Friday, June 10, 2011

De Sabata's Tristan und Isolde

Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.
Gertrud Gorb-Prandl, soprano
Victor De Sabata, conductor
La Sacala, Milan, December 13, 1951

It's fun discovering buried treasure This treasure was hardly a secret but until recently was unknown to me. (I need to get out more.) A performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde from La Scala, Milan on December 13, 1951. Gerturd Grob-Prandl and Max Lorenz took the title roles. The conductor was Victor De Sabata(1892-1967). De Sabata had a substantial American career. He was music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1950 and 1951. He was a fiery, passionate maestro unafraid of bringing the highest emotion to his music making. He also knew when to hold back and let the composer's work take shape on its own. He was de facto music director of La Scala for many years-and followed Toscanini as the second non-German to conduct at Bayreuth (1936 and 1937). He remained active in Italy during World War II, this despite his being part Jewish!

I had been reading a few reviews of this 1951 performance of Tristan. De Sabata was a busy man in 1951. All agree the recorded sound quality is terrible (I've heard worse). All agree that its a hot blooded, deeply sensual performance of this most erotic of all operas. I had this on the office while multi-tasking (oy!) With some recordings you can do that. Not with this one. I held on to every note for dear life during Act II. Max Lorenz's heldentenor was not the steadiest. Gerturd Grob-Prandl reputedly had the loudest voice in the business. Juice she's got when she needs it, but she also has a lovely float for much of the liebesnacht.

But it's De Sabata's show. He's a tsunami of musical vigor and sexuality. The prelude alone will have you in tears of grief or ecstast. Yes the broadcast sound is bad and yes there are a lot of cuts, but get this. I'm sure that in Milan on December 13, 1951 there wasn't a dry seat in the house.

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