OP2966. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Live Performance, 18 & 22 June, 1937, Covent Garden, w.Thomas Beecham Cond.Royal Opera House Ensemble; Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Margarete Klose (Brangäne, Acts I & II), Karin Branzell (Brangäne, Act 3), Herbert Janssen (Kurwenal, Acts I & II, Paul Schöffler (Kurwenal, Act 3) & Sven Nilsson (King Marke); Thomas Beecham Cond.London Phil. & Chorus: Flourish for a Coronation (Vaughan Williams), April, 1937; John Steane speaking about Royal Opera Seasons between the wars. (Canada) 4-Immortal Performances IPCD 1042, accompanied by two booklets, 56 & 36pp. Restoration, re-creation & transfers by Richard Caniell. Specially priced at 4 CDs for the price of 3. - 748252292247
"At last! Richard Caniell's Immortal Performances label is the first - and, thus far, only - label finally to release this unforgettable recording in the CD format both complete and in clear, rich sound....Richard Caniell has again worked his sonic magic. If you own any earlier releases [of this performance] you need have no hesitation replacing them with this one....add this set to [your] collection before it goes out of print since it is shown as a 'limited edition'."
- William Russell, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2015
“… utterly remarkable performance of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE available now in a version that so completely supersedes all prior versions as to render them irrelevant. Richard Caniell has given his usual attention to detail, removing hiss, grit and noise to the extent possible but without destroying the color of the voices and the orchestra. If you told me I could take only one to that mythical desert island, I would choose this one. Flagstad is often accused of being matronly, stolid, lacking in passion. To be sure, there are performances of hers that merit at least some of that criticism, though for me it always pales when set against the sheer glory of the voice itself. But this performance, perhaps inspired by Beecham, shows Flagstad not only at her vocal best, but responsive to text and to dramatic moment. She is girlish, she is impassioned, she is anguished, she is furious, she is tender; she is, in short, a complete Isolde. In no prior releases of this performance did her voice glow and shine the way it does in Immortal Performances’ transfer. The rich beauty of her top notes comes through with remarkable impact. Melchior too benefits from the sonic improvements of this edition. This is the TRISTAN of one’s dreams, combining urgency, vocal beauty, and a very musical way of putting forth a phrase.
The other prime beneficiary of the superb sonic restoration here is Beecham, or rather Beecham and the orchestra. No other edition of this performance offers this degree of richness and variety of orchestral color, this dynamic range, and in particular this beauty of string tone. What we have here is one of the greatest performances of that opera ever to be captured in recorded form, finally transferred in a way that respects the quality of the music-making and brings it all vividly to life.
Richard Caniell also gives us extensive and thoughtful notes that are way beyond what we get in most releases, either by the major record companies or certainly those specializing in historic material. And one must also note the wonderful photographs included in the two accompanying booklets. There are many labels, major companies and small independent producers, that make historic material available. None does it with the consistently high standards of Immortal Performances. Those of us who believe that the history of the art form of opera must be well documented, for our own enjoyment and for future generations, owe this company an enormous debt of gratitude.”
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2014
“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 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.
The achievement of Richard Caniell, mastermind of this 1937 TRISTAN project and restorer of the discs, is admirable - the voices now sound marvelous: clear, rich, present, with a lovely bloom. 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
“There were ten broadcast performances of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE with Melchior and Flagstad recorded between 1935 and 1941. Each has certain superlative aspects as conducted by such important figures as Bodanzky, the young Leinsdorf, Fritz Reiner and Sir Thomas Beecham. I greatly esteem different aspects in every one of these performances with the exception of the 1941 broadcast which was released by the Met in their ‘Soria’ series, costing $100. It is the only season in which Flagstad’s vocalism did not shine - if I had to choose one performance that captured Flagstad at her very best, it would be this Covent Garden production in 1937 led by Beecham. Here, through his gifted capacities, Flagstad is at her most lyrical, singing in a voice so incomparably lovely that it surpasses any adequate description. The breadth Beecham gives the lovers in Act II produces depths that are luminous with values that I never recall having previously heard. And when he takes this same measured approach in the ‘Liebestod’, his crescendi, both vocally and orchestrally, storm the heart with a transfiguration you will never forget. Flagstad has as her Tristan, Lauritz Melchior, the greatest exponent of this role, one who offered a sensitivity, legato and musicality buoyed by a magnificent, virile, clarion voice, so as to achieve an overwhelming poetry and power which has no comparison to any other tenor in the past century. Indeed, no single artist has exemplified the shining truth of what Wagnerian music-drama is, and must be, as did Melchior in his realization of Act III, in which this great artist re-creates the shattered, spent delirium of an ideal man fevered with an inextinguishable passion. To impart the full panoply of Tristan’s suffering and joy, there is no parallel in recordings or in reported stage performance to equal, much less surpass, Melchior’s achievement in Act III. This performance has to be heard in order to appreciate its superiority to their other recordings and those of other singers of this and later eras.”
- Richard Caniell, Program Notes