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 Furtwangler 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
"Herbert Janssen - with his plangent, fine-grained voice, keen intelligence, aristocratic musicianship, and (not incidentally) handsome appearance - was the leading German baritone in several major theatres during the 1920s and 1930s. After study with Oskar Daniel in Berlin he was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker's DER SCHATZGRABER . He remained at the Berlin State Opera until 1937 singing both lyric and dramatic roles, many of them in the Italian repertory. He later appeared in important productions of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / ELEKTRA and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin's PRINCE IGOR, for which he was highly praised.
Janssen was a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival from 1930 to 1937. His Wolfram in TANNHAUSER set a standard not approached since, and, fortunately, it was recorded in a somewhat truncated 1930 production. During that decade, he established benchmarks for several Wagner roles, particularly Kurwenal, Telramund, Gunther, and - especially - Amfortas. His interpretation of the latter was an exquisitely sung realization of a soul in torment, achieving a remarkable unity of voice, movement, and makeup. His doggedly loyal Kurwenal is preserved on complete recordings of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE made live at Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937. His tortured Dutchman is also available in a live recording made at Covent Garden and featuring Kirsten Flagstad as Senta.
In addition to his stage work, Janssen acquired a reputation as a superior singer of Lieder. The exceptional beauty of his voice and his interpretive acuity made him a prime candidate for Walter Legge's Hugo Wolf Society venture of the 1930s. Among the finest singers Legge could pull together, Janssen was given the largest assignment and his subscription recordings made throughout the decade remain supreme, even in the face of the best achievements of post-war Lieder singers.
Janssen was very unpopular with the Nazi regime, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini's assistance traveled immediately to Buenos Aires. After a season in Argentina, he came to the United States where he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1939, remaining at that theater until his stage retirement in 1952.
From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he remained in New York as a respected teacher.
Janssen's performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical DREI MUSKETIERE at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Gota Ljungberg."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com