WAGNER:  Siegfried (Act III, Scene 3).  Tristan und Isolde (Act II, Scene 2 with concert ending)
Deborah Voight, soprano; Placido Domingo, tenor; Royal Opera House Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.

EMI CLASSICS 57004  (F) (DDD)
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A fascinating CD, rewarding  in most ways  Of enormous interest is the Tristan excerpt never before recorded  A new discovery among Wagner's work— it would seem to be impossible!  Reasons for its obscurity are not very clear.

Ludwig and Malwina Schnoor von Carolsfeld sang the premiere of Tristan, and were two of Wagner's favorite singers. When rehearsing in 1862 he was so impressed  he wished to make it possible for them to sing the love music from Tristan at concerts. With this in mind, he wrote a "concert ending" for the Act II Love Music. The music begins with "O sink hernieder" and includes the part for Brang”ne, here sung by Violeta Urmana. Wagner ends this concert version quietly with music from the Liebestod, a peaceful conclusion for this erotic scene, unmarred by the jarring arrival of King Marke and his entourage.  As the planned concert performances were cancelled, the music was not performed and apparently was set aside. Notes in the CD booklet do not give details of exactly what happened, but an EMI press release states the concert version "surfaced in 1950 among the scores of the late composer Julius Weissman and was subsequently turned over to the Wagner Archive at Bayreuth, where Daniel Barenboim is believed to have rediscovered it.  Barenboim later passed it on to Antonio Pappano, who conducts it on this historic recording."  They don't say how Weissman came into possession of the score—did he get it from the Wagner Archives?  And why didn't EMI ask Barenboim for more information? Why has it taken so long for this music to be "discovered?" The  CD book seems to have been hastily prepared; there is no information about the singers, just a very small photo of Deborah Voight.  A plus is inclusion of texts.

The "new" 24-minute version of love music from Tristan should become popular for orchestral concerts when two singers are available who can perform this sensuous, damanding music. Domingo is at his best which is to say very good indeed. He does not erase memories of Jon Vickers or Lauritz Melchior, but he is preferable to overly-touted Ben Heppner. Years ago Domingo expressed an interest in singing Tristan to Birgit Nilsson's Isolde and she reportedly said, "you'd better hurry up." Nilsson in her prime would have been ideal to partner Domingo, of course. Instead we have Deborah Voight, who sang with Domingo in Walküre this past season at the Met.  She has a big voice with a very fast vibrato, but is on pitch.  Most of today's sopranos would  be hard-pressed to sing this repertory as well as Voight. 

The Siegfried love duet, the final scene of the opera beginning with the brief orchestral interlude just before Siegfried discovers Brünnhilde sleeping on the rock, is superbly sung—within the scope of Ms. Voight's style of singing. Domingo and Voight are given magnificent accompaniment from the Royal Opera House Orchestra under the powerful leadership of its new director, Antonio Pappano. He  has just taken over the troubled British opera house—a formidable task which, based on this recording, he is  well-qualified to handle. The Siegfried excerpt was recorded August 1999, the Tristan January 2000, in different British venues. Producer David Groves and his staff did their work very well—the sound is rich and defined with solo voices clearly heard but not overly prominent. Playing time is only 57:26, this probably won't matter to most collectors. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (Aug. 2000)