2: For Siegfried and Mime see Act I, Scene 1 above; Matti Salminen as Fafner is great, a giant bass voice. Waldvogel: I like Norma Sharp‘s clear (more controlled, less dramatic) voice more than Rita Streich’s in Furtwängler’s recording.
  • Scene_3: For the singers see above; Janowski’s tempo is fluent, focusing on drama and expression.
  • Rating: 4.4 / 5


  • Introduction: Janowski’s tempo and overall interpretation is fluent, dramatic, driving forward — very good!
  • Scene_1: I don’t want to repeat my criticism of Theo Adam as Wotan; Ortrun Wenkel as Erda isn’t really better, I’m afraid: she also uses a very heavy vibrato, and in the lower sections she lacks volume, and her intonation isn’t always 100% clean.
  • Scene_2: See above for Wotan / Wanderer and Siegfried.
  • Scene_3: The introduction to this scene is extremely exposed, with the violins playing at the very top end — and I’m a bit disappointed about the Staatskapelle Dresden which doesn’t always sound really clean in these parts! While for the first part of the opera René Kollo‘s youthful, more brilliant timbre was maybe more adequate than Ludwig Suthaus’ — but here we need a singer with a voice clearly more mature, hence even just from the character of the voice I prefer Suthaus.
    Jeannine Altmeyer as Brünnhilde has an excellent voice, virtuosic, very strong in the upper register. But overall, I clearly prefer Furtwängler’s recording here: this isn’t about singing loud and virtuoso (the two singers appear louder than the very big orchestra!) — it’s about emotions, about intimate thoughts and feelings, about truthful, credible performance of the two main characters; brilliance and perfection alone don’t quite cut it here, I’m afraid. Plus, both singers (especially Kollo) use more than enough vibrato and often have a tendency of approaching the pitch of exposed notes from below.
  • Rating: 3.9 / 5


  • Total duration: 3h 52′
  • Overall rating: 4.1 / 5 (relative)

Wilhelm Furtwängler


  • Introduction: The recording technique does not help here — expectation and suspense can hardly be sensed where the orchestra sounds like through a narrow tube, with tunnel vision onto individual brass and other instruments.
  • Scene_1: Julius Patzak is a good Mime, but doesn’t come close to Schreier as a comedian (the audience at the time might not have appreciated Schreier’s artistry as a comedian, though)! As for Ludwig Suthaus as Siegfried: Suthaus is impeccable, both in his voice as in his interpretation — he was one of the best singers (certainly for Wagner) at the time. OK, ideally, in my mind, I would picture a more youthful voice for this part of the opera, but that is a very minor point, and more than compensated by Suthaus’ superb performance in Act III, where his voice is perfectly adequate!
  • Scene_2: Ferdinand Frantz as Wanderer (Wotan) is impressive — way better than Theo Adam in the other recording.
  • Scene_3: (see scene 1 above)
  • Rating: 4.1 / 5


  • Introduction, Scene 1: Alois Pernerstorfer is a good Alberich (though he can’t match Gustav Neidlinger in “Das Rheingold”), and again Ferdinand Frantz is an impressive Wanderer (Wotan).
  • Scene_2: For Siegfried and Mime see Act I, Scene 1 above; Josef Greindl as Fafner unfortunately sounds as if he was singing through a cardboard tube — this does not do justice to a great voice! Rita Streich was 33 when she sang the Waldvogel (wood bird) here — youthful, maybe a bit too dramatic.
  • Scene_3: For the singers see above; Furtwängler’s tempo is often a bit slower, focusing on detail and articulation.
  • Rating: 3.9 / 5


  • Introduction: Furtwängler starts rather slow and only gradually picks up tempo; the orchestra is rather moderate (coordination, sound) — not really my favorite.
  • Scene_1: Ferdinand Frantz (Wanderer / Wotan) and Margarete Klose (Erda) are very good (especially the latter has excellent volume over a very large alto range!) — unfortunately, the orchestra almost covers up the singers (but that’s primarily a consequence of the mono and live recording).
  • Scene_2: See above for Wotan / Wanderer and Siegfried.
  • Scene_3: Even though the sound is far inferior to the newer recording above, I find that the Italian Radio Orchestra is cleaner than the Dresdener Staatskapelle — and this was a live recording! As mentioned above, I prefer Ludwig Suthaus‘ voice over Kollo — by a long stretch: it’s maybe less brilliant, but very well balanced, with a natural vibrato.
    This voice is matched by an excellent Martha Mödl as Brünnhilde: again, maybe less brilliant in the heights, not that virtuoso, but very well balanced, with good volume over the entire range — and how they are performing! Wilhelm Furtwänglers support is key here, of course: a piece where he can really play out his strengths! This music is all about emotions, feelings, expression, being credible, and this is more than just a perfectly adequate interpretation (especially considering it’s live) — a very moving interpretation, and excellent music!
  • Rating: 4.5 / 5


  • Total duration: 4h 07′ (6% slower than Janowski)
  • Overall rating: 4.2 / 5 (relative)


Overall, I prefer Furtwängler’s recording, with Ludwig Suthaus and Martha Mödl being the main vocal contributors to that preference. There are some parts, though, where I prefer Janowski‘s recording — mainly Peter Schreier‘s comedy, Siegmund Nimsgern as Alberich and Matti Salminen as Fafner (but the latter two are minor roles in this opera).

(to be continued…)

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