Vienna State Opera Live, Vol. 11

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Koch Schwann
WORKS: Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Soloists, Vienna State Opera Orchestra & Chorus/Wilhelm Furtwängler
CATALOGUE NO: 3-1461-2 ADD mono

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HMV’s 78 rpm, 122-side pre-war ‘Potted Ring’ is itself something of a precious musical metal, having been forged between London and Berlin with the help of the period’s most distinguished Wagnerians: Lauritz Melchior, Frida Leider, Friedrich Schorr, Walter Widdop – heroes all, and galvanised into ardent action by, among others, that most headstrong and reckless of Helden-maestros, Russian-born Albert Coates.

The whole treasurable production has been rigorously polished by Pearl, whereas Koch Schwann’s Vienna State Opera ‘live’ series remains something of an aural junk shop, with noisy prompters, scrunching surfaces, frequent distortion and musical cut-off points that lend a whole new meaning to the idea of Wagnerian ‘bleeding chunks’.

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Still, a 1943 truncated Tristan is not to be missed, what with Max Lorenz’s frenzied portrayal of the lead male role, Anny Konetzni’s impressive (and much-underrated) Isolde and Wilhelm Furtwängler’s seamless, white-hot conducting. How different this from Furtwängler’s searching but safe post-war recording for EMI – although be reminded that Koch’s pitted sound is a definite stumbling block.