Tristan Und Isolde on Record: A Comprehensive Discography of Wagner's Music Drama with a Critical Introduction to the Recordings

Tristan Und Isolde on Record: A Comprehensive Discography of Wagner's Music Drama with a Critical Introduction to the Recordings

Tristan Und Isolde on Record: A Comprehensive Discography of Wagner's Music Drama with a Critical Introduction to the Recordings

Tristan Und Isolde on Record: A Comprehensive Discography of Wagner's Music Drama with a Critical Introduction to the Recordings

Synopsis

This critical discography of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde opens with an introduction that illustrates the challenges the opera poses to performers. The discography lists all complete recordings, all major selections, and hundreds of individually recorded vocal and instrumental excerpts from 1901 to 1999. Information was researched in major public collections and libraries in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Pirate recordings and fictitious conductors are identified, and an extensive list of arrangements from the opera, ranging from piano to jazz ensemble, and a list of performances on video are included.

Excerpt

Fortunately there are several recordings of Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad singing Tristan and Isolde in the 1930s and 1940s, so it is not necessary to confront the primitive recording of their earliest, in 1935, to get the full measure of their greatness. Nonetheless, it is compelling, and I hope sound engineers will one day be able to get beneath the stormy surface noise to reveal the tremendous undercurrents and crests of this performance. It was Flagstad's second performance of Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera, and only the sixth in her career. People were turned away at the door, unable to get even standing room, and her performance received tumultuous applause. There are inimitable Melchior moments, from the snap of his first words ("Was ist? Isolde?"), to the absolute devotion of his last ("Isolde!"), and formidable phrases from Flagstad: her wonderfully dark words to Brangäne ("Kennst du der Mutter Künste?") leave you in no doubt that her mother's arts are deadly.

A singular value of the recording is that it is the only performance we have of Friedrich Schorr singing Kurwenal. in characteristic form, he is rock solid, yet rich in variety. He sounds bored at Brangäne's first mention of Isolde's name, and is wonderfully insolent in his response. To Tristan he is unshakably loyal - nothing he sings permits of anything but absolute loyalty. Indeed, he is so sturdy and naïve as to be almost thick, as in Act Three, when he sings "Muss Kurwenal dumm dir gelten", he himself seems to fear. It is a powerful performance, though the wretched surface noise robs us of the full measure of it.

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