Wagner: Tristan und Isolde - Windgassen, Nilsson, Hotter, van Mill, Hoffman; Sawallisch. Bayreuth, 1957
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Wolfgang Windgassen and Birgit Nilsson are an ideal team in this performance of Tristan und Isolde from 1957. Nilsson devotees may find her in better form, perhaps, in recordings of the opera from about 10 years later, as this is still fairly early in her career. Windgassen, however is caught in his prime, and is a fearless, complex Tristan who achieves the rare feat of distinguishing himself vocally in the love duet. Arnold van Mill is a rather mild Marke, and this is especially disappointing since one of the role’s greatest exponents, Hans Hotter, is on hand as Kurwenal. I would not, however, want to sacrifice Hotter’s nuanced, quietly bereft performance of Kurwenal’s Act III showcase. Grace Hoffman is a priceless Brangäne, and Wolfgang Sawallisch leads the Bayreuth orchestra with a lot of detail and no lack of passion. The sound is generally good, though there are a handful of brief drop-outs.