The Daily Telegraph
Valkyries ride again as Wagner’s Ring cycle given new life using ‘baked tape’ trick
‘This is the Citizen Kane of classical recording and the new version is mindblowing in surround sound’
A CELEBRATED recording of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen has been remastered after the original tapes were “baked” for 10 hours.
Georg Solti’s version of German composer Richard Wagner’s “Ring cycle”, which has sold millions of copies and was used to soundtrack the helicopter scene in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, has been remastered to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Hungarianbritish conductor’s death.
Solti’s original recording was made between 1958 and 1965. The 15-hour, four-opera cycle will be released in four instalments.
Solti, who died aged 84 in 1997, won 31 Grammy awards during his career, the most of any artist in any genre.
Announcing the new release, music label Decca Classics, a division of Decca Records, which is part of Universal Music Group, said it was made possible by an intricate restoration project to preserve the master tapes of the recording. This process included baking sections of the tape in a specialised oven at 55C for 10 hours to restore their integrity.
The technique, which is common practice for repairing deterioration of the binders in a magnetic tape, typically involves baking the tapes at low temperatures for long periods of time to remove the moisture that has accumulated in the binder.
The master tapes, which have been stored in the vaults of Universal Music Group since the recording sessions took place in Vienna in the 1950s and 1960s, have now been processed to high-definition audio.
The new transfers of the 38 original master tapes have been made at 24 bit/192khz resolution, which allows greater detail and dynamic range than ever heard previously.
The four remastered operas – Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) – 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 Sept 30 this year.
Tom Lewis and Laura Monks, copresidents of Decca Records, said of Solti’s recording: “This is the Citizen Kane of classical recording and this new version is mind-blowing, especially when you listen in surround sound.
“What makes it even more tantalising is the thought that the engineers were able to return to the original tapes just before they disintegrated beyond use – a final opportunity to return to an original masterpiece before losing it forever.”
The release is the first complete Wagner Ring cycle available in Dolby Atmos, a cutting-edge surround sound audio technology intended to create a more immersive listening experience.
This immersive experience was the intention of Decca Records’ late classical record producer John Culshaw.
Dominic Fyfe, label director of Decca Classics and the audio producer of the Ring cycle reissue, said: “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.”