This is regarded as one of the greatest ever opera recordings and it is impossible to disagree. The greatness lies primarily in Furtwangler's conducting which takes slow tempi yet the whole seems to pass extremely quickly. Then again, Furtwangler dwells lovingly on details but has a supreme mastery of line and structure.
Flagstad, of course, was one of the greatest ever Wagner sopranos and even though she was 57 at the time of this recording her voice was still immensely powerful but soft and creamy in tone and like Furtwangler himself she was able to focus on details while always maintaining the line. Ludwig Suthaus as Tristan is superb and his baritonal type of heldentenor voice perfectly complements Flagstad. As for the role of Kurwenal, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in this is a relevation. He makes every word count and is lighter of voice - a tenorial baritone - than in his later years. Blanche Thebom is a more than adequate Brangaene who very well complements Isolde because her voice is clearly differentiated from Flagstad's. The Philharmonia orchestra play as if their lives depended on the success of this recording; 'incandescent' hardly does them justice.
The Naxos transfer was made according to the sleeve notes from records rather than the original tapes and to judge by the results the discs have been chosen with great discernment. The 1952 mono sound is exceptionally clear and with plenty of both treble and bass. The recording is so vivid that it almost gives the illusion of stereo at times.
The only drawback is that the accompanying booklet only has a synopsis and no libretto.