Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner – Tristan und Isolde
WORKS: Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Millgram, Lennart Forsén, Hedwig Fassbender, Gunnar Lundberg, Magnus Kyhle, Martina Dike; Royal Swedish Opera Male Chorus and Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660152-54
Whatever merits this recording may have, they are set at naught by the fact that there is a hefty cut in the Act II love duet, of which no mention is made in the accompanying booklet. It’s ten minutes of wonderful music, which used to be cut in live performances, often, to save the singers. In a recording made in a studio, there is clearly no excuse.

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The recording has some good features, though unacceptably weak participation from some of the minor figures. And neither the Brangane of Martina Dike nor the Kurwenal of Gunnar Lundberg has the right kind of voice for their part. Hedwig Fassbender, the Isolde, begins badly and shrieks her top notes, but she has temperament and intensity. Wolfgang Millgram has neither, though he possesses a decent voice, which he often misuses by shouting. The inwardness of many of Tristan’s utterances, especially in Act III, quite escapes him. Yet if the conducting were more idiomatic they might make a good pair. Leif Segerstam manages, however, to be both vehement in style and yet also languid, or rather lacking in rhythmic bite, so the drama sags at the same time as seeming over-emphatic. With hot and reasonably priced competition, not least in the form of Karl Böhm’s classic recording, this set is not competitive. Michael Tanner