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Dip Your Ears, No. 9 (Barenboim's Tristan)

Richard Wagner, Tristan & Isolde,
Barenboim / Meier, Jerusalem, Lipovšek, Salminen et al.
Telarc / Warner

The greatest recording of the greatest opera? Hyperbole, perhaps. But Tristan & Isolde is the finest opera this side of Don Giovanni, and Barenboim's superbly cast and engagingly played account is the best modern recording of the work by all means. His control, attention to detail, and development are ever impressive.

More so, this 1995 studio recording boasts Waltraud Meier, without peer as Kundry (Parsifal), who also excels in Isolde's role like few others. Jerusalem's Tristan is no Windgassen, but he sounds beautiful and holds more than his own against Meier. Mariana Lipovšek is a very distinctive, mature Brangäne while Matti Salminen rivals Kurt Moll's King Marke. Meier's thrilling Liebestod is as good as any I've heard, and her diction is superior to the note-swallowing, if electric Nilsson. Among the many Tristans I have and love, this is my favorite.

Edit: The recording is now out of print; it is contained in Warner's Barenboim-box of all of Wagner's Operas. (US | UK | FR | DE)

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