Review by Charles E. Muntz|
Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival in 1966, this performance became
an instant classic when it was released. The spearhead of the cast is
the great Birgit Nilsson, who brings an incredible intensity to the
performance, from the terrifying curse in act 1 to the tear-wrenching
Liebestod at the conclusion. Nowhere in the opera does she show signs
of vocal strain or squalliness, something few, if any, of her successors
can claim. Her performance rivals that of Kirsten Flagstad, who recorded
it with Furtwängler in 1952.
As her Tristan she has the 52-year-old Wolfgang Windgassen. His voice
lacks the heroic ring the part demands, but he sings excellently and
gives a fine poetic and dramatic performance that leaves little to be
desired. His long solo scenes in the third act are particularly
The minor roles are all superbly filled. Christa Ludwig is the classic
Brangäne, certainly better than Thebom for Furtwängler. Martti Talvela
is a noble, committed Marke who actually makes the character interesting
and poignant. Eberhard Wächter sings Kurwenal with ringing conviction.
Karl Böhm gives a very exciting reading. Speeds are quite fast--fast
enough that the recording fits on three discs. At times though, one
wishes that Böhm would let the tension slacken and bring out some of
the poetry in the score--parts of the act 2 love duet come to mind.
And sometimes some of the power of the music seems passed over,
something that Solti or Furtwängler seem to have a better
The Bayreuth Orchestra plays excellently. Like the Ring from 1967,
the sound tends to lack detail, and the brass could be a bit better,
but all in all it is very fine. This recording is definitely one of
the great Wagner recordings of all time--ranking with Soltiís Ring
and the Melchior/Walter recording of Walkure Act 1. It is preferable
by a slim margin over Furtwänglerís reading with Flagstad, although
any lover of this work will have both.
This review is from the now closed Wagner on the Web and it is published
without the author's consent. I haven't been able to get in touch with him.
If the author reads this, please contact me as soon as possible. If you
don't want it here, I'll take it of the site immediately.