Top positive review
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The real thing
on 30 November 2013
I remember innocently buying the Melodram LPs of a Covent Garden Tristan with Melchior and Flagstad claiming to have been conducted by Beecham, and coming to the conclusion on first hearing that the first act couldn't have been - and with equal certainty that that the second act was. Later on it turned out that the first act - which was well recorded for the circumstances and the period, and very authoritative - was Reiner's. This first act, not so well recorded, is unmistakably Beecham.
Do not expect acoustic miracles - there is a manageable level of surface noise, but Flagstad and Melchior brush it aside. Beecham's orchestra doesn't, - at pianissimo it is well below noise level and pretty distant, but his dynamic range is very wide and must have banjaxed the engineers. You have to intuit a good deal of the detail, but the confrontation between Isolde and Tristan which is the climax of the act does allow something of the orchestra to come into focus. As the ship comes into port, Kurwenal drowns chorus and full orchestra, though. Much of the second act does give an idea of the sheer magic of Beecham's interpretation of the night. Elsewhere his resource, and theatrical sense are outstanding. You are on the edge of your seat. Now if only the source material might be persuaded to yield a little more......
The stars are a tribute to what survives of the performance (which, as usual, was cut) and the occasion, not an endorsement of the acoustic quality. But you do get used to it.