Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

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Barnes & Noble - Andrew Farach-Colton
Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchoir are archetypal Wagner performers, displaying not only the requisite heft to soar over a large orchestra but also abundant passion, understanding, and physical stamina, and this famous performance, recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936, is a thrilling monument to their artistry. The current dearth of Wagnerian singers has turned Tristan und Isolde into a conductor's opera, but despite the exciting and exacting leadership of Fritz Reiner, Flagstad and Melchoir hold center stage here. One is swept away as much by the beauty of their sound as by their ecstatic expressions of desire. Rarely has the second-act love duet been so ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Andrew Farach-Colton
Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchoir are archetypal Wagner performers, displaying not only the requisite heft to soar over a large orchestra but also abundant passion, understanding, and physical stamina, and this famous performance, recorded live at Covent Garden in 1936, is a thrilling monument to their artistry. The current dearth of Wagnerian singers has turned Tristan und Isolde into a conductor's opera, but despite the exciting and exacting leadership of Fritz Reiner, Flagstad and Melchoir hold center stage here. One is swept away as much by the beauty of their sound as by their ecstatic expressions of desire. Rarely has the second-act love duet been so intoxicating. The balance is sometimes off occasionally the voices overwhelm the orchestra, but it is remarkable how much detail comes through, given the recording's age. Originally captured on 26 78-r.p.m. discs, the entire opera can now be contained on three CDs -- one disc per act. Naxos has done Wagnerites an immeasurable service by re-releasing this classic performance. It is a priceless document from a particularly resplendent era of Wagner interpretation.
Barnes & Noble - Jim Svejda
Among collectors of great Wagner recordings made during the 78 era, three have always been mentioned in the most hushed, reverential tones: Karl Muck's otherworldly recording from 1928 of the third act of Parsifal; the rapturous 1929 version of the Tristan und Isolde love duet in which -- aided and abetted by the fiery Russian-born Albert Coates -- that most feminine of Isoldes, Frieda Leider, and the young Lauritz Melchior go completely out of their minds; and that near-perfect fusion of voices Melchior again, together with Lotte Lehmann and the stalwart Emmanuel List and orchestra the prewar Vienna Philharmonic in Bruno Walter's 1935 recording of the first act of Die Walküre.

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.

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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/14/2000
  • Label: Naxos
  • UPC: 636943106822
  • Catalog Number: 8110068-70

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1 Tristan und Isolde, opera, WWV 90 - Richard Wagner & Octave Dua (210:01)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Fritz Reiner Primary Artist
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