Beautifully phrased Götterdämmerung from Hong Kong Philharmonic

Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Gun-Brit Barkmin (Brünnhilde), Daniel Brenna (Siegfried), Eric Halfvarson (Hagen), Shenyang (Gunther), Amanda Majeski (Gutrune), Peter Kálmán (Alberich), Michelle DeYoung (Waltraute), Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden (conductor)

Back in October 2015 eyebrows were raised at iClassical when we came across Jaap van Zweden’s recording of Wagner’s Das Rheingold on Naxos. However following a listening session we were sold on this unexpected adventure and suspected that these forces might go on to produce a Ring Cycle that would be of great interest.

Well here we are in November 2018, reviewing their final installment of the cycle namely Götterdämmerung. It is quite amazing what Jaap van Zweden has achieved with the Hong Kong Philharmonic – an orchestra whose primary home is the concert-hall rather than the opera-house.

This fine version can, without question, hold its head high among any of the competition. The sound recording is excellent, the balance between orchestra and soloists near ideal, and the orchestra itself performs superbly. Van Zweden draws excellent playing throughout, finding colour and shade in the score, where many (often rather eminent) competitors do not. Gun-Brit Barkmin’s Brunnhilde sings quite beautifully, Daniel Brenna is dramatic as Siegfried, Eric Halfvarson is suitably dark as Hagen and Michelle De Young does well enough but at times uses excessive vibrato. Overall the soloists are sufficiently good not to mar an otherwise very fine performance.

This recording of Götterdämmerung and, indeed, the whole cycle can be recommended at bargain price – it would provide an economic way of becoming acquainted with this set of epic music dramas. Götterdämmerung is available now on CD, Blu-Ray disc and as a download.

Within a few days the four operas will be made available by Naxos as a complete Ring Cycle at very favourable pricing. The recordings of all four operas have their strengths, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre being particularly strong, but the variable nature of the casting from opera to opera is far from ideal within a recorded set. The complete cycle does not come close to the standard of Solti’s fine version from the 1960s but that is a truly outstanding achievement in recording history.

iClassical rating: