Dip Your Ears... ( 7 ) 

R. Wagner,
Tristan und Isolde (live),
Christian Thielemann
Another Tristan from Universal Classics, this time the May 2003 (live) account from the Vienna State Opera that was rightly hailed for the debut of Deborah Voigt as the first American Isolde in Vienna. The cast is, for modern times, quite outstanding - Petra Lang is a most splendid Brangäne, Thomas Moser not a strong but convincing Tristan, Robert Holl a very fine Marke. But more than anything else, this is about Thielemann and his relationship with the Vienna forces that respond with their best playing to this conductor who has few equals in the late German romantic repertoire. Munich must be sallivating to have him take on their Philharmonic, continuing the tradition that had its sumptuous glory honed by the late Celibidache before James Levine (now in Boston) took over. Thielemann has Wagner glow and bristle that it is a joy. The recording, live as it is, is marred by some uneven balances - the choir especially is set rather far back compared to all studio recordings and other live accounts - and the stage noises, contributing at times, can be distracting at other times. The fine Tristan this is, it does not replace among modern recordings my cherished Barenboim version with Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, Marijana Lipovsek etc. - and as far as live versions go, Karl Böhm's recording (also on three CD's) with Birgit Nielsson and Wolfgang Windgassen holds out. Furtwängler's, too, is still a Tristan to listen to, despite its age - especially in its new cheap EMI edition. To explore either Thielemann's or Voigt's artistry though, this is a great set to have - and if you have only this Tristan in your collection, you aren't off badly at all, either. ƒƒ

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