Although not a studio recording, this version of Tristan und Isolde, captured during a series of actual performances at London's Covent Garden in the summer of 1936, has always generated the same sort of excitement: a recording that captures not only the work of a brilliant Wagnerian conductor named Fritz Reiner but also the century's -- and probably history's -- greatest Wagnerian team: Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior.
The recorded sound is obviously limited, and the performance employs some of the standard cuts of the time, but this is still the Tristan against which all others must be measured and, ultimately, must come up short. Along with the usual pitfalls of live recording -- considerable foot-stomping and singers occasionally wandering out of optimum microphone range -- there is also a sense of life, grandeur, and visceral excitement in the performance that no other version can match. Although essentially the same immaculate transfer (by Ward Marston) that appeared at several times the price on VAI Audio, this version sounds even better.
In short, legends don't come much more cheaply than this.