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Frank Cadenhead
MusicWeb International, August 2001

"Some years ago, a friend of mine was remembering his childhood in New York. His parents took him to the Metropolitan Opera. Being Wagner devotees, he was always seeing Flagstad and Melchior. It was only much later in his life that he realized what treasured memories these indeed were. During the period, between 1935 and 1940, they were the reigning monarchs of the Wagnerian repertory at the Met. The war intervened and they were not to sing together again. Now Wagner lovers speak of those magical years with reverent tones. Most would agree that they were the century's finest Wagner interpreters and to have them singing together on record is a unique event.

If you are not familiar with these two, this recording is a delicious and stirring documentation of their truly masterful abilities in this repertory. To cite but one example, in Tristan und Isolde the duet 'So sturben wir' is one of the most exciting and passionate in all opera. Their lesser colleagues are usually heard shouting, barking, straining and scooping in this duet. These two sail through it effortlessly, punching out those high notes with accuracy and force and leaving you at the end limp with pleasure.

The Prologue from Gotterdammerung is sung with intense musical involvement and clearly shows the ability of Flagstad and Melchior to soar with the music. The sections from Act II of Parsifal are a remarkable record of Flagstad in the role of Kundry and the strong interaction between her and Melchior is clearly evident.

The Tristan and Gotterdammerung sections were recorded in the Victor Studios in Hollywood in November of 1939. The Lohengrin and Parsifal excerpts were made in Philadelphia in November 1940 using members of the Philadelphia Orchestra to comprise the Victor Symphony. In the biography, Flagstad - A Personal Memoir, the conductor for these recordings, a lifetime musical collaborator and confidant of Miss Flagstad, wrote that the soprano often mentioned that she thought that these Philadelphia recordings were the best she had ever made. Remastered by the loving hands of Ward Marston, these monaural recordings will let you hear this duo in the best possible technical light.

For those who want more, there is the complete 1936 Tristan, also recently reissued on Naxos. For those who do not own a recording of these two giants, this is an excellent start."



David Cairns
, July 2001

"The Best of all recordings of great Wagner duets is the Lehmann-Melchior Walkure Act I, conducted by Bruno Walter, but this disc, which focuses on the Melchior-Flagstad partnership, is a feast nonetheless: the two most sumptuous Wagnerian voices of the mid-20th century in extracts from Lohengrin, Tristan, Gotterdammerung and Parsifal, expertly transferred to CD by the producer, Ward Marston. The Gotterdammerung duet was taken so fast (presumably so as to accommodate it on two 78 sides) that it sounds quite hysterical, caricature of itself; but the Tristan duet and, even more, the long scene from Parsifal Act II are magnificent: here are the rounded beauty of tone and heroic spirit, the long line and incisive declamation that Wagner's music requires from singers, but too rarely gets."






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5:40:48 PM, 27 November 2014
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