I started out with the Levine/Met dvd of this opera/cycle. As most reviewers know, that dvd tends to make the more subtle, quiet portions of the Ring seem endless (just check out the Die Walkure portion). I can't knock that dvd collection too much, because it at least gave me an idea of a more traditional Ring, and hey, the Das Rheingold part of the cycle was often very good (LOVE Christa Ludwig's Fricka! Timeless!).
Because of my being advised by knowledgeable Wagnerites that I had mostly been cheated out of a more dynamic Ring recording, I began collecting the Solti-conducted version, buying one part of the cycle a month. I felt that this was the best way to fully absorb the operas; Das Rheingold one month, Die Walkure the next, etc. This approach worked where the Levine dvd ultimately failed: I was able to hear the Ring recorded in a more controlled environment. Some would be quick to point out the disadvantages to the Solti approach, and I sympathize. A live performance can be far more edgy, spotlighting the interpreter's personalities and lending more excitment thus.
For me, the Solti-conducted Ring has become the performance that immersed me most thoroughly in the Wagner Ring cycle. This set has grown with me. It was through this cycle that I began experiencing the Ring on a distinctly personal level. Please allow me to take time out to explain myself better:
The Ring is composed of characters and situations that are directly related to timeless psychological archetypes. When one opens/immerses oneself completely to the experience that the Ring provides (having a couple of books on the subject really helps as well), one can learn about one's individual relationship to these archetypes.
A really excellent addition to buying the Solti Ring cycle are the libretto books which come with each opera, written out in different languages (including English). These also include famous pictures depicting scenes from the Ring, depicted by artist Arthur Rackham. These are each really excellent inclusions that help the listener's immersion.
I'm going to close by pointing out a couple of faults with the Solti in comparison with the other, famous studio recording of the Ring.Herbert Von Karajan's Die Walkure is probably
the most effecting in terms of the Sieglinde-Siegmund duet...we're talking astoundingly moving singing and tasteful, yet committed orchestral playing throughout the first act. But overall, the Solti Walkure is by far the most rocking interpretation I've heard (and I've heard the Furtwangler, Keilberth classic, Bohm, and Krauss Bayreuth renditions). On a lighter note, I must mention the fact that Heavy Metal (most specifically the bands Manowar, Dio-fronted Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest) led me toward investigating the works of Richard Wagner, and the Ring in particular. I must particularly reccomend this recording of the Ring to any fellow Metalheads out there, as I haven't heard any more powerful performances of the (to paraphrase Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio) "heavy metal-inventing" parts of this opera. I understand also that many would take this in a bad light, and to question my earlier ranking of this recording as being "dynamic". But I must point out the beauty of Siefried's soliliquoy upon drinking the dragon's blood, his death speech, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Brunnhilde-Siegfried meeting...her awakening. All of these I found more effecting that in any other recording of this work (I DO give props to the singing in the Krauss/Bayreuth rendition however).
I must point out also that the majority of the Karajan-conducted Ring seems to suffer far less from the often irritating (and head-scratch-provoking) intonation problems the Solti recording does. But I feel that's quibbling, BUY THIS RING if you want a recording of a great work that just keeps providing new things to admire and learn from with each listen. I can't think of a more inspiring form of reccomendation than that.