Solti and The Golden Ring

Sir Georg Solti's grave in Budapest, alongside Bartok.(Photo:

Sir Georg Solti’s 1964 recording of Wagner’s Goetterdammerung (The Twilight of the Gods) moved his complete studio made The Ring toward completion the next year with Die Walkure.

Begun in 1958, the four music dramas of the The Ring were recorded in Vienna, with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Kirsten Flagstad came out of retirement to sing Fricka in Das Rheingold. Joan Sutherland, hot hot hot in 1962 sang a cameo role in Siegfried. The Wotan of splendid bass Hans Hotter was caught just in time. Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, George London, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, James King and Regine Crespin were caught in their marvelous primes.

What’s less known is the BBC’s documentary The Golden Ring, filmed in Vienna during the 1964 recording sessions. It’s roll up your sleeves time, with Solti sweating, yelling, and cajoling. The non- sexy aspects of music and recording are laid bare: How would you like to run cables and hang mics 20 hours a day.

The Golden Ring had several showings in Britain and the U.S.

Front and center is producer John Culshaw (1924-1980). His posthumous memoir Putting the Record Straight is a spicy behind-the-scenes read. Culshaw was the push behind the entire The Ring project, and the complete set is his legacy, as it is part of Solti’s.

Alas, all of the participants are in Valhalla now. As the celebration of Sir Georg Solti’s centennial continues, watching and hearing his performances are sizzling reminders of his art.