horizontal line

I start with a curiosity that might grab your attention, for fear that it will otherwise get lost. It is an incomplete Act II of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, recorded at the Proms in 1954 from the BBC transmission and conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. It is released by the Barbirolli Society, which points out that it is better to have most of the performance than none at all, and also mentions that ‘the off-air recording quality of the original tape is not of the best’, and, indeed, it sounds as though it was recorded from the bottom of someone’s handbag. But it in many ways it is a gem. From what we can hear, the conducting is adroit and allows the singers space to breathe; my own usual bête noir is Scene II as the lovers start their duet, but here Barbirolli ensures that his singers are not lost under the scramble of dotted rhythms but allowed to articulate their lines. The Isolde is Martha Mödl, whose soprano has the thrust and warm gleam we would expect; and the Tristan is Wolfgang Windgassen, who is slightly more subsumed by the orchestra and soprano, but seems fittingly excellent. Brangäne is Constance Shacklock, who starts well but then goes hideously flat in her warnings, almost by a tone in places.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


   Read full review   


To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.



Read more classical music reviews online here:



Opera Now, 2020 - ©Rhinegold Publishing