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Brilliant Opera Collection - Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde / Furtwangler, Flagstad, Et Al

Release Date: 06/30/2009 
Label:  Brilliant Classics   Catalog #: 93933   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Rhydderch DaviesRudolf SchockDietrich Fischer-DieskauJosef Greindl,   ... 
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden ChorusPhilharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 4 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Tristan and Isolde Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond; Kirsten Flagstad ( Isolde ); Ludwig Suthaus ( Tristan ); Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau ( Kurwenal ); Blanche Thebom ( Brangäne ); Josef Greindl ( King Marke ); Royal Op Ch, Covent Garden; Philharmonia O Read more class="ARIAL12"> BRILLIANT 93933, mono (4 CDs: 255:25)

In Fanfare 28:1, I reviewed a new EMI reissue of this 1952 classic and the Naxos release of the same performance, which is available in Europe but not the United States (a point that means little in the days of Internet shopping). EMI’s earlier “Great Recordings of the Century” version (67626) is hard to find, but if you look for it you can locate it; it is the edition with a lavish booklet and complete libretto in German and English. EMI’s reissue, as well as Naxos’s and Brilliant’s editions, lack a libretto.

Brilliant Classics did not “pirate this,” at least if their box is to be believed. They licensed it from EMI, and therefore used EMI’s remastering. I hear no difference between the two EMI CD versions and Brilliant’s. The recording remains what it always was, a warm, rich sounding, and naturally balanced original with a bit of congestion at climaxes. Naxos’s transfer (8.110321) by Mark Obert-Thorn is slightly preferable—a bit more clarity and bite to the sound. It is the Naxos set, taken from German LP pressings, that I will listen to when I want to hear this performance.

And I want to hear it frequently. This is one of the classics of the recording industry, a set that has not been out of print since its initial release, and a performance admired by generations of opera lovers and musicians, even including some who normally shy away from Furtwängler. Flagstad is splendid beyond description (it doesn’t matter that two high Cs were sung by Schwarzkopf—if that’s what it took to get Flagstad’s Isolde on disc, so be it). Suthaus may not equal Melchior in his prime, but he sings passionately and with a full, dark timbre. For more details, read the review in 28:1. But I’d recommend saving the time, devoting it instead to listening to this classic set.

On arkivmusic.com, this Brilliant set was selling for $21.98 when I checked in late June. EMI’s GROC version was available for $46.98, and their later reissue for $27.98. Naxos’s version was not available on arkivmusic.com, but was listed on the British site MDT (www.mdt.co.uk) for $30.45.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Rhydderch Davies (Baritone), Rudolf Schock (Tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone),
Josef Greindl (Bass), Blanche Thebom (Mezzo Soprano), Ludwig Suthaus (Tenor),
Kirsten Flagstad (Soprano), Edgar Evans (Tenor)
Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/1952 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 255 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Language: German 

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