Search - Richard Wagner, Philharmonia Orchestra, Wilhelm Furtwängler :: Tristan Und Isolde

Tristan Und Isolde
Richard Wagner, Philharmonia Orchestra, Wilhelm Furtwängler
Tristan Und Isolde
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #2
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #3
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #4

It's not surprising that this sublime performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde has remained on the market for so long: Wilhelm Furtwängler's reading of the tale with Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Kirsten ...  more »


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It's not surprising that this sublime performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde has remained on the market for so long: Wilhelm Furtwängler's reading of the tale with Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Kirsten Flagstad is probably definitive. The conductor is peerless at achieving a strong sense of direction throughout the epic length. Carlos Kleiber's controversial version with the Dresden State Orchestra might boast orchestral fireworks (abetted by modern recording technology), but if you're looking for a Tristan where the singing takes center stage, this is the recording to buy. --Joshua Cody

CD Reviews

lesismore26 | Chicago, Illinois USA | 12/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This outstanding performance of "Tristan" has long had classic status, and for good and valid reasons. Surely this must be considered to be Wilhelm Furtwangler's greatest recording. He creates a "Tristan" here full of magic, compulsion, and sheer genus. The 1952 EMI studio sound, especially since it's digital remastering, is never less than satisfactory. For many, this is THE "Tristan" recording. However, I have some reservations about it. To begin with, there's Kirsten Flagstad, without question she was without peer at any given time in the history of Wagnerian opera. Her voice in its best days was so awesome that she reigned over some of the greatest Wagnerian singers of the time ---- including Helen Traubel and Marjorie Lawrence, both great sopranos in their own rights.But by the time this "Tristan" was recorded in 1952, Flagstad was, sorry to say, several years past her best vocal days. Of course a Flagstad past her prime was still better than anyone else, and much of her work here is still very fine, but her Isolde had by this time, to my ears anyway, taken on a matronly and staid quality. Her interpretation is fine, but in a very generalized sort of way. Ludwig Suthaus may not have had the sheer vocal mass of Lauritz Melchior, but he is actually pretty good here. His Tristan has stature and is compelling throughout. The long Act II love duet is a real highlight of this recording ----- in fact, the best I've ever heard.Both Flagstad and Suthaus are tonally rapturous here and Furtwangler achieves orchestral effects here that border on a transfiguration ----- very beautiful indeed. There are many wonderful things to hear on this recording, but would I recommend it as a first choice? Maybe so, but I certainly wouldn't want to be without Karl Bohm's recording with Birgit Nilsson and Wolfgang Windgassen, with the benefit of stereo sound. Nilsson is a savage and searing Isolde and Windgassen is a towering Tristan. Bohm conducts a slashingly taut performance, and it's a thrill a minute. But the thrills to be heard on this EMI recording are also to be savored, but they are very different. A true Wagnerian will want to own both recordings, and possibly a third as well. But you certainly won't go wrong with this one."
The Yardstick of all time!
Jim Player | Rochester, NY, USA | 01/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Since it's making in June of 1952 and its subsequent release, this "Tristan" has never been out of the catalogue, and for good reason: it is simply one of the best recordings ever made. An in depth narrative of Sam Shirakaw's somewhat overly sympathetic Furtwängler biography "The Devil's Music Maker", going into the obstacles in casting...Melchior as Tristan, Mödl and Klose as Brangäne, and the animosity between Furtwängler and Walter Legge. It was Flagstad both in front of and away from the microphone who got things done, by refusing to record unless she had both Furtwängler AND Legge, and by suggesting Thebom. And as Flagstad, Furtwängler and Legge all felt a great professional and personal need to make this recording, everyone put away their differences and gave their absolute best. Top billing belongs to Furtwängler, perhaps the greatest German conductor of the first half of the 20th century. To record a four and a half hour work in small segments and making it cohesive was a monumental challenge in the early 50's, especially with a conductor who didn't care for the recording studio and who despised his producer. But Furtwängler went ahead, and with a relatively new orchestra, produced a seamless, thrilling and incandesant performance that has remained THE standard for half a century.Flagstad gives the performance of a lifetime. Her voice, past it's prime, was still a formidable instrument, and had lost none of it's luster. Vocally, she is Furtwängler's equal, dominating every scene she's in with her magnificent velvety voice that is both soothing and hair raising.Suthaus isn't quite up to the challenge in Act 3, nor at the end of Act 1. He has a warm baritonal tenor that serves well in the lyrical passages, and he sounds remarkable in the Liebesnacht with Flagstad. But the big moments in his solo scenes are just beyond him...where the voice should rise up and ring out over the orchestra,Suthaus is caught in a baritonal chest voice that mercilessly keeps him earth-bound.Fischer-Dieskau is amazing at each hearing, singing with intelligence and untiring freshness.Thebom sings with what has been described as a vinegry tone, and is somewhat superficial dramatically, providing just adequate support for Flagstad.Josef Greindl, though not very appealing vocally, is quite good as Marke, conveying the old Kings' grief admirably.The remainder of the cast is basically unremarkable, but with Furtwängler and Flagstad here, does it really matter?And last but not least is Walter Legge, who in spite of his loathing Furtwängler and wanting Karajan, created a warm lucid sound (the best mono sound ever!), and got the job done in near record time. One of the benefits to the leftover session was the famous Furtwängler/Fischer-Dieskau "Lieder eines fahrendes Gesellen!"
A definitive performance of a wonderful work | Cambridge, MA USA | 02/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This recording, made in London in 1952, has been recognized as one of the greatest of all opera recordings, and I agree with that. Furtwängler directs an incredible performance: this is his best opera recording, and as he is a superb conductor, that is no small achievement. His conducting is dark, intense, romantic and dramatic all at once. His slow tempi are more appropriate for this work, I think, than Böhm's breakneck ones: Furtwängler has the drama, passion, or whatever is being currently expressed unfold at a rate that gives the music its highest expressiveness. Kirsten Flagstad is an absolutely perfect Isolde. Even though she is considerably past her prime, her voice is unbelievable. Her Liebestod is one of my favorite recorded moments. Ludwig Suthaus is an excellent Tristan. His interpretation is superb, and has everything a Tristan should have. He is also past his prime, and his voice is deteriorating, but he offers up several passages of beautifulsound. I would have liked to hear his voice in its prime. Blanche Thebom as Brangäne has a beautiful voice, but doesn't really project the character and is no match for Ludwig on DG. Josef Greindl is an excellent Mark, and the young Fischer-Dieskau makes his first appearance on a complete operatic recording as Kurwenal. The only reservation here is that since Kurwenal brought Tristan up, he obviously has to sound older; but Fischer-Dieskau naturally sounds much younger than Suthaus. But these are small, picky points, and the power and brilliance of this opera emerge and hit you straight on in this recording. Strongly recommended."