Wagner: The Golden Ring - Solti

Wagner: The Golden Ring - Solti

Decca Classics  4853364

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Opera

Highlights from Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen

Wiener Philharmoniker
Sir Georg Solti (conductor)

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of Sir Georg Solti’s death (5 September), Decca Classics is proud to announce a new high-definition transfer of the original master tapes of his most celebrated recording: the first stereo studio production of Wagner’s complete Ring Cycle, twice voted “The greatest recording of all time”.
Recorded in Vienna between 1958 and 1965, and masterminded by Decca’s pioneering producer John Culshaw, this recording has always been regarded as the perfect marriage of art and technology and boasted a cast including Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter and Kirsten Flagstad. These new transfers of the 38 original stereo master tapes have been made at 24 bit/192kHz resolution, allowing greater detail and dynamic range than ever before.

The transfers have allowed the original recording to be remastered for Dolby Atmos; the spatial audio technology which recreates a multi-dimensional experience true to Culshaw’s vision of a “theatre of the mind”.
Dominic Fyfe, Decca Classics Label Director and Audio Producer of this reissue, says: “Back in 1966 producer John Culshaw expressed the hope that this Ring would set a benchmark for years to come. Half a century later it is still the artistic and technical gold standard. Culshaw was above all an iconoclast and a visionary who rejoiced in new technology. I have no doubt he would approve of our efforts to utilise Dolby Atmos and the latest suite of remastering tools to make this new HD transfer the most immersive and vivid yet.”

The remastered Ring will be available in the most extensive suite ever of deluxe physical and digital products including:
• The first vinyl releases of the recording in 30 years. Half-speed mastered at Abbey Road Studios and pressed on 180g audiophile vinyl.
• The first international release of the recording on Hybrid SACDs, allowing listeners to hear the enhanced resolution of these new transfers and playable on all CD players
• The first and only complete Wagner Ring cycle available in Dolby Atmos
The physical products will be accompanied by lavish booklets including facsimiles of the original conductor and producer scores, rare session photographs, newly discovered curios and full libretti.
The four operas of the Ring cycle will be released in instalments between November 2022 and May 2023, with The Golden Ring, a selection of the greatest scenes from the cycle, released on 30 September 2022.

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Analogue recording
Comments (41)

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - September 11, 2022 (1 of 41)

I am trying to figure out if buying this cycle again is going to be worth it? With this new remastering, will there really be a difference compared to the previous releases? Any thoughts on this new version of the cycle being released?

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - September 12, 2022 (2 of 41)

SACD-MAN (threerandot) -- In answer to your question, yes, it should be worth it. I had the LP box in ancient times, skipped the CD era, went straight to the Esoteric SACD box, then the Blu-ray box, then the Stereo Sound SACD set, and yes, there is room for improvement over all of those. The Stereo Sound SACD set is best at the moment, but it was made from a second-generation master for safekeeping in Japan. The Esoteric and the Blu-ray are made from lesser bitrate transfers of the first-generation master, which was then deemed unusable in the future. But technology has apparently found a way to tease the music out of those tapes.
If it were an ordinary recording, even only a great one, squeezing the last bit of music out of it would seem like gilding the lily. But this is probably the greatest recording of all time, of any work in any genre. So yes, it should be worth it!
Try getting the Rheingold. Compare it to what you have already. Then proceed on that basis. That is what I am planning to do, myself.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - September 16, 2022 (3 of 41)

Thanks. Looking forward to this series on SACD. May try to get the Blu-ray if it is not too expensive!

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - September 16, 2022 (4 of 41)

This SACD of highlights is coming out later this month, and Rheingold next month. So you could sample the highlights and make that a point of comparison with whatever you have already. I suspect that the Blu-ray will come out last, so that it will not undermine the SACD sales.
All this publicity about the Solti set has overshadowed the Blu-ray release last week of Boulez's Unitel Ring, which I already had on laserdisc and DVD. DVD used the same laserdisc video master, which had turned greenish in the meantime. The Blu-ray goes back to the original film master, and is an awesome improvement in both sound and picture.
Two great Ring re-releases coming at us at once! And not just any re-releases, but the best audio Ring (Solti) and the best video Ring (Boulez).

Comment by Sintolt the Hegeling - September 17, 2022 (5 of 41)

Mr. Ponessa, again I have to ask you for ypur advice. I have heard (from a generally unreliable source) that the new Blu-Ray encodes only a marginally improved audio track, even though the video information is greatly improved over the DVDs. But for me, the video content of the Boulez Ring is completely irrelevant. I have never cared for Chereau's staging of the Ring, so I never actually watch the DVDs, but only listen to their audio track. So, if the new Blu-Ray issue presents a palpable improvement in audio quality over the DVDs, I'm om board. Otherwise, no. What is your best advice for me?

Comment by Joseph Ponessa - September 23, 2022 (6 of 41)

Sintolt the Hegeling -- It has been a couple of weeks now since I did my own comparison, but I remember feeling that the video and audio improvement were about equal. I was quite impressed by the handling of the fog, but I was surprised by a like improvement of the audio. Das Rheingold begins with soft notes from the bass section. They were a bit harsh on the DVD; the Blu-ray sound is just as deep, but more pleasing to the ear. The word "marginal improvement" does not express what I experienced; "grateful relief" would be more like it. It was similar to what I experienced going from the Esoteric SACD of Solti to the Stereo Sound SACD of same.

Comment by Sintolt the Hegeling - September 24, 2022 (7 of 41)

Thank you, Mr. Ponessa. Your report settles the issue for me. I'm buying the new Blu-Ray of the Boulez Ring.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - September 27, 2022 (8 of 41)

Just did my pre-oder of this on Presto Classical. Listed there now. The others should follow. Definitely did not want to buy this with Amazon.

Comment by Andre Vital - October 4, 2022 (9 of 41)

I pretty much doubt that the Master copy from King Records is in as bad condition as the Original Decca Tapes ("Cooked(?!?!) at 55 degrees (celsius or Fahrenheit?!) to be improved" because (as Decca claimed back in 2012), 'the original tapes were irreparably damaged'; fried, simmered or barbecued?); I firmly believe that when both were new, the difference between the King Records and Decca's was

The Japanese do not treat things lightly, as this release is on SACD-Hybrid, which still compresses the original master tape "information" a little...not so the StereoSound Japan release.

Incidentally, Universal Japan will release this new Mastering on Single Layer SACDs...

Comment by Athenaeus - October 16, 2022 (10 of 41)

The Universal Japan release is no longer planned as a single-layer set. It will be hybrid, like its European counterpart. This is discussed under the comments for the 2012 Blu-ray set:

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Solti

I'm happy they're releasing this again on SACD but at the same time I'm somewhat disappointed. Let me explain.

Like a lot of other record collectors, I missed Stereo Sound's Rheingold release. The other three operas are still available but I don't want an incomplete cycle. I'm not the only one. The remaining three operas haven't been selling too well, it seems. Now, Stereo Sound have promised these are limited editions. But there's obviously still demand for their Ring cycle. The logical thing for Stereo Sound to do would be to wait until their current edition sells out and then release it again as a complete SACD box-set without the fancy packaging and booklets of the first edition. That way, they keep their promise but at the same time they make the discs available to more people.

But here's the problem... If Universal releases Solti's Ring on SACD, there will obviously be less demand for a set from Stereo Sound. We'll have to hear how these new releases sound and I'm really looking forward to comments from the lucky few who own the Stereo Sound discs and who are passionate enough to buy the new Universal sets, too. However, my feeling is that the Stereo Sound discs will remain superior. If that were the case, it would be a shame — in a way — because I don't think Stereo Sound will ever release these SACDs again if there is a competing edition on the market.

So, let's hope Universal's new releases sound as good — or perhaps even better — than the ones from Stereo Sound. And then those of us who missed Stereo Sound's Ring can stop regretting it.

Comment by Ferndgg - November 2, 2022 (11 of 41)

I received yesterday my SACD copy of this and the worst scenario in my mind become true. I do not understand the purpose of going back to the original tapes and master the recording for spotify. It is a real shame because the sound is better than previous releases but compression and brightness are terrible. Dynamic range are between 7 and 12, much worst that CD from 1984, Esoteric and Stereo Sound releases. I was hoping Japanese edition mastered from a flat transfer but it is not going to happen. All those people paying a fortune for the vynil will be really upset. After listening the disc I had the feeling I was listening Dune (Hans Zimmer), just a wall of sound.

Comment by Jan Arell - November 4, 2022 (12 of 41)

"The Spatial Audio remastering will be available to stream on Apple Music, but listeners who like to own their music will have to wait until the middle of 2023 for a Blu-ray audio disc of the cycle."
From Gramophone, Nov 2022

EDIT: According to Decca’s webshop you’ll have to buy the complete set of 14 sacd to get the blu ray disc. Price: 427 euros. Release date 23 May 2023.

Comment by breydon_music - November 4, 2022 (13 of 41)

I too have recently received the highlights disc. Like Athenaeus I had held off purchasing the Stereo Sound set as I had missed "Rheingold". However I was fortunate to be able to pounce when a seller on e-Bay listed all 4 SS sets as a package. I have gained much enjoyment from them in their own right, and obviously now have been able to dip in and compare the two sets. I am completely non-technical but I do wonder if what I think I have subjectively experienced may accord with what Ferndgg says above. First of all let's say that both are far better than anything which has gone before - at least since the original vinyl sets. I could not hear any obvious distortion or other artefacts during either orchestral or vocal passages from the new transfer. Playing orchestral passages there seems to be more low frequency response in the new transfer as compared to the Stereo Sound version. However, although that initially seemed a loss when switching from Universal to SS I soon realised that I was hearing much more transparency in the orchestra from the SS issue, and much more bloom on individual instruments, notably the famous VPO horns. Voices come across, it seemed to me, miraculously well in both, but again they just seem to my old ears to be that much more real - as if they were tangibly in my listening room - on the SS. And here's a thing which I can't explain but other technically minded people may be able to. My last comparison was the 3 tracks which make up Brunnhilde's Immolation Scene (and of course end the operas). I played the SS first - Nilsson sounds glorious, the hall's collapse scared the life out of me as it has always done, and finally the glorious tune with which Wagner ends the cycle moved me to tears. I then played the new Universal transfer. Nilsson comes over well again, that apparent extra bass in the orchestral picture is there again - but when the tune arrived at the end I was shocked that the emotional response was not there!

So what should collectors do? The sound on each is apparently very similar, but I do wonder, across the length of one of the operas when they appear, if digital fatigue may raise its ugly head when listening to the new Universals. It certainly doesn't from the SS set, and I feel that it may have been the "freshness", for want of a better word, of the SS transfer that impressed me again during these comparisons. Clearly the problem is getting hold of a SS "Rheingold". From what I have before me, and on the basis of this sampler disc alone, I think I would buy the 3 SS sets that are still available, register a search on e-Bay for the SS "Rheingold" and prepare for a long wait, and in the meantime buy the new Universal "Rheingold" to fill the gap.

On a different level, I have no reason to doubt the Universal "huff and puff" about the seriousness with which they've approached this project. However, I am bound to observe that the finished product in the case of this excerpts disc does not reflect that. The booklet is a complete mess with pages transposed all over the place. I did wonder if carefully removing the staples and reassembling the individual paper sheets would solve the problem, but I don't think so as it would interfere with some photos which go across facing pages. So you get 2 pages of the technical introduction, then the last page of the synopsis of "Gotterdammerung", then the first page of same, then 2 more pages of technical, then a page from the synopsis of "Siegfried", then the end of the technical essay. And so it goes on. I've never seen a booklet which is such a mess. Here's hoping that the librettos to come do not offer us similar challenges!

Finally, can I just reiterate that I am completely non-technical, and all of these observations are courtesy of my old ears and brain, through my equipment in my listening room. I urge everyone to listen themselves and form their own conclusions.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 7, 2022 (14 of 41)

I have started a petition demanding that Decca remove the compression fropm this legendary recording. I hope someone else can join in and show that this is not the case. If it is however, I have started a petition to demand that Decca correct this or we will ban it and tell others not to buy it either!

Keep Compression off of the Soti Decca Ring on SACD!"

Please feel free to pass on your thoughts and if needed, the link to this petition.

Also, here is another petition to fight the loudness war

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 8, 2022 (15 of 41)

I have cancelled my orders and encourgae others to cancel their orders on this as well. I ask Decca and all other record companies to keep their grubby fingers off of the compression dial!!! It is awful!!!

Learn the Loudness War's dirty little secret
by Ian Shepheard

People outside the music industry just don't understand the Loudness War.

When I explain it to them, when I get to the end, they always look at me in bewilderment and say:

"Why ?"

Why do people make music stupid-loud when listeners set the volume, when broadcast and players and online streaming remove the differences ? Why ?

And the answer is something that no-one likes to say out loud.

It's fear.

(Actually, it's FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - to borrow the geek acronym)

Fear of not keeping up with the Joneses
Fear of not applying the "formula", of not doing the same thing as last time
Fear of an industry whose business model is changing forever
Fear of criticism
Fear of failure

And fear is a powerful, insidious virus that can infect everything it touches.

Maybe you've heard before that it only takes one bad experience to wipe seven good ones from our memory of the day.

Well, there are seven stages in the traditional route of getting music to the listener:

Recording engineer
Mix engineer
Mastering engineer

It only takes one person in that chain to succumb to Loudness War FUD to infect and fill the other six with fear - and suddenly a great-sounding mix is reduced to mush.

Because no-one wants to run the risk that the FUD is real. No-one wants to put their neck on the line.

The antidote to fear is facts

The antidote to uncertainty and doubt is knowledge.

Trusting the facts gives you faith.

Faith that:

"Loudness" has no effect on sales - here's the research
People don't like the "loudness war" sound - here's the evidence
Replay volume is adjusted so "loud" CDs never sound louder than anything else
"Loudness war" levels sound worse on the radio
Dynamic sound is a great way to make your music stand out

So the solution to the loudness war problem is simple.
We just have to face the fear - and share the facts

When enough people have faith in the facts, the FUD has no power.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 8, 2022 (16 of 41)

SACD-MAN, have you purchased this disc of highlights and listened to it? Or are you avoiding it based on Ferndgg's comment?

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 8, 2022 (17 of 41)

Hey Athenaeus

The mere fact that this is going to be streamed on Spotify definitely seems to indicate that they have most likely mastered for that medium. Also, ferndgg describes compression pretty much the way this usually plays out. I have not ruled out purchasing this just yet. I am hoping for more information, but for the time being I have cancelled this.

Comment by Athenaeus - November 9, 2022 (18 of 41)

Perhaps they have different mixes for Spotify and the SACD releases. I hope we'll be getting more comments on this site — or elsewhere — from people who have listened to the discs. I will also wait and see before I purchase anything.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 9, 2022 (19 of 41)

I hope you are right Athenaeus. All we can do now is wait and keep an eye as this develops.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - November 9, 2022 (20 of 41)

I think what may be happening here, and I could be wrong, but I am guessing that if Decca made the very best possible sounding ring, then they would have no excuse to release it again and again. Gotta keep profiteering going, right? Also, remember that the people at Decca now are probably the kids of those who came before. The only stake they may have is profit. Remember, it has been over 50 years since this came out.

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