Tristan und Isolde

Herbert von Karajan
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Berliner Philharmoniker
2 – 4, 6 – 10, 13 December 1971
10 January 1972
Jesus Christus Kirche Berlin
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
TristanJon Vickers
IsoldeHelga Dernesch
BrangäneChrista Ludwig
KurwenalWalter Berry
König MarkeKarl Ridderbusch
MelotBernd Weikl
Ein junger SeemannPeter Schreier
Ein HirtPeter Schreier
SteuermannMartin Vantin

This is the Tristan that won’t go away. I’ve never met anyone who owns it who actually listens to it, but most people praise it nonetheless. Depending upon when I hear it, it comes across either as Karajan’s poem to himself–all indulgence and smoothness and beauty and lushness for their own sakes, with turgid tempi to match (only Furtwangler is slower, but the impression is entirely different)–or a genuinely thought-provoking performance of a very moving story about doomed love. But mostly, I find it beautiful in a museum-like way and have trouble listening to Helga Dernesch, who’s uncomfortable from start to finish. What’s more, she often sounds too much like Christa Ludwig, so that their first act exchanges get muddled. That having been said, I can’t live without Jon Vickers’ Tristan–it is so full of conflict, desire, loyalty, joy and despair, and he uses every color in his vocal palette, that one can’t help being touched, indeed overwhelmed. Ludwig and Berry are good (Berry in a small-voiced sort of way) and Ridderbusch is fine as well. As hinted at, the Berlin forces are semi-divine. A real matter of taste.

Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 8

Robert Levine

User Rating
Media Type/Label
EMI, Angel, Eterna
Technical Specifications
587 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 1.0 GByte (flac)