Tristan und Isolde
Studio recording in stereo
December 2-4, 6-10 & 13, 1971
January 10, 1972
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Tristan Jon Vickers
Isolde Helga Dernesch
Brangäne Christa Ludwig
Kurwenal Walter Berry
Marke Karl Ridderbusch
Melot Bernd Weikl
Ein Hirt Peter Schreier
Ein Seemann Peter Schreier
Ein Steuermann Martin Vantin
Berliner Philharmoniker
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
EMI, CMS 7 69319 2 4 CDs ADD
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Review by Constantijn Blondel

This is one of the most chilling Wagner performances I have on my shelves. Karajan tunnels between chilling intensity, delirious sensitivity and harsh aggression. To quote the 'rough guides' "This recording is an essay in violence".

Helga Dernesch sings a glorious Isolde, equally at home with the revenging princess of Act I as with the ecstatic lover of Acts II and III. As I mentioned in my Karajan-ring reviews, she possesses much of the cleaving- power that Birgit Nilsson also has, which makes Ms. Dernesch a feast to listen to.

Tristan is sung by Jon Vickers, and his performance is frighteningly compelling and convincing. Especially in Act III he seems to balance on the edge of sanity. Vocally he sings the inhuman role with ease and it is truly an experience to listen to his voice.

Christa Ludwig is probably the ideal Brangäne and - as she is in the Böhm set - she gives the role depth and sings it with real beauty. Walter Berry is a good Kurwenal, though not as sympathetic as for instance Eberhard Wächter. Karl Ridderbusch makes the ideal König Marke, with his sympathetic, calm and mild voice...he is not as much angry with Tristan as sad that his friend has done this to himself.

The BPO playing is - as always - gorgeous. The Jesus Christus Kirche acoustics make for a sort of spooky,sound and the orchestral details all blend into one hypnotising sound-picture without loosing the audibility of the individual instruments.

This is one of the best-ever Wagner recordings and highly recommended.