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Reviews: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Furtwängler

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Reviews: 1

Review by petrushka1975 March 4, 2013 (10 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Wagner fans all over the world know this to be the unsurpassed recording of Tristan. In addition to the inimitable Furtwangler, the ensemble consisted of an all-star cast of the best Wagner singers of the era. Flagstad was slightly past her prime voicewise as she had retired from signing the role of Isolde prior to this session. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf reportedly sang the highest notes in her place. Nevertheless Flagstad's voice remained sensual, and her love duet with Suthaus in Act 2 and her final scene in Act 3 are among the most passionate and memorable of all recorded opera.

But how good does it sound? In absolute terms the recording compares favorably to recordings of the same vintage, eg. early to mid-1950s mono. Orchestral color and detail are first rate. I did notice that the voices were miked to give a slightly more diffused and larger image than the orchestra, and I would have prefered slightly more focused and smaller. But that is a minor criticism.

I compared the SACD layer to the 2001 Great Recordings of the Century / ART release. The SACD was much better, and the differences were immediately noticeable. It had greater warmth, more image depth, more instrumental decay and more details. Together these differences resulted in an even more intense and enjoyable listening experience. For the lack of a better analogy, it's as if you have a vintage black and white photograph restored onto an exhibition quality print showing the richest tones and texture that only best B&W photography can deliver.

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