A great modern Ring continues as the Amsterdammera dig into the details.
The third part to be released of the new Dutch Ring, assembled from live performances of the partly recast revival of Pierre Audi's staging, continues Hartmut Haenchen's intriguing use of the small detail in the New Critical Edition scores. The study of timpani and percussion instructions results in a ferocious cannonade that launches the rainbow bridge to Valhalla without need of John Culshaw's sheet metal and trick acoustics for Decca. A close look at the written dynamics of Wotan's part turns phrases previously delivered full pelt into bitter asides (like "widerlich ist mir's" - "it irks me" - as the gold is piled up to ransom Freia). And the first appearance of the Valhalla theme is played here "absolutely without dragging" (as Wagner requested during Bayreuth rehearsals) instead of the habitual Brucknerian grandeur.
Throughout, Haenchen makes the music sound of its time, be it a light Mendelssohnian (or, perhaps, French) grace for the watery figures accompanying the Rhinedaughters, or the flexible, almost improvised recitative which carries the many conversations of this work. It's truly a Rheingold informed by period-instrument practice, but don't imagine for a moment that noise (bringing up of the gold in scene 4) or dramatic brio (the run-in to Erda's intervention) are not all there when needed.
The opera is cunningly cast. As in Siegfried, veterans make their mark alongside newercomers: Anne Gjevang's imperiously seductive Erda, Graham Clark's Mime (sung and acted like this, you see why the "Mit arger List" narrative used to be applauded and encored) and Doris Soffel's Fricka (who, like a great forerunner, Josephine Veasey, does so much with the relatively small amount of text). Dohmen's Wotan mixes bluster and grandeur better than in previous instalments; the giants and Donner put cultured, strong voices to great dramatic use (Luperi's "Nun blinzle nach Freias Blick" is terrifying). Werner Van Mechelen, an experienced Mozart and Lieder singer, is a smaller, purer-voiced Alberich than traditionally heard; his first great monologue in Nibelheim is a little smooth but, supported with limpet-like tenacity by Haenchen, the cursing of the lost ring hits home. Chris Merritt's Loge is large, flappy and often a thief of musical time. The recording is an honest souvenir of the Muziektheater's warm acoustic and the intense mobility of the stage production. Only proceed with caution if you are super-allergic to stage noise and interpolated laughs and barks, or, musically, you want all Wagner sounding like late Wagner in a bathroom. Otherwise, a great modern Ring continues. Mike Ashman