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WAGNER, R.: Tristan und Isolde (Larsen-Todsen, Graarud) (1928) (Anny Helm/ Bayreuth Festival Chorus/ Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/ Gunnar Graarud/ Gustav Rodin/ Hans Beer/ Ivar Andresen/ Joachim Sattler/ Karl Elmendorff/ Nanny Larsen-Todsen/ Rudolf Bockelm

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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tristan und Isolde

The story of Tristram and Yseult is one of the most potentand enduring legends of the Nordic, Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon peoples, so potentthat it even became grafted on to the Arthurian cycle of legends when Tristramor Tristan (originally Drostan or Drystan) was said to be one of the Knights ofthe Round Table. It says much for the success of the opera Tristan und Isoldethat since its premi?â?¿re in Munich on 10th June 1865, the tale of the tragiclovers has been indissolubly associated with the name of Richard Wagner. Evenbefore that premi?â?¿re, however, the opera had been sending out shock-waves, asthe famous Prelude with its extraordinary harmony - the very first sound to beheard has become known as the 'Tristan chord' - had been performed in three majorcities and the entire score had been in print since 1860. For reasons whichseem inexplicable today, it was thought unstageable: a premi?â?¿re scheduled atthe Vienna Court Opera in 1861 was aborted after 77 rehearsals. Undoubtedly theaction was steamy by nineteenth-century standards of morality; but in additionthe advanced harmonic thinking that was in evidence on every page appalledtraditionalists as much as it excited the avant-gardists. Significantly Tristanund Isolde took nine years to achieve its second production, seventeen years toreach London and a further four to achieve a New York premi?â?¿re.

            Wagnerhad been acquainted with the medieval legend for years, and it is strange thatno other composer had tackled it, although Schumann had contemplated an operaon the subject and it had been lightly satirised in Donizetti's delectableL'Elisir d'amore. In his work, Wagner was influenced by the writings ofSchopenhauer and by a purely biographical factor - when he first becameobsessed with the project in 1854, he had a guilty love for the marriedMathilde Wesendonck. In order to complete Tristan he laid aside work on hisRing tetralogy and composed at unusual speed for him. The music was begun in1856, the poem was written the following year and the score was ready by theend of 1859. Wagner made some changes to the story as he received it from hismain literary source, Gottfried von Strassburg's thirteenth-century epicTristan. In particular he made Tristan and Isolde fall in love even before theybecame stricken by the love potion. There were one or two interestingundertones to the Munich premi?â?¿re. The lovers were sung by a real-life husbandand wife, Ludwig and Malwina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, and the opera wasconducted by Hans von B?â??low, whose wife Cosima was already under Wagner'sthrall and had borne him a child, Isolde (supposedly B?â??low's daughter), on theday of the first orchestral rehearsal. Soon her liaison with him would becomethe scandal of the musical world.

            RecordingWagner's music dramas was first taken seriously by His Master's Voice (theGramophone Company) in the early 1920s. Extensive excerpts in English,involving the brilliant conductor Albert Coates and the great bass RobertRadford, as well as other English-speaking singers, were recorded even in theacoustic era, when the vital orchestral element was perforce rather muffled,but as each 78rpm disc was considered as an entity, sessions were ratherlaissez-faire and there was no attempt to maintain a cohesive cast - in theexcerpts from The Valkyrie, Radford as Wotan even had to interact with threedifferent Br?â??nnhildes. The advent of electrical recording in 1925 brought thepossibility of achieving some semblance of Wagner's orchestra, and HMV wasquickly into action, producing a number of important Wagnerian excerpts in1926, sung in German. So the firm's executives were extremely put out when thefollowing year they lost the auction for the right to record at theholy-of-holies, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, to their deadly rivals at TheColumbia Graphophone Company.

            Toits credit, Columbia rejected the HMV system of piecemeal excerpts and made adetermined effort to give the Wagnerian record-buyer a coherent view of eachdrama. It was found too difficult to take down actual performances, sorecordings were made when the Festspielhaus was not in use. Although, in theevent, only extended excerpts from Parsifal were achieved in 1927, virtuallythe whole of Tristan und Isolde was set down in 1928 - Acts 1 and 2 were donesubstantially complete and only Act 3 was cut, a practice which was usual inthose days anyway, in the interests of conserving the energies of singers andaudience alike at the end of a long evening. The greatest exponents of thetitle r?â??les, Lauritz Melchior and Frida Leider, were under contract to HMV, buta fine cast was assembled, including Rudolf Bockelmann, regarded as second onlyto Friedrich Schorr as a Heldenbariton, and the handpicked Bayreuth orchestraand chorus were conducted magnificently by the underrated Karl Elmendorff. Theset was issued with a disc of musical exegesis by the doyen of Wagneriancriticism, Ernest Newman.

            Aroundthe same time, HMV was assembling a set, recorded in two different cities,making up an even bigger portion of Act 3. It was uneven in both performanceand recording - three conductors were involved, the faithful Kurwenal wasportrayed by three separate baritones and Sides 7 and 10 were difficult toreproduce smoothly on the gramophones of the day - but at its best it burntmore brightly than the Columbia set. In particular Albert Coates was capable ofgreater incandescence than Elmendorff and the lovers were interpreted by twolegendary singers, the English tenor Walter Widdop and the Swedish soprano GotaLjungberg. King Marke was interpreted by the same singer as at Bayreuth, theblack-voiced bass Ivar Andresen. It may help listeners to know that Howard Frysings Kurwenal up to 'es kann nicht lang' mehr saumen', then Charles Victor(Widdop's teacher) takes over from 'O Wonne! Freude!' and Eduard Habich assumesthe character in Scene 3, mostly recorded in Berlin. Kennedy McKenna sings theShepherd in the London-recorded first scene (without its cor anglais solo, sowell played on the Bayreuth set), while Marcel No?â?½ takes the r?â??les of theShepherd, the Steersman and Melot in Scene 3. Those who know the beautifulacoustic of Queen's Hall will recognise it on the London sides.

Karl Elmendorff (1891-1962) was born in D?â??sseldorf andstudied philology before entering the Cologne Conservatory in 1913. Heconducted in Hagen, Aachen, Munich (the Bavarian State Opera, 1925-32),Wiesbaden, Kassel, Berlin (the State Opera, 1938-41), Mannheim, Dresden (theSaxon State Opera, 1941-5) and then, after denazification proceedings, Kasselagain (1948-51) and finally Wiesbaden again. He was a regular conductor atBayreuth (1927-42). His other major studio recording was the fine BayreuthTannhauser of 1930, but other superb opera recordings were made during hisDresden period by German Radio.

Albert Coates (1882-1953) was born in St Petersburg; hisfather was English, his mother Russian. He studied the violin, cello and organ,also taking composition lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov. His other education wasreceived in England, including four years at Liverpool University, and theConservatory in Leipzig, where he came under the influence of Arthur Nikisch.He conducted at the Leipzig Court Opera, the Elberfeld Opera, the Saxon CourtOpera, the Mannheim Court Opera and the Imperial Opera, St Petersburg (1910-18).He then embarked on an international career, although most of his manyrecordings were made in England. He ended his days in South Africa.
Item number 8110200-02
Barcode 636943120026
Release date 01/06/2003
Media type CD
Number of units 3
Disc: 1
Tristan und Isolde
1 Act I: Prelude
2 Act I: Scenes 1 and 2: Westwarts schweift der Blic
3 Act I: Scene 3: Weh'! Ach wehe! Dies zu dulden!
4 Act I: Scene 4: Begehrt, Herrin, was ihr wunscht
5 Act I: Scene 4: War Morold dir so wert
6 Act I: Scene 5: Tristan! Isolde! Treuloser Holder!
Disc: 2
Tristan und Isolde
1 Act II: Prelude
2 Act II: Scene 1: Horst du sie noch?
3 Act II: Scene 2: Isolde! Geliebte! Tristan! Gelieb
4 Act II: Scene 2: O sink' hernieder, Nacht der Lieb
5 Act II: Scene 2: Einsam wachend in der Nacht
6 Act II: Scene 2: Lausch', Geliebter!
7 Act II: Scene 2: Doch unsere Liebe, heisst sie nic
8 Act II: Scene 3: Der ode Tag zum letzten Mal!
9 Act II: Scene 3: O Konig, das kann ich dir nicht s
Disc: 3
Tristan und Isolde
1 Act III: Prelude and Shepherd's pipe solo
2 Act III: Scene 1: Kurwenal! He! Sag' Kurwenal!
3 Act III: Scene 1: Das Schiff! Siehst du's noch nic
4 Act III: Scene 2: So bange Tage
5 Act III: Scene 3: Tod denn alles
6 Act III: Scene 3: Mild und leise, wie er lachelt
7 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Prelude
8 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 1: Kurwena
9 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 1: Hei nun
10 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 1: Bist du
11 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 2: O diese
12 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 2: Ha! Ich
13 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 3: Kurwena
14 Appendix 1, Excerpt from Act III: Scene 3: Mild un
15 Appendix 2: The Motifs and Their Function in the O
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