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on 13 October 2012
The sound of this recording has the best of what modern technology can do for a complex musical work. The orchestra seem totally at one with Barenboim and the pacing of the piece is superb. The satisfying layout across the four discs (Act 2 complete on disc 3 and Act 3 complete on disc 4) is surprisingly rare - given that it can obviously be done. Jerusalem and Meier are caught in their prime and give wonderfully sung and acted performances. Jerusalem is particularly harrowing in the final Act and Meier - although not the most powerful or beautiful voice to sing the role - is completely convincing. I think that it is significant that both the leads had sung the role several times in the theatre - and with Barenboim - before recording this in the fine acoustic of the Berlin Philharmonie in November 1994. The supporting cast is also excellent. The crucial roles of Kurwenal (Falk Struckmann), Brangane (Marjana Lipovsek) and King Mark (Matti Salminen) are outstanding. Salminen's singing of Mark's reproach at the end of Act 2 brought tears to my eyes (and it can often be a bore). Melot (Johan Botha) sounds genuinely dangerous and makes the most of his brief opportunities. There's a track listing and synopsis but no libretto. This can be found online relatively easily (but it still makes me cross).

The versions that I know reasonably well are the Bernstein, Kleiber, Bohm, von Karajan and Furtwangler recordings. I haven't heard Pappano's version with Domingo and Stemme, although I have heard a Radio broadcast with Stemme. They all have something to be said for them (I love Margaret Price in the Kleiber but could she have done it on stage?). Everyone has their favourites and if I criticise them I'll probably attract a stream of unpleasant comments at the end of this review. Just to throw one more recording into the pot, the best performance that I have personally heard is this one: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde and it's now available as a bargain MP3 download: Richard Wagner : Tristan & Isolde (London 1937). This is probably a step too far for most listeners but if you get the opportunity DO hear it!
However, this Barenboim recording is immensely satisfying and a safer recommendation than the ancient (and cut) Beecham recording. It's half the price of the Bohm recording (although that does have a libretto) but more expensive than the Furtwangler. This may come across as a "safer" recommendation than those but there's nothing bland or safe about the performance. Strongly recommended.
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on 20 August 2013
I wouldn't presume to offer a critique of the various conductors and presentations of this Opera. However, I know what I like and I think I know what is great and this is a great and powerful and moving recording of an iconic and ground-breaking piece of operatic theatre.
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on 20 September 2014
just brilliant wonderful recording
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on 12 April 2015
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