Marie Bashir gives Peter Bassett’s Ring Cycle lectures on Decca Eloquence the Royal seal of approval.

An excited crowd of Wagner fans and music industry professionals were in attendance at Sydney's Government House for the official launch of the latest release on the Australian Decca Eloquence label.

Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia, spoke eloquently, and with considerable passion, about the project to record a series of explorations of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle by respected Australian writer, lecturer, and former diplomat Peter Bassett. The talks, one on each of the operas that make up the epic Der Ring Des Nibelungen, have been recorded for posterity on a four CD box set beautifully packaged with dedicated artwork specially commission by Universal Music Australia.

"Peter’s contribution to enlightenment – the German cultural enlightenment, the Australian enlightenment – is a truly scholarly analysis and deep appreciation of Wagnerian opera, particularly of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen", said Marie Bashir, "For he has provided a splendid awareness of the rich psychological insights, which these works convey, and which now will be shared with an audience world wide."

Bassett, who lives in Queensland, is a worldwide authority on Wagner and his operas and has been closely associated with both stagings of the Ring in Adelaide in 1998 and 2004. His writings include four books on Wagner and last year’s magnum opus comparing the careers of both of 2013’s birthday boys, Wagner and Verdi. His writings are hugely admired but this is the first time that any of his words have been committed to compact disc.

The four lectures are sonically illustrated with excerpts from the legendary 1960s recording of the Ring by Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic. “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”, says Bassett. “I count it amongst the most powerful artistic influences of my life.”

The project is the brainchild of Universal Australia’s Manager of Classical Music, Cyrus Meher-Homji who personally supervised the recordings. “I was in Melbourne last year at a reunion with a group of Wagnerites who’d been to Simone Young’s Ring performances in Hamburg in 2011 and we were talking about what we might do for the Wagner year”, said Meher-Homji. “I was planning a series of reissues on Decca’s Eloquence imprint and reached out to Peter Bassett to write the notes, to which he agreed, and came up with the suggestion of a recording of his Ring talks. We met to discuss this on a winter’s evening over a hearty meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and decided to go ahead with it.” It rapidly became an interstate labour of love. “Peter recorded the talks in Brisbane, selected the excerpts, and we assembled them in Sydney, playing extensively with starts/finishes, levels and all that sort of thing, to get the best possible result.”

George Ash, President of Universal Music Asia Pacific said: “Universal Music’s devotion to classical music continues unabated and I’m delighted to see Australia’s contribution to the Wagner Year with this exciting new release that appears on Decca’s Eloquence imprint – the most successful classical catalogue enterprise in Australia, with sales now exceeding 2 million units.”

Der Ring Des Nibelungen Explorations is released this week on Decca Eloquence and will be reviewed in the August issue of Limelight.