Wagner: Das Rheingold

Richard Lehnert
Stereophile (US)
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…listening to the two-channel tracks, I was impressed by the apparent vastness of the venue, the 2000-seat Adelaide Festival Theatre, which is not nearly as huge as it sounds here. The impression of great aural distances has evidently been created by a mixture of distant orchestral miking, the astonishing discipline of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Asher Fisch’s Apollonian, almost neoclassical restraint.

Those who like Karajan’s “chamber-music” recording of the Ring from the late 1960s will most appreciate what Fisch does here in interpretations diametrically opposed to Keilberth’s. The steady progress of Fisch’s medium tempos accrues a grandly cumulative inevitability. He marries this to an insistence on absolute discipline of orchestral ensemble and balance, and a punctilious observance of the voicing, duration, and rhythmic values of the score’s every note. The ASO performs flawlessly – I have never heard Wagner’s choirs of low brasses played so delicately, fluidly, seamlessly – but that describes all of the ASO’s instrumental families.

The effect is one of hearing some vast synthesiser, and it all adds up to great authority of orchestral voice. Fisch’s slow building of the famous Prelude to Rheingold is perhaps the best interpretation the passage has ever received – one really gets the sense of the great clockwork of the world, of creation, time, and music itself, being slowly assembled and set a-ticking for the very first time…