Are you ready to hear Wagner’s Ring on original instruments?

Are you ready to hear Wagner’s Ring on original instruments?


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2021

Concerto Köln and conductor Kent Nagano will be playing Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen in a historically informed performance (HIP) on period instruments, apparently for the first time, from the middle on November.

Cast list:
Derek Welton bass-baritone
Johannes Kammler bass baritone
Julian Prégardien tenor
Tansel Akzeybek tenor
Stefanie Irányi mezzo-soprano
Sarah Wegener soprano
Gerhild Romberger mezzo-soprano
Daniel Schmutzhard baritone
Thomas Ebenstein tenor
Tijl Faveyts bass
Christoph Seidl bass
Carina Schmieger soprano
Ida Adrian soprano
Eva Vogel mezzo-soprano

More details here.



  • Michael H says:

    I am most decidedly not.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Whenever the Vienna Phil. plays Wagner or anything else, that’s pretty much on “H.I.P.” instruments.

  • Player says:

    Um well, not quite … Rattle did Rheingold with the OAE…

  • Paul Dawson says:

    Probably a worthy undertaking, but I can’t help thinking that the quality of the performance is probably more important than the authenticity of the instrumentation.

    I am a sucker for early music on original instrumentation, but has there been that much change over the last 150 years?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Yes there have.

      For instance, the intricate textures of different lines in symphonies of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, and Brahms, only sound clear with a restricted string group with transparant handling, and without overbearing brass. The soup sound of Karajan in which woodwinds drown and have to be turned-up in recordings has nothing to do with the original music; neither have the large string groups with their thick vibrato. Understanding the nature of the original scores and the way they were performed greatly enhances performance.

      For instance, Brahms’ symphonies were often criticized, in the 20th century, for bad scoring since it all sounded so heavy and thick and sombre, while later understanding through HIP led to the discovery that if played in the perspective of the classical orchestra, everything is lightened-up and what first sounded dark and sombre now sounded warm and radiant. Etc. etc….

      • Paul Dawson says:

        I’m happy to accept some of your your points: they reflect my views of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven performances quite accurately. But you seem to be talking about interpretation (largely the use of smaller forces in the orchestra) rather than the nature of the instruments themselves.

        • John Borstlap says:

          I think that period isntruments are helpful to produce the required sound, but a good orchestra with contemporary instruments and under a really good conductor can easily produce the required result. It’s a matter of udnerstanding, made easier by HIP.

          There is a recording of Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra of Mozart’s last two symphonies which are as clear and stylistically correct as possible, unsurpassed, and this was in the early sixties. Good orchestra, and a conductor who perfectly understood the nature of the music:

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    Part(s) of it have been done by OAE at least a decade ago.

  • J Barcelo says:

    I’d be even more interested if they used original instruments played in the original theater (Bayreauth). And with no less than six harps the scores call for. I’ve never thought of Nagano as much of a Wagnerian, but who knows? Now if the staging is what Wagner would have seen, or at least something somewhat traditional, this could be great. If so, I hope it’s captured on DVD.

    • Emil says:

      His Ring in Munich was outstanding (I saw it at the Festival in 2013), and he also closed the OSM’s 2008 season (the last at the old Wilfried-Pelletier hall) with a concertant Das Rheingold.

  • NYMike says:

    Here’s hoping for good intonation!

  • The first performances didn’t have Wagner tubas ready, they used conventional brass band instruments.

    Will it be *that* original?

    More than hearing it I’d be curious to see pictures of what they come up with.

    Albert system clarinets?
    Trumpets in how many different keys?
    Will the bass trombone have a long slide with a handle?

  • John Borstlap says:


    Pre-1900 instruments were in some respects different from our modern instruments – flutes of wood (softer sound), bassoons less supple, brass with less volume, the string instruments with gut strings (more harmonics, clearer sound). In terms of balance this will be easier to get the sound as imagined by Wagner.

    But it is also true that Wagner was not happy with the sound he got from his orchestras, hence his devising new instruments lke the ‘Wagner tubas’ (which are, in fact, a type of bass horn). I’m sure he would have preferred the modern string sound which is fuller and deeper than the instruments in his own time. Maybe if he had had modern trombones and horns, he would not have felt the need for his ‘Wagner tubas’.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Correct. A Wagner tuba is a contrabass tuba in miniature. If you were to not only shrink the tuba itself, but also its leader-pipe and mouthpiece, you would get something close to the Wagner tuba. It’s an instrument doubled by horn players, because the mouthpiece is the same size as those used by horn players. Wagner tubas are great for filling out low end harmonizations.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I thought Rattle had already done that.

  • Bulgakov says:

    I don’t think it’s the first time on period instruments – I seem to remember Rattle conducting the work in a Prom (perhaps early 2000s) with OAE.

  • A.L. says:

    No thanks

  • Michael B. says:

    What next? Period instrument Stravinsky? Period instrument Shostakovich?? Period instrument Lachenmann???

  • Zandonai says:

    Does it apply to the sets also? Or are we going to be visually assaulted by more Euro-trash?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Wagner was never happy with the staging of his operas, and tried-out all kinds of possibilities but they never satisfied him.

  • Bob says:

    For the first time, huh?

  • leo grinhauz says:

    A meaningless stunt by fame seeking nothinggarians.

  • Some Guy says:

    Why not?

  • Ilio says:

    Rattle has done Rheingold with the OAE at the Proms.

  • May says:

    I’m sure that even in this musical equivalent of a Tempo-130 Autobahn*, Nagano will discover several passages where the conductor breaks 150 years of tradition by getting completely lost and confused.

    * The Green party in Germany would like to introduce a speed limit of 130kmh (80 mph) to the sections of the Autobahn without limit.

  • RW2013 says:

    Wrong conductor.

  • gareth says:

    Some have pointed out that Simon Rattle did Das Rheingold with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and very good it was too. However, unlike Nagano, he didn’t perform an entire “HIP” Ring, so this could well be a first.

  • GGV says:

    I can’t wait to hear Boulez and Berio in a historically informed performance (HIP) on period instruments.

  • kundry says:

    Naga…NO !

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    No, grazie.

  • Maria says:

    The more flats and sharps, the more out of tune playing, down a semitone, no thanks. Musicologists again making a mint.

  • Herb says:

    For composers like Wagner, Verdi, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Strauss, one can also learn much from conductors like Toscanini when it comes to historically informed and period performances.

  • Mateja says:

    I think such attempts are praiseworthy, but the outcome will be a failure nonetheless and that is because today’s singers sing literally nothing like singers in the “original” days did, it’s would sound like pop singing to Wagner….

  • Zandonai says:

    I prefer Vivaldi played by the Berlin Philharmonic thank you very much.

  • Peter Tanner says:

    It’s a concert performance so there won’t be much of a production to see. It’s being repeated on 20 November in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw as part of Netherlands Radio’s Saturday Matinee series. It can be heard via starting at 13:00 CET.

  • fierywoman says:

    God, no. I played Lohengrin with Nagano, that was bad enough.

  • Brian says:

    I am buying a house from 1850 and plan to install original sanitation, original heating, original kitchen, original windows, original insulation, and original drinking water management. It will be miserable, but I will be able to say that it is as it was originally meant to be.

  • Gary Freer says:

    Looking forward to hearing Emma Kirkby’s Brunnhilde

  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Nagano is the worst conductor around with a top career. I think the world is starting to see his musical mediocrities, and he needs to draw attention to himself at any cost… In no time we will see him performing Richard Strauss in historically informed fracks or tuxedos. Whatever…!

  • fred says:

    Why not? The Verdi macbeth from Poland was a very worthy experience only hampered but very BAD casting

  • Zandonai says:

    Looking forward to hearing Gregory Kunde’s Siegfried and Samuel Ramey’s Wotan.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    The irony is that having to play Wagner and other composers of his era is likely what caused any number of string players to (perhaps reluctantly) switch to the “new” metal strings. The changes to instruments didn’t happen for no reason.