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AGM & Solti / Culshaw Recording GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

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Saturday 18 Nov 2017
3:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Queensland Multicultural Centre

Annual General Meeting followed by
The Golden Ring – ‘The greatest achievement in gramophone history yet…’ Vienna 1964

This gives a wonderful insight to the making of the finest recording of the Ring ever made – Peter Bassett’s favourite!  

The film of recording Götterdämmerung for “The Solti Ring” is one of the classic music documentaries – classic‚ both in itself and in its subject.

Alec Robertson in Gramophone hailed Decca’s 1964 Götterdämmerung recording as ‘the greatest achievement in gramophone history yet’‚ a judgement the years have largely endorsed. Producer John Culshaw set out to make it a historic event with ‘the kind of dream cast… unlikely to be encountered in the theatre’‚ and we can only be grateful that the BBC then had the vision to capture its creation so effectively.

The programme’s fascination lies not only in seeing so many now-legendary performers‚ but in the way director Humphrey Burton conveys the ‘rough magic’ of the recording process. Anyone who believes studio productions must lack drama and tension should see this.

Bravely‚ given the intrusive cameras and lighting of the time‚ Culshaw and Burton agreed that nothing should be specially staged. Burton had immense problems cutting more than 20 hours of material‚ especially because of Solti’s then unfashionable preference for long takes. What remains brilliantly captures the white heat of this immense collaboration – almost literally so‚ as Solti dominates the floor of Vienna’s Sofiensaal with crackling energy and edgy perfectionism. It contrasts tellingly with the determined calm of Culshaw and engineers Gordon Parry and James Brown in the control room‚ operating their vast mixing desk with quiet concentration. Never has the term ‘creative tension’ been better illustrated.

Nor has the sheer detail involved in such a massive project‚ ranging from everyday orchestral logistics and redirecting Viennese traffic to the creation of the famous authentic steerhorns. The ultimate fascination‚ though‚ is seeing Solti directing the glorious Vienna players‚ and the era’s greatest Wagnerian voices‚ Nilsson‚ Windgassen‚ Frick and Fischer­ Dieskau‚ shuffling their music stands around Decca’s famous chequerboard stage. Their concentration and commitment is deeply impressive‚ conspicuously lacking in stellar histrionics; all of that goes into their performances.