OP0478. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 21 May, 1957, w.Rodzinski Cond. Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Ensemble; Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Grace Hoffman, Otto von Rohr, Gustav Neidlinger, etc. (Slovenia) 3-Living Stage 1107. Long out-of-print, final copies! - 3830257411079
"In the process of listing the hundreds of CDs that pass through here on a regular basis, it is impossible to audition every one of them...indeed, most of them. But occasionally a certain performance causes one to pay just a tad more attention, and such is the case with this TRISTAN. Apart from my profound love of this opera, Rodzinski primarily aroused interest, so I took time to listen to a bit of it. Thus was gone an entire afternoon, spent in sheer bliss! To begin with, Rodzinski's conducting is positively electrifying, and the orchestra plays as if possessed. Just as Nilsson herself proclaims, 'Grace Hoffman's singing is balm to the ear and soul'. Windgassen truly inhabits the roe of Tristan, and the greatest surprise of all is the sensitive tenderness of Nilsson's phrasing. Let alone her laser beam accuracy to which we are all accustomed, she gives the performance of a lifetime in her loving treatment of Isolde. This is a uniquely glorious performance! The sound quality is especially spacious and brilliant."
- J. R. Peters
“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
"This TRISTAN performance, part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival in Florence in 1957, gained further luster from the presence of the Polish conductor, Artur Rodzinski on the podium. He was very demanding, oversensitive, and given to endless rehearsing. Rodzinski didn't give up until he had gotten everything out of the singers and the orchestra. Until then, I had not heard an orchestra play TRISTAN with such an ethereal sound as under Rodzinski. Wolfgang [Windgassen] was, to my great joy, my Tristan. No one could sing Brangane's Warning more perfectly than [Grace Hoffman], and it was one of the high points of the evening to hear the beautiful sound of her voice penetrating the darkness of night, while I was enfolded in Tristan's arms."
- Birgit Nilsson, LA NILSSON, pp. 198 & 153
"Artur Rodzinski was born in Split, the capital of Dalmatia on 1 January, 1892. In Vienna, his teachers included Josef Marx and Franz Schreker (composition), Franz Schalk (conducting), and Emil von Sauer and Jerzy Lalewicz (piano). He returned to Lwow where he was engaged as chorus master at the Opera House, making his debut as a conductor in 1920 with Verdi's ERNANI. The following year saw him conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and at the Warsaw Opera House. While visiting Poland, Leopold Stokowski heard Rodzinski leading a performance of Wagner's DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NURNBERG and exclaimed 'I have found that rare thing, a born conductor!' and invited him to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Between 1925 and 1929 he served as Stokowski's assistant, conducted for the Philadelphia Grand Opera and directed the opera and orchestral departments at the Curtis Institute of Music. From 1929 to 1933, Rodzinski became the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, garnering praise not only for his interpretations but for his innovative programming. From 1933 to 1943, he was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, developing it into one of the foremost orchestras in America. He engaged new musicians and raised the playing standards to a very high level. His programs were innovative, offering works such as the first performance in America of Shostakovich's opera LADY MACBETH OF THE MTSENSK DISTRICT, which gained the orchestra national attention. Between December 1939 and February 1942, Rodzinski and the Cleveland Orchestra made an extensive series of recordings for the Columbia Records label. During this time he appeared with the New York Philharmonic in 1934 and 1937, when his concert performance of Richard Strauss' ELEKTRA aroused great enthusiasm. Rodzinski was also active in Europe, becoming the first naturalized American citizen to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 1936 and 1937. At Arturo Toscanini's recommendation, Rodzinski was engaged by NBC to select the musicians for the new NBC Symphony Orchestra. He rigorously trained the orchestra and conducted its first concerts in 1937, before the arrival of Toscanini.
Rodzinski was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1943. Though his four-year tenure was marked by considerable acrimony with Arthur Judson, the powerful manager of the orchestra, Rodzinski achieved high standards of performance. The renowned music critic and composer Virgil Thomson wrote about Rodzinski's tenure at the Philharmonic: 'We now have an orchestra that is a joy to hear...and we owe it all to Artur Rodzinski'. During Rodzinski's time on the podium the Philharmonic recorded extensively, again for Columbia, performed weekly live broadcasts on CBS Radio, and appeared in the feature film CARNEGIE HALL.
Despite, however, the quality of the orchestra's performances, numerous artistic matters such as the prerogative of the music director to dismiss musicians, select soloists and determine repertoire were persistent grounds of contention. Not willing to compromise on these matters, Rodzinski resigned in 1947. His reputation as a conductor was so prominent at this time that his resignation was the subject of a cover story in TIME MAGAZINE in February 1947. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra had been wooing Rodzinski for some time and now he decided to immediately accept the leadership of that orchestra starting with the 1947-1948 season. Here again, an inability to work with the board resulted in his swift departure after only one season. His short tenure still had a significant impact upon the orchestra and local audiences through performances such as a legendary account of Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with Kirsten Flagstad.
After his departure from Chicago, Rodzinski's health began to deteriorate. There was little recording activity available to him in the U.S. and he settled in Europe once more. Here, his status as a major musician was recognized and he was invited to lead significant productions, such as the 1953 first performance of Prokofiev's WAR AND PEACE at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, as well as traditional repertoire works. He conducted at La Scala and also worked extensively for Italian radio, conducting well received readings of Wagner's TANNHÃ„USER and TRISTAN, and Mussorgsky's BORIS GODUNOV and KHOVANSHCHINA. He re-established his presence as a recording artist through a contract with Westminster Records, for whom he recorded extensively with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London from 1955. His final recordings were for EMI in 1958. By this time Rodzinski's health was fragile. He was warned by his Italian doctor that further conducting activity would put his life at risk. However, he returned to Chicago in 1958 to conduct TRISTAN once again, this time with the Chicago Lyric Opera and soprano Birgit Nilsson. His return was a triumph, but these were his last performances and he died shortly afterwards."
- Ned Ludd