OP2681. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 24 July 1962, w.Böhm Cond. Bayreuth Festival Ensemble; Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Kerstin Meyer, Josef Greindl, Eberhard Wächter, etc. (E.U.) 3-Myto 00328. - 801439903289
“The most important singer of the German Heldentenor repertory in the 1950s and 1960s, Wolfgang Windgassen employed his not-quite-heroic instrument, believable physique, and considerable musical intelligence to forge memorable performances on-stage and in the recording studio.
The tenor made his début as Alvaro in LA FORZA DEL DESTINO at Pforzheim in 1941. In 1945, he joined the Württembergisches Staatstheater in Stuttgart, steadily moving from lyric rôles to more heroic parts; he remained a singer there until 1972. Upon making his début in the first postwar season at Bayreuth in 1951, he came to international attention. His Parsifal, growing from uncomprehending innocence to maturity and service, was a moving portrayal and was recorded live by Decca Records. Windgassen became indispensable at the Bayreuth Festival, excelling as Lohengrin, the two Siegfrieds, Tannhäuser, and Tristan. There, he earned the respect and devotion of the three leading dramatic sopranos of the age: Martha Mödl, Astrid Varnay, and Birgit Nilsson. Elsewhere, Windgassen made positive impressions at La Scala (where he débuted as Florestan in 1952), Paris (Parsifal in 1954), and Covent Garden, where he appeared as Tristan in 1954. Although regarded by English critics as somewhat light of voice for Wagner's heaviest tenor rôles, his lyric expression and dramatic aptness were wholly admired. The Metropolitan Opera briefly heard him as Siegmund beginning in January 1957 and as Siegfried. Windgassen did not return to America until 1970, when he sang Tristan to the Isolde of Nilsson at San Francisco. Beginning that same year, he turned to stage direction. Among Windgassen's finest recordings are his Bayreuth PARSIFAL, captured with a superb cast under Knappertsbusch's direction, his 1954 Bayreuth LOHENGRIN under Jochum, his SIEGFRIEDs under both Böhm at Bayreuth and in the studio with Solti, and his Bayreuth TRISTAN with Böhm conducting and Nilsson as his Isolde.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Nilsson made so strong an imprint on a number of rôles that her name came to be identified with a repertory, the ‘Nilsson repertory’, and it was a broad one. She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini's TURANDOT, but it was Wagner who served her career and whom she served as no other soprano since the days of Kirsten Flagstad.
A big, blunt woman with a wicked sense of humor, Ms. Nilsson brooked no interference from Wagner's powerful and eventful orchestra writing. When she sang Isolde or Brünnhilde, her voice pierced through and climbed above it. Her performances took on more pathos as the years went by, but one remembers her sound more for its muscularity, accuracy and sheer joy of singing under the most trying circumstances.
Her long career at the Bayreuth Festival and her immersion in Wagner in general, began in the mid-1950s. No dramatic soprano truly approached her stature thereafter, and in the rôles of Isolde, Brünnhilde and Sieglinde, she began her stately 30-year procession around the opera houses of the world. Her United States debut was in San Francisco in 1956. Three years later she made her début at the Metropolitan Opera, singing Isolde under Karl Böhm, and some listeners treasure the memory of that performance as much as they do her live recording of the rôle from Bayreuth in 1966, also under Böhm. The exuberant review of her first Met performance appeared on the front page of The New York Times on 19 Dec., 1959, under the headline, ‘Birgit Nilsson as Isolde Flashes Like New Star in 'Met' Heavens’."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Jan., 2006
“Josef Greindl was considered as one of the greatest Wagner singers of his time. He had a powerfully expressive bass voice, whose clarity of declamation exhibited his stylistic projecting ability. Josef Greindl was equally convincing in dramatic and Buffo rôles. He also excelled in concert singing.”
- Aryeh Oron
“Karl Böhm was one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century in the German tradition. He studied music as a child and continued to work and study in music while serving in the Austrian Army during World War I - and while completing a doctorate in law. He never had conducting lessons, but made close studies of the work of both Bruno Walter and Karl Muck.
In 1921 he was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and then he became Generalmusikdirektor in both Darmstadt (1927) and Hamburg (1931-1933). He gained a reputation for his fine performances of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, as well as his championing of modern German music, including operas by Krenek and Berg. Böhm débuted in Vienna in 1933, leading Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. In 1934 he became director of the Dresden State Opera, Richard Strauss's favorite theater. There, Böhm conducted premieres of Strauss's DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (1935) and DAFNE (1938). He remained at the helm in Dresden through 1943, at which point he became director of the Vienna State Opera (1943-1945). Richard Strauss was not in official favor, and Joseph Goebbels banned any recognition of the great composer's 80th birthday in 1944. However, Böhm participated in a de facto observance, as a large number of Strauss' orchestral and operatic works ‘just happened’ to be played about the time of the birthday.
After the war, Böhm was forbidden to perform until he underwent ‘de-Nazification’, a procedure whereby prominent Austro-Germans were investigated for complicity in Nazi crimes. He was eventually cleared of any suspicion, and was permitted to resume work in 1947.
Böhm oversaw the German repertory at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1950-1953), and again served as director of the Vienna State Opera (1954-1956). He débuted in the USA at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart's DON GIOVANNI in 1957, and took prominent German orchestras and opera companies on tour. The Vienna Philharmonic bestowed on him the title ‘Ehrendirigent’, and he was proclaimed Generalmusikdirector of Austria. He left a legacy of many great recordings, including a complete Wagner RING cycle considered by many critics to be the best. While his Wagner and Strauss were sumptuously Romantic, his Mozart was scrupulously Classical in approach.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
“I personally prefer live recordings. What they lose in technical perfection they gain in vitality and spontaneity. A studio version cannot escape the danger of substituting a lovely collage for a true interpretation….I know for certain that there are many live recordings that are genuine as well as beautiful.”
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, pp.238-39