"…Thanks to Marek Janowski's inspiring direction, the singers' commitment and the peerless sound quality, this recording sets a new benchmark for Tristan und Isolde in the 21st century and undoubtedly it is one that all Wagnerites will wish to investigate. Unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended." ~SA-CD.net
This compilation covers 20 years of live recordings made by conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky and the then-named Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra for Erato. Mravinsky led that orchestra for nearly 50 years, from 1938 until his death. His last recording was that of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 12, made in 1984, found on Disc 3 here. His interpretations of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky were highly regarded, so it's not surprising that several of their symphonies are here. There are also symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven in this set; tone poems by Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky; and orchestral excerpts from operas by Wagner, Glinka, and Glazunov. The final disc contains a rare recording of a rehearsal led by Mravinsky, something few outsiders were ever allowed to witness. Even though he was an elder statesman of Russian music at the time of these recordings, there is still precision and energy in his interpretations.
Richard Wagner's reputation rests on his tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the other music dramas he created, including Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which revolutionized all aspects of late Romantic music and left their mark on modern music as well. Yet there is a small body of non-operatic works that shows a more relaxed Wagner working on a much smaller scale: his Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra, a group of songs, and a collection of pieces for piano. This double CD by Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner's complete piano music with three sonatas, a large-scale fantasia, and eleven short pieces that show the composer's attempts at finding a more personal and intimate voice.
The first release of the first stereo recording of the work, the historical importance of this set of Wagner's Siegfried is undeniable. Recorded by Decca at the 1955 Bayreuth Festival, this performance directed by Joseph Keilberth was to have been issued as part of the first complete Ring cycle. But persuaded that only a studio recording could do the work justice, Decca decided to shelve Keilberth's performance, a decision that led to Georg Solti recording Siegfried with the Vienna Philharmonic and ultimately to the release of a Ring cycle that many still regard as the finest ever recorded. But aside from its inherent historical value, what's its aesthetic value? While much better than average, Keilberth's Siegfried doesn't challenge the established order.
Not being a lifelong Wagner devotee, I'm not sure if this particular performance has been released before or not, but I do know that it was included in a 2013 9-title release of Wagner operas recorded live from The Met from 1937 through 1954.
Why this performance? 3 words: Flagstad, Melchior, Huehn. I would add to that Leinsdorf, especially since the recording quality is so bad; his faster-than-the-norm tempi help cut through the densely muddy sound quality.