Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: John Treleaven, Christine Brewer, Dagmar Pecková, Boaz Daniel, Peter Rose, Jared Holt, Eugene Ginty, Jonathan Lemalu, Mark le Brocq; Apollo Voices; BBC SO/Donald Runnicles
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62964-2
In a work on the scale of and


with the sublimity of Tristan und

Isolde, it is foolish to expect any

performance or recording to be

flawless: it’s safe to say none ever

has been or ever will be. There

are already several outstanding

recordings in the catalogue, of

which the first, made under

Furtwängler in 1952, has long been

recognised as the standard by which

all others are judged. But Böhm’s

exciting rather than moving account

from Bayreuth, and Barenboim’s

more recent one, also have very

strong claims. Nonetheless, among

modern accounts, this new one

strikes me as altogether exceptional.

Here is the record of three evenings

at the Barbican, in 2002 and 2003,

widely spaced performances of the

three Acts, with some patching

up done afterwards in the studio.

This recording in some ways even

surpasses those wonderful occasions

in magnificence, with more detail

from the BBC Symphony Orchestra,

and the Tristan of John Treleaven

sounding far less strained than he

did in the concert hall. Lacking

a beautiful voice, he still makes a

great deal of the part, and rises to

noble heights in Act III. Christine

Brewer is quite stupendous, the finest Isolde I have heard for decades,

even though she was new to the

part, and not entirely inside it – but

the sound she makes! There is no

weak link in the cast, even such a

small role as the traitor Melot being

sung with distinction by Jared Holt.

And Donald Runnicles provides a very detailed account of this

inexhaustible score. Listening to

these discs straight through is a


shattering experience.