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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bayreuth at its best
I was lucky enough to be present at the last outing of this Wieland Wagner production with essentially the same cast - the curtain calls went on for more than 45 minutes!
Undoubtedly, this is a totally exceptional performance - one of those live performances that catches fire from the first enigmatic rise and fall to the famous 'Tristan' chord and never lets you go...
Published on 15 Jun 2005 by Klingsor Tristan

versus
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nilsson....please stop, if just for a moment!
I've tried and I've tried - again and again and again....

....but Nilsson ruins this for me.

Sure, her voice is powerful and one feels she's got the whole thing in control but she overpowers the whole opera. If vocal gymastics is your thing then you'll be well pleased with what's on offer here.

For me, it's about the romance. I want to...
Published on 26 May 2010 by David Atkinson


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49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bayreuth at its best, 15 Jun 2005
By 
Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I was lucky enough to be present at the last outing of this Wieland Wagner production with essentially the same cast - the curtain calls went on for more than 45 minutes!
Undoubtedly, this is a totally exceptional performance - one of those live performances that catches fire from the first enigmatic rise and fall to the famous 'Tristan' chord and never lets you go until long after the last note of the Liebestod has died away. Bohm (often accused of being kapellmeisterish at the time) is electric - the music ebbs and flows with the passion of the protagonists, at times whipped up to almost hysterical proportions (Tristan's Act 2 arrival and the height of his dementia in Act 3 for example), at others achingly lonely (Marke's monologue or the shepherd's piping come to mind).
The singing, too, is unsurpassed. Nilsson and Windgassen are in superlative form throughout - Windgassen tired in Act 3? His character is dying, for God's sake - and he certainly rises to the excitements of Isolde's arrival and the ripping of the bandages from his wound. Christa Ludwig sings Brangane's warnings from the tower with a haunting rapture that matches that of the lovers downstage. The much-missed Martti Talvela sings his (presumably huge) socks off as Marke, turning a character who can be a bore into, for his moment, the most sympathetic and moving person in the opera.
I've never got it with Furtwangler and Flagstad by the time of that performance sounded too maternal for my taste. Bernstein is brave and at times fascinating but his cast aren't as good. Karajan is too overcooked and Vickers - often a great Tristan on stage - was too self-indulgent here. Kleiber (who I also heard, magnificently, at Bayreuth) conducts wonderfully and has a beautifully sung Isolde in Margaret Price, but his Tristan is the rather pedestrian Kollo.
For me, this Bohm recording is the yardstick Tristan and a great example of Bayreuth at its absolute best. The engineers capture the unique Bayreuth sound well, too.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intensity personified., 10 Nov 2000
Because Bohm decided to record each act individually there are none of the problems of stamina that can affect other live performances. Nilsson is ecstatic and incredibly moving and Windgassen, while sometimes at a sonic disadvantage to her, provides a reading of such intensity that there can be few to match him. There are no weeknesses in the cast and Bohm, while sometimes on the urgent side builds climaxes wonderfully well. The final Liebestod is so moving that it becomes almost overwhelming and the sound quality is superb. For raw emotional intensity this version cannot be beaten.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Er...., 26 Oct 2001
By A Customer
WHAT!? How can a reviewer writing below criticise Windgassen's performance in Act III?? It's perhaps the greatest display of vocal 'acting' you will ever hear anywhere. The intensity and passion of Windgassen's performance guarantees the reputation of this classic set. Bohm IS fast. He's sometimes hectic, wild and passionate. But, come on! this is 'Tristan' after all. Perhaps the MOST extreme, demanding, intense opera ever written. Just listen to the Act III moment where Tristan, in his madness, imagines seeing Isolde's ship on the horizon. Oh boy...such music and such an incredible performance. Or listen to Nilsson and Windgassen in the wondeful Act II duet: 'O Sink Herneider'. Worth the price of the set on its own. The sound quality is, for Bayreuth, totally satisfactory with very few stage intrusions and a natural, warm ambience. The Bayruether Festspiele orchestra is accurate and respond to Bohm's thrilling direction wonderfully.
Wagner himself stated that, after the score was completed, he was scared of the finished result and the intensity of the emotion enshrined therein. And, listening to this performance, you can understand his concerns. It's an extraordinary performance of an extraordinary opera.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ethereal Liebestod, 21 Sep 2010
By 
Robert Brook (Buckinghamshire, UK) - See all my reviews
Having only ever owned the 1953 Furtwangler account of Tristan, I was searching for a later recording but rather than go for Pappano, Thielemann or Barenboim, I decided on this live 1966 account by Karl Bohm, recorded at Bayreuth.

Apart from being at a really good price (this is a genuine 'box' set unlike some of the other DG/Decca Orginals operas) the cast is totally luxurious - Nilsson, Windgassen, Talvela, Ludwig and Wachter with Peter Schreier even taking the small part of the Young Sailor - innuendo not intended.

Despite Talvela at times sounding sepulchral (probably the microphone placement/balance) you would never guess at this being a Live recording. Windgassen here sounds less strained than he does at times in some studio recordings. Nilsson is as usual superb and the orchestra makes the neck tingle in the Liebestod - here perhaps even better than Karajan's much praised ending?

For me this is the number one choice for a Tristan set. Whether it is the Bayreuth sound or the stellar cast, there is a certain electricity with this recording that makes it hard to refuse.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "In my beginning is my end...", 8 May 2001
By A Customer
This recording, surely, on its own, guarantees Karl Bohm's status as a great conductor. His vision of the opera is ultimately dramatic, concentrating upon the inevitability of the lovers' deaths. From the Prelude through to the draining viscerality of Isolde's death scene, Bohm moves the music with serenity and intensity in equal measure; occasionally a little urgent, but never to the detriment of his almost flawless cast, nor to the score itself. With this recording Bohm allows us to understand the opera as Wagner idealized - as gesamtkunstwerk; music, poetry and drama as ritual, and for this reasoin above all others, this recording should be a first choice for this work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can there be a better recording of a better opera?, 17 May 2001
By 
S. M. Hagget "Steve Hagget" (Swansea, Wales) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
From the opening Prelude to the final chords of the Liebestodt this performance radiates power and beauty. Nilsson excels, after 3 hours of work reaching a spectacular finale. The opera, full of melancholy and Wagnerian control offers a historical change of direction in music "the Tristan Chord". This recording allows the opera to develop and is well worth acquiring
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Tristan, 9 July 2002
By 
E. A. Redfearn "eredfearn2" (Middlesbrough) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Recorded live at Bayreuth in 1966, this recording has stood the test of time. Some wagnerians may find the tempi a little quick at times, but there is no denying the fact that it generates a wonderful atmosphere. The pairing of Birgit Nillson and Wolfgang Windgassen was a masterstroke. Windgassen is not perfect by any means for his voice sounds a little tired at times during Act 3. But the highlights of this version are the Love Duet and Brangrane's Warning in Act 2. Good sound overall.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BAYREUTH'S BEST, 27 Nov 2008
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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Much as I revere Wagner generally and this great work in particular, I am not the Complete Wagnerite. I do not seek any hypothetically `perfect' Tristan, but this is not just for the obvious reason that in such a long music drama it would be unlikely that my ideas and those of any imaginable performers would coincide totally. It is largely because I have long suspected that Furtwaengler's great recording from the 1950's was going to be as near to my idea of perfection as I was ever likely to come. However the interpretation of Tristan did not stop for all time with Furtwaengler. For advice on newer versions I consulted

Doctor and Sage, and heard much Argument
About it and about.

What I found, and what you will find if you carry out the same exercise, is that there is next to no consensus among the Wagner cultists. Unless you want to own every version you will have to rely on faith or guesswork, and that has been my own basis for acquiring Boehm's 1966 Bayreuth version by way of supplementing and counterbalancing the Furtwaengler classic. I already own and admire Boehm's Ring, so that was one recommendation. Another was that an account with Windgassen and Nilsson as the principals, plus Ludwig as Brangaene, Waechter as Kurwenal, Talvela as Marke and even the youthful Schreier as the sailor, was hardly likely to be a bad one. The approach to the recording was promising as well. Much as Brahms used to hear his Wagner one act at a time, so Boehm recorded his Tristan in the same way, in order that his performers could give full value to each act without having to hold anything back. For me it does not supplant much less surpass Furtwaengler, but there is no way I can rate it as less than a 5-star account in is own right.

Shaw described Tristan as `music for grown-ups'. The senior statesman among the cast is obviously Marke, King of Cornwall, and in this role Talvela's great dark voice is surely ideal. This is the best Marke I have ever heard, moving to the point of being harrowing. For the rest of the story, we are dealing indeed with torrential adult passion, but it must be one of the briefest affairs in all drama. The drama and the passion are here in torrents all right, but for some reason the voices of the principals sound to me just a little `mature' in not quite the right way. My own concept of Tristan and Isolde and their fateful one-night stand is of youngsters, not of thirtysomethings. However just as singing it is as superb as you would expect. Ludwig is again the best Brangaene I know, absolutely lovely in her song from the battlements. Waechter does not disappoint either, but it would have been a big ask for him to equal the young Fischer-Dieskau in the Furtwaengler set. It is probably true that the main performers are unsurpassed in their depiction of the subtle changes in the characters' mental states, but this for me is not as important in Tristan as in, say, Otello. This is not Shakespearean drama with the participants fully responsible for what they do, it is an ancient legend in which their actions are largely controlled by what the old interpretation would have called magic and on a modern view we might think of as mind-altering drugs. More significant for me is that the voices in this recording, although individually and collectively superb, are not so well differentiated from one another as are those of Furtwaengler's cast.

The recorded quality gives me no cause for complaint, although I noted with mild surprise that effects of distance are not captured anything like so well as in Furtwaengler's 50's production, which I actually own on LP. Likewise the Bayreuth orchestra is very good, if not the equal of the Philharmonia in its mighty heyday. Read with a little caution anything you may be told regarding allegedly fast speeds taken by Boehm. It is certainly true that he is significantly faster in the first prelude than Furtwaengler, and this makes a strong impression that perhaps persists longer in the listener's mind than it should. I'm not sure that there is all that much to choose thereafter in the matter of speed. In particular Furtwaengler is by no means tardy in the passionate outpourings in act II, nor does Boehm in any way rush the pensive and gloomy start of the last act. More important to me is the orchestral tone, which from Boehm is more - what's the word? - robust, with less melding of the orchestral timbres where I might have wanted more of that in the manner of Furtwaengler.

Fine stuff altogether. Great singing, a comprehensive grasp of the rich and complex score from the director, very good recorded sound, a wonderful Liebestod to finish with. Fine stuff as I say, but equal to Furtwaengler's set? Not in a hundred years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars was the great Valkyrie of her time -- a warrior woman whose ..., 6 Dec 2014
The warrior woman of opera . . . Soprano Birgit Nilsson . . . was the great Valkyrie of her time -- a warrior woman whose steely voice sliced thrillingly through the vast orchestral thickets of Wagnerian music drama, carrying to the last row of any opera house in which she sang. She excelled at the larger-than-life heroines of Wagner and Richard Strauss -- the young goddess Brunnhilde in the "Ring" cycle, the princesses Isolde, Salome and Elektra in the operas that bear their names. The works made full use of her extraordinary stamina, spot-on intonation and fearless, gleaming high notes. Yet she also distinguished herself in more intimate material, such as Donna Anna in Mozart's "Don Giovanni," in Scandinavian folk music and in the songs of Grieg and Sibelius.

Washington Post / 15. January 2006
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Böhm or Kleiber?, 9 Aug 2011
By 
Per Arne Rudberg "P-A Rudberg" (Vallentuna, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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I always compare this recording to the one with Carlos Kleiber.
Kleiber was a pure genius. He adds something special to this wonderful music, just listen to the Vorspiel where every little detail is pure gold.
Böhm is also superb, but sometimes lacking clarity in the details.
Kleiber has Kollo and he is a very interesting Tristan that I can believe in. Böhm has Windgassen that sounds old and scruffy.
Kleiber has Fassbänder, Fischer-Dieskau and Moll - all three performing at their very best.
Böhm has Ludwig, Wächter and Talvela, where Ludwig and Talvela are absolutely marvellous, but Wächter is trying too much and that makes his voice shaky.
But then there is the question about Isolde.
Kleiber has a marvellous Price that has a wonderful warm and human voice, she is a superb Isolde. But Böhm has - Nilsson. And then my choice is made. Nilsson is Isolde, it's as simple as that. Her voice is an ocean, and she captures all the moods of Isolde. Just listen to her initial ""Wer wag mich zu höhnen?""
Nilsson wins it for Böhm!
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Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (3 CDs)
Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (3 CDs) by Karl Böhm and Orchester Der Bayreuther Festspiele
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