To mark the worldwide bicentenary celebrations of Wagner’s birth, a set of four CDs was recorded for the Decca label by Australian Wagner scholar, author and lecturer Peter Bassett, as an introduction to and commentary on Richard Wagner’s great cycle of four music dramas: Der Ring des Nibelungen. The recording uses extensive musical excerpts from the famous Decca recording featuring the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Sir Georg Solti – a recording voted recently by BBC Music magazine as the greatest classical recording ever made. The set is distinguished from the fine introduction to the system of leitmotifs recorded by Deryck Cooke in 1967, by addressing Wagner’s magnum opus more broadly through its narrative, intellectual and aesthetic qualities. Its tone is engaging and directed at the general but discerning listener. Each CD in the set is devoted to one of the four operas that forms this tetralogy.
Peter Bassett has been speaking and writing about Wagner’s works for more than four decades, and is well known to audiences of the Ring cycles performed in Adelaide in 1998 and 2004 when, on each occasion, he gave extended pre-performance talks attracting some 6,000 people. Peter still receives requests to record those talks. His frequent speaking engagements in Australia and New Zealand as well as in Europe and the United States, have brought him to the attention of wider audiences. Since 2001, he has led 25 opera tours on five continents. He has published five books on Wagner’s works, the most recent being a large format, full-colour volume to commemorate the bicentenary in 2013 of the births of both Wagner and Verdi.
The celebrated Solti recording of the Ring is key to this project, one especially chosen by Peter to reflect his talks on the Ring: ‘I can truthfully say that in forty years of “Ring”-going, no performance has made a greater impression on me than Solti’s famous studio recording for Decca. I count it amongst the most powerful artistic influences of my life.’
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Bassett is a genial commentator, his soft, refined Australian accent being very easy on the ear...This is an enterprise that springs from a deep love and familiarity with the music and a desire to communicate its richness accessibly to a wider public...His focus is more often upon the lyrical and expressive side of Wagner’s score than the better-known, Big Bow-wow “bleeding chunks” like “The Ride of the Valkyries”, and is all the better for it."