Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (Acts I & III) - Suthaus, Mödl, Töpper; Keilberth. München, 1958
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Martha Mödl's ability to deliver Isolde's conflicting emotions and passions has never been matched, and she is heard in exemplary form in this 1958 performance from Munich. Hers is an Isolde of unmitigated fire, single-minded in her goals and totally wound up in both her hatred and love of Tristan. She is almost unbearably gripping in the Act I narration and curse, and soulful and transfixed in the Liebestod. Her Tristan, Ludwig Suthaus, has a more conventionally beautiful instrument than his Isolde, and often relies on it a little too much to carry him through. He does, however, manage a brilliantly multi-faceted reading of Tristan's dementia in act three. Josef Metternich is a bluff, hearty Kurwenal who makes a real impact in Act III, Hertha Töpper's Brangäne is merely serviceable, and Walter Kreppel's firm bass is on hand for Marke's few utterances in Act III. Joseph Keilberth drives the action with precision and delicacy, charting the challenging stillness of the score with aplomb.