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Wagner:Tristan und Isolde
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2010
A wonderful set - and an outstanding bargain. Top contenders in this opera would be the versions of Furtwängler and Böhm. The recorded sound of this issue alone - it is beautifully spacious with perfect balance between singers and orchestra - puts it way ahead of the old Furtwängler, which in any case has in Flagstad an Isolde who sounds far too matronly. One gets more orchestral detail than in the Böhm version for Kleiber is a master at bringing out tiny details of woodwind colouring, as is immediately apparent in the Prelude. Margaret Price and René Kollo both sound convincingly young. Price is the loveliest-sounding Isolde I have ever heard, also the most ecstatic: no-one would know she hadn't sung the role onstage. Kurt Moll gives full attention to every word and is a rare example of a King Marke who isn't a bore. In fact, there isn't a single passage throughout the opera which drags, thanks to Kleiber's inspired direction. The opera can also be bought as part of a 12-CD set, an absolute bargain but the remastering may not equal the sound on this version.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2011
Having listened to the whole of this recording in a state of almost hypnosis, it is easy to see why Tristan was ready to depart this life. Margaret Price is to die for. Her lightness and flexibilty combined with exceptional musicality and emotive power makes this one of the finest available recordings of the role of Isolde. Price, though, has ample vocal power when needed. Combine this with Carlos Kleiber's visionary conducting and the ravishing string sound of the Dresden Staatskapelle and you have special ingredients indeed. The liebestod is a sublime culmination where Price achieves something extraordinary and will leave you in awe of this great singer. Even Rene Kollo as Tristan sound more youthful and lighter than in other recordings. If you buy only one recording of this work, it has to be this one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I think that in order to avoid getting bogged down in debate over whether singers such as Margaret Price have any business singing a role which they would not - and indeed, in her case never did - attempt on stage, this recording is best viewed as a product of the recording studio rather than an attempt to replicate a live performance, and devised in order to enshrine the conception of a great conductor making the best of the resources available to him. Undoubtedly the DG engineers' adjustments are enabling lighter voiced artists to be heard but the same could be said of the covered pit at Bayreuth and to this day true Wagner singers who may be properly heard over the orchestra are as rare as hen's teeth.

This is undoubtedly beautifully played and directed; Kleiber's sensitivity and lyricism infuse every bar but he also packs a punch at the climactic conclusions of Acts 1 and 2. Being a devotee of the live 1966 recording at Bayreuth conducted by Böhm, I miss a certain propulsion in passages such as the "O sink hernieder" duet and too often his singers are almost crooning not just because they lack vocal heft but because a Lieder-like restraint and delicacy are clearly what the conductor has demanded of them. That can pay dividends: this is clearly the most minutely prepared of recordings with every textual and musical nuance thought through for maximum impact; nothing is skimped or blandly performed.

Fischer-Dieskau croons and fakes notes because by this stage of his career - the set was recorded between August 1980 and April 1982 - the juice has gone out of his voice and he no longer has the resources but he creates a bluff, credible Kurwenal. Kollo's voice is always an odd assemblage of incongruities: he has little legato and can quickly lose tonal lustre, either yelling or almost marking, but he rarely defaults into the guttural emphasis or pronounced bleat which sometimes marred his singing and he sounds suitably youthful, delivering the words with exemplary expression. His ravings aren't painful in the way some Tristans can be. Varnay, Heppner, Treptow, Vickers or - least of all - Melchior he ain't - but he's nonetheless better than passable. Fassbaender keeps her wide vibrato under control and rises to the fierce, sustained tessitura of a role which often lies as high as Brangaene's mistress; she brings a master Lieder recitalist's acuity to her text. The smaller parts of the Young Sailor and Melot are taken by mediocre singers, the former glottal and the latter making little impact in his tiny but crucial interventions.

The glories of this set, however, apart from Kleiber's concept and the playing of the Dresdeners, are Kurt Moll's predictably moving and sonorous Marke and Margaret Price's shining Isolde. Her voice has qualities similar to those of Gundula Janowitz, whose predominately lyrical and fluting soprano had sufficient spinto power, stamina and legato to undertake "lighter" Wagnerian roles on stage. She may be artificially boosted but the result is thrilling; I haven't enjoyed a "recent" (comparatively, in terms of recorded history) Isolde as much since Linda Esther Gray's superlative recording for Goodall - and she could pull it off live on stage, too. Price's flawless German and thrilling top, honed in her celebrated Strauss roles, in combination with a serviceable lower register and a real actress's delivery combine to enable her to deliver the recorded performance of a lifetime, regardless of her practical limitations. There is nothing matronly (Flagstad?) or chromium-plated (Nilsson?) about her vulnerable, passionate, wild and almost girlish Isolde; she's terrific.

Its faults notwithstanding, being now available in superb sound at a bargain price on three discs with a full, trilingual libretto, this set should be in the collection of any devotee of this greatest of operas.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 3 August 2011
I was brought up on the Furtwangler/Flagstad version. Then I discovered Karajan/Dernesch 35 years ago. Agreed a little idiosyncratic, but that version bowled me over, and Dernesch's voice very much appealed to me. I have been faithful ever since.

Until now. Fickle creature that I am, I am now in love with the Kleiber/Price blend of magic. Yes, Isolde is perhaps a little lighter than the more usual Wagnerians but possibly this is what makes it so outstanding. Just think of Gundula Janowitz as Gutrune in Karajan's Ring, and you've got the same sort of magic.

I expect I shall go to my grave faithful to Kleiber/Price and this stunning version.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 December 2014
The sound is gorgeous, the singers relishing the chance to bring to Wagner the kind of detail and beauty of tone usually associated with Lieder . . . It is an uplifting experience listening to this set . . . a splendid monument to Kleiber.

Patrick O'Connor, Gramophone (London) / 01. September 2005

Aside from the quality of the voice, Price's tuning is spot on and she also has the dramatic character firmly fixed when lsolde's angry we can clearly hear it. There's also a great beauty and warmth in her so und. The orchestra playing from the Dresden Staatskapelle is absolutely stunning too -- Kleiber is a genius.

Martin Roscoe, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. October 2012

The Kleiber recording has everything . . . [René Kollo] does a great job as Tristan . . . Margaret Price is what makes it for me. The voice is amazing and she hits every note bang in the middle (something you don't always hear!) with thrilling drama, and of course Kleiber is sensational. At the climax of the "Liebestod", where Wagner writes forte, Kleiber sort of floats it -- I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it. What an amazing effect!

Jeremy Nicholas, International Piano (London) / 01. July 2013

. . . [the recording] provides a quite new slant on the work, thanks primarily to the volcanic passion of Kleiber's conducting and to Margaret Price's youthful and pure-toned Isolde. Rene Kollo is as usual a highly intelligent artist . . . Brigitte Fassbaender [is] an ideally solicitous and moving Brangäne, who has some of the opera's most beautiful music. No subsequent recording, and there have been quite a few, equals this . . .

BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. November 2013
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2014
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this recording of "Tristan und Isolde," and that that is the case is due mainly to the superb direction of Carlos Kleiber. In all three of these long acts, he finds a way to keep the pulse going and find a musical narrative that sustains and enriches the narrative that is being enacted and sung. The DGG sound is beautiful, and the Dresden orchestra plays magnificently throughout. The control of dynamics and phrasing always seems to be alive and expressive, so that even in the places where the voices are under stress, and at times overwhelmed, one never feels that the drama isn't moving forward. It's easy to forget, over the long spans of the piece, that each act has its distinctive sound-world, though if that were not the case, the ear would surely tire. That is never a problem here.

If one wants to isolate individual vocal performances from the overall musical progression, one can find things to criticize. The most obvious of these is Kollo's Tristan -- his is not a particularly beautiful sound here, in 1982. In the Karajan 1970 "Meistersinger" and when I heard him live in 1969 in "Das Lied von der Erde" in Edinburgh, there was more sweetness with the power -- though it was never heldentenor power. But he sings with great attention to the text, and the phrasing and dynamics receive their due too (his singing is not an undifferentiated bellow), even if the tone isn't always sweet and if the voice seems near its limit. He sings very expressively in Act 3. though he might be at his best in the confrontation with Marke late in Act 2, where his voice seems at its freshest. Fischer-Dieskau's voice shows some wear, but he's a perfectly effective Kurwenal, and Anton Dermota, at 72, sounds marvelously fresh and firm as the Herdsman. Kurt Moll (Marke) and Brigitte Fassbaender (Brangane) sing superbly throughout -- really distinguished performances, I think, and Margaret Price totally vindicates Kleiber's choice of her as Isolde. Whether or not she could have sung the role on stage seems beside the point -- she sings with lovely tone and great expression throughout -- always womanly, whether in anger or tenderness, and in the Liebestod and the duet of Act Two she is magnificent. But one comes back to Kleiber -- he supports these singers and never seems to be compromising the passion, beauty, and coherence of the music. And there are no problems -- as there were in his "Freischutz -- of his singers' voices being too closely miked. All is in great balance. Simply great stuff!!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2007
Price as Isolde is in fine form. Her Isolde is lighter than some divas in this role but nevertheless up to the challenge. Kollo as Tristan is pretty run of the mill and much could be said of Fischer-Dieskau (who understandably no where meets his magnificence, as a young man, as heard in the 1952 Furtwangler set). However, the whole performance is never less than appealing. The beauty of the orchestral sound is considerable. This performance is easier on the ear than some other more histrionic sets (Eg: Karajans set with a shrill Isolde played by Dernesh and a 'hysterical' orchestral interpretation).

This is a performance that delivers beauty and subtlty. Whilst my first choice will always be Furtwanglers 1952 set this comes in as a refreshing alternative rendering, with Bohm's and solti's).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 September 2014
I havn't heard the whole recording yet - but totally agree with the person who equated Price with Janowitz. I heard the Liebestod on Radio Three (Was it "Private Passions"?) and was bowled over by her glorious voice. Can't wait to get the set.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2014
Margaret Price and Rene Kollo head a very fine cast. Carlos Kleiber conducting one of the best recorded performances of this opera. DG's excellent recording.
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on 3 December 2013
An astounding performance thanks to Maestro Kleiber and his unique talent.Maggie Price beautiful on disc.The other performers not in this league but who could be
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