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John Culshaw‘s book Ring Resounding begins with: “In Vienna, on the afternoon of September 24, 1958, Decca began the first commercial recording of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen; seven years later, on the evening of November 19, 1965, every note and every word of Wagner’s huge masterpiece had been recorded. Nothing comparable in scope, cost, or artistic and technical challenge had been attempted in the history of the gramophone.”

Georg Solti led the Vienna Philharmonic and an unbelievable cast of singers in sessions at the Sofiensaal. The recordings, released and remastered numerous times, have never been out of print, and according to a recent issue of BBC Music Magazine, the cycle still ranks as the greatest recording of all time.

The recording of Die Walküre won the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. And for their unprecedented achievement, Solti and Culshaw received the Recording Academy’s first Grammy Trustees’ Award in 1967 for their “efforts, ingenuity, and artistic contributions” to the art of recording.

The casts:

Das Rheingold
Wotan George London, bass-baritone
Donner Eberhard Wächter, baritone
Froh Waldemar Kmentt, tenor
Loge Set Svanholm, tenor
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger, bass-baritone
Mime Paul Kuen, tenor
Fasolt Walter Kreppel, bass
Fafner Kurt Böhme, bass
Fricka Kirsten Flagstad, soprano
Freia Claire Watson, soprano
Erda Jean Madeira, mezzo-soprano
Woglinde Oda Balsborg, soprano
Wellgunde Hetty Plümacher, mezzo-soprano
Flosshilde Ira Malaniuk, contralto
Recorded September 24 – October 8, 1958

Die Walküre
Siegmund James King, tenor
Sieglinde Régine Crespin, soprano
Wotan Hans Hotter, bass-baritone
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Hunding Gottlob Frick, bass
Fricka Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Gerhilde Vera Schlosser, soprano
Ortlinde Helga Dernesch, mezzo-soprano
Waltraute Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo-soprano
Schwertleite Helen Watts, contralto
Helmwige Berit Lindholm, soprano
Siegrune Vera Little, contralto
Grimgerde Marilyn Tyler, soprano
Rossweisse Claudia Hellmann, contralto
Recorded October 29 – November 19, 1965

Siegfried
Siegfried Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor
Mime Gerhard Stolze, tenor
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Wanderer (Wotan) Hans Hotter, bass-baritone
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger, bass-baritone
Fafner Kurt Böhme, bass
Erda Marga Höffgen, contralto
Waldvogel Joan Sutherland, soprano
Recorded May 8 – November 5, 1962

Götterdämmerung
Brünnhilde Birgit Nilsson, soprano
Siegfried Wolfgang Windgassen, tenor
Waltraute Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano
Gunther Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
Gutrune Claire Watson, soprano
Alberich Gustav Neidlinger, bass-baritone
Hagen Gottlob Frick, bass
First Norn Helen Watts, contralto
Second Norn Grace Hoffman, mezzo-soprano
Third Norn Anita Välkki, soprano
Woglinde Lucia Popp, soprano
Wellgunde Gwyneth Jones, soprano
Flosshilde Maureen Guy, mezzo-soprano
Wiener Staatsopernchor
Wilhelm Pitz, chorus master
Recorded May 20 – November 24, 1964

During sessions for Götterdämmerung in the fall of 1964, Humphrey Burton filmed a now classic documentary, The Golden Ring, for the BBC. A few amazing clips from that program are below.



The attached YouTube videos are not the property of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. We just thought they were interesting.

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With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Sir Georg Solti conducted Bach’s monumental Saint Matthew Passion on four different occasions at Orchestra Hall:

April 9 and 10, 1971
Jesus: Tom Krause
Evangelist: Richard Lewis
Aria soloists: Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Richard Lewis, Donald Gramm
Other vocal soloists: Alfred Reichel, Stephen Swanson, Nancy Clevenger, Ellen Rico, Linda Mabbs, Jack Abraham, Eugene Johnson, Frederic Chrislip, Karen Zajac
Obbligati: Donald Peck, Richard Graef, Ray Still, Richard Kanter, Grover Schiltz, DeVere Moore, Victor Aitay, Sidney Weiss, Eva Heinitz
Continuo: Eloise Niwa, Frank Miller, Joseph Guastafeste
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Theatre Chorus; Barbara Born, director
These performances were dedicated to the memory of Igor Stravinsky, who had died on April 6, 1971.

April 12 and 13, 1974
Jesus: Gwynne Howell
Evangelist: Mallory Walker
Aria soloists: Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Jerry Jennings, Philip Booth
Other vocal soloists: Alfred Reichel, Curtis Dickson, Gershon Silins, Stephen Swanson, Donna Gullstrand, Alexis Darden, Sarah Beatty, Richard Livingston, Philip Creech, Isola Jones
Obbligati: Donald Peck, Richard Graef, Louise Dixon, Walfrid Kujala, Ray Still, Richard Kanter, Grover Schiltz, Michael Henoch, Victor Aitay, Samuel Magad, John Hsu
Continuo: Eloise Niwa, Mary Sauer, Frank Miller, Joseph Guastafeste
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus; Doreen Rao, director

April 4 and 6, 1985
Jesus: Wolfgang Schoene
Evangelist: Anthony Rolfe Johnson
Aria soloists: Pamela Coburn, Brigitte Fassbaender, Thomas Moser, Siegmund Nimsgern
Other vocal soloists: Bruce Cain, Richard Cohn, Jane Green, Joan Welles, Doris Kirschner, Karen Zajac, Tim O’Connor
Obbligati: Donald Peck, Richard Graef, Louise Dixon, Walfrid Kujala, Ray Still, Richard Kanter, Grover Schiltz, Michael Henoch, Victor Aitay, Samuel Magad, Catharina Meints
Continuo: Mary Sauer, David Schrader, Richard Webster, Leonard Chausow, Joseph Guastafeste
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus; Doreen Rao, director

Saint Matthew Passion recording session in Orchestra Hall

March 19 and 21, 1987
Jesus: Olaf Bär
Evangelist: Hans Peter Blochwitz
Aria soloists: Kiri Te Kanawa, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Moser, Tom Krause
Other vocal soloists: Richard Cohn, Patrice Michaels, Debra Austin, William Watson
Obbligati: Donald Peck, Richard Graef, Louise Dixon, Walfrid Kujala, Ray Still, Judith Kulb, Grover Schiltz, Michael Henoch, Samuel Magad, Rubén González, Catharina Meints, Mary Sauer
Continuo: David Schrader, John Sharp, Joseph Guastafeste
Chicago Symphony Chorus; Margaret Hillis, director
Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus; Lucy Ding, acting director

Following the performances in March 1987, the work was recorded for London Records. Andrew Cornall was the producer, and Simon Eadon and John Pellowe were the engineers.

Solti, members of the Orchestra, and soloists listen to playbacks

I inadvertently neglected to include the 1971 performances in the first version of this post. —FV

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