OP2993. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 18 June, 1937, Covent Garden, w.Thomas Beecham Cond.Royal Opera House Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Margarete Klose, Herbert Janssen, Sven Nilsson, etc. (Holland) 3-EMI 764037. [This is the infamous EMI erroneous release (of interest primarily to 'completests', details explained in accompanying EMI insert).] Very long out-of-print, final ever-so-slightly used copy! - 077776403724
“In 1992 when EMI themselves issued the odd conflation of Beecham and Reiner 1936-7 of a Beecham TRISTAN from 1937 it became apparent that they no longer had a complete copy of the original discs since more than half of what they issued came from the Reiner recording from 1936….[The information accompanying the EMI CD set states that, as a result of a misunderstanding in the preparation of the discs, recordings from the performance with Reiner in May 1936 and from the performance with Sir Thomas Beecham in June 1937 were inadvertently mixed, so that the Prelude and most of Act 1 are conducted by Reiner, Act 2 and the first third of Act 3 are conducted by Beecham, and the remaining two thirds of Act 3 are again conducted by Reiner. The mix-up in the EMI CDs is explained in detail by David Hamilton in his review in Opera Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Spring 1993)].
As to the performances, I think these perhaps capture Flagstad and Melchior at their finest. Beecham seems to get more out of these singers than either Reiner (his tempi are certainly quicker), or Bodansky (who conducted the contemporaneous Met performances). Rarely has the music been sung better and I don’t think the two principals have ever been so well matched.”
- Historic Opera
“What Furtwängler called ‘the superhuman splendour of Madame Flagstad’s voice’ is gloriously in evidence, but here it has an enchanting freshness and youthfulness not found in her post-war recordings. The Tristan is Melchior – has there ever been a voice to equal his in Wagner’s Heldentenor roles? But he also knows how to act with it….And, in the pit, there are Sir Thomas and the London Philharmonic, the orchestra he founded five years before, playing TRISTAN like musicians possessed. Beecham’s is veiled, mysterious, beautiful….His interpretation, and the orchestra’s playing, have an extraordinary intensity. The phrases sing; at the same time there is a sure grasp of the score’s larger, wavelike motion. Nothing is rushed, the music is given space. And in the ‘Liebestod’ the work comes to a wonderfully satisfying culmination; Beecham paces it flexibly but broadly, so that the final crescendo and climax, when they arrive, are overwhelming.
As John Lucas says in his biography of Beecham….‘for once the cliché is justified – a Golden Age of Wagner singing’, and you hear it in this TRISTAN.”
- David Cairns, CRQ, Winter, 2014