- Tristan und Isolde, opera, WWV 90
As the conductor for PentaTone's ambitious project to record all of Richard Wagner's music dramas, Marek Janowski has delivered a fine live concert version of "Tristan und Isolde" that has received critical praise for its strong cast and extraordinary sound quality. Janowski draws out some exciting playing from the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the multichannel super audio recording gives the ensemble the depth and fullness that is absolutely vital in Wagner's richly scored music. The cast is assured and vocally capable, but the star is soprano Nina Stemme, whose Isolde is vividly rendered and strong enough to carry the performance through to the Liebestod, setting standards of expressive power and stamina for the other singers to match. Considering the difficulty in finding vocalists who can handle Wagner's demanding roles, the performances by Stephen Gould as Tristan, Johan Reuter as Kurwenal, and Kwangchul Youn as King Mark are certainly better than average, and satisfying for the purposes of this concert performance. While this recording does not rank among historic Tristans for the thrills of a fully staged production, or for any legendary artists in the main roles, this is still an admirable effort that promises even greater things for the remainder of PentaTone's series.