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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Performance, 3 May 2010
By 
J. Gibbons (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tristan and Isolde (Audio CD)
1953 was a splendid year at Bayreuth and this performance of Tristan and Isolde was one the highlights. It was conducted with great insight, dramatic power, and a marvellous sense of line and texture by Eugen Jochum. The cast is first rate with a fine Kurwenal from Neidlinger, Weber's memorable Marke and Malaniuk a very sympathetic Brangane.

Both the leading roles are splendidly sung and powerfully characterised. Ramon Vinay is a wonderful Tristan with a rich, ardent voice. His performance in the act 2 love duet is one of the finest I have heard and in Act 3 he is quite superb and very moving. Astrid Varnay's Isolde is dramatic, intense and splendidly sung. She is frightening in Act 1, full of ardent eroticism in the love duet, and her performance of the liebestod is quite unforgettable. Together they make a great partnership, easily as fine as Vinay's with Modl at the previous year's festival.

The recording quality is excellent and catches the unique Bayreuth accoustic to perfection. The Andromeda transfer is a considerable improvement on that issued some years ago by Golden Melodram. This is one of the finest performances of Tristan and Isolde on disc and is strongly recommended to all lovers of this great work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wagner from a Bayreuth Golden Age, 15 Jan 2013
By 
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Tristan and Isolde (Audio CD)
In reasonably listenable, clean, clear, mono sound with some peaking on loud notes, this live "Tristan" is graced by two of the greatest post-war Wagner singers - indeed, in my estimation the best Tristan of all after Melchior in the heroic, baritonal tenor Ramon Vinay and an Isolde to rank with the very finest in the warm and powerful dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay. The rest of the cast is interesting in that most listeners will have difficulty hearing a singer eternally associated with evil dwarf Alberich as vocally suited to the warm-hearted simpleton Kurwenal; although he is energetic the voice is metallic and he tends to shout. Celebrated bass Ludwig Weber was always a bit rocky, unsteady and blaring as Mark and does not favourably compare with the greatest exponents of the role, but his is a sincere and moving portrayal. Malaniuk's experienced Brangäne can be somewhat acidic of tone but she is a powerful presence.

My main reservation lies with Jochum's conducting. He is not a conductor I have ever warmed to in anything much and I find that the same capricious jumpiness and a certain arbitrariness in tempi which for me afflict his Bruckner also, but to a lesser extent, mar his Wagner. I miss the inexorable pulse and steady certainties of Karajan and Knappertsbusch; the sweep isn't there for me and too many moments pass without the climactic resolution I crave in this mighty music - but he makes a fine job of the concluding "Liebestod".

Vinay sang with so many great Isoldes such as Nilsson, Mödl and Traubel and never disappoints; he has the stamina, intensity and, above all, the legato to do the role justice. Varnay's big, sometimes blowsy, tireless yet womanly Isolde provides the antidote to those who find Nilsson too "stainless steel" in quality or Flagstad too matronly. The trademark scoops and swoops are there but it is a fundamentally beautiful sound and we shall not hear her like again, I fear. The last truly great Isolde was Linda Esther Gray and although current artists such as Nina Stemme and Anja Kampe give creditable performances they cannot sing on the same scale as Varnay. As for current Tristans...well...

As a confessed "Tristan" devotee and owner of over a dozen recordings, I welcome this addition to my collection; it's a grand souvenir of a Bayreuth Golden Age.
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Tristan and Isolde
Tristan and Isolde by Varnay-Vinay-Malaniuk-Weber;Bayreuth (Audio CD - 2013)
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