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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2001
This outstanding recording of Wagner selections was made live at the 1987 Salzburg Festival. It certainly captured Karajan at his best. He is quite fabulous here; of course, he draws a glorious sound from the Vienna Philharmonic on top form, but here he is also infallible of pacing, and expressive and insightful of interpretation. This is one of his warmest recordings I know of. He is letting himself get caught up in the music, as he sometimes didn't.
The opening Tannhäuser Overture is nobler in the pilgrims' theme, more sensuous in the Venusberg music, more singing in Tannhäuser's song than any other recording. It is a magnificent performance. The only drawback I can find is that in the more energetic sections of the Venusberg music, Karajan sounds a little heavyweight: not as wild and fleet as Solti. In all other respects, though, this is an incredible performance, and makes you regret again that he never made a legitimate recording of the complete opera.
The Siegfried Idyll is, if anything, even more extraordinary. It is warmest performance I know, unfolding gently and sweetly in a glorious, beautifully rich carpet of sound from the Vienna forces. It is also helped by the clarity and transparency of the magnificent digital recording. It is an ideal reading, and alone is worth the price of the set.
The Tristan excerpts are also on this level. The Act 1 Prelude is magnificent. Emotion is conveyed more clearly than in Karajan's 1971 complete recording, and there is an added clarity of sound and orchestral texture. It is as fine a recording as any, and on the same level as (though very different in style from) Furtwängler's 1952 EMI recording. The Liebestod is gorgeous, one of the two or three greatest recordings of this stunning piece ever made. Jessye Norman is a glorious soloist, with her large, magnificently beautiful voice riding the waves of orchestral sound in a way few can. The climax is stunning, and dies away into rapturous lyricism from Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic. The only other recordings I think are on this level are the 1952 Furtwängler/Flagstad and the 1971 Karajan/Dernesch. Comparison between the 1971 and 1987 Karajan versions is particularly interesting. The 1971 account is, strangely, more electric and intense, with Dernesch providing both a more beautiful, truly Wagnerian voice and singing more expressively than Norman. The climax at "In der Welt-Atems wehendem All" is the most shatteringly ecstatic on any recording. The 1987 recording is clearer and perhaps even more beautiful than the earlier account, but not as intense. Inevitably, more detail can be heard in the digital recording. Both are fabulous recordings, however; though in some ways the Furtwängler/Flagstad is the finest of all.
Overall, this is one of the finest recordings in recent memory. In my opinion, this is one of Karajan's finest recorded achievements and one that deserves to be in every collection of Wagner. Enjoy!
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
I saw part of the film "Karajan in Salzburg" on PBS about ten years ago. I was channel surfing and happened across Jessye Norman singing "Isoldes Liebestod" (the last track on this CD). I wasn't that familiar with Wagner at the time, had just worked my way through the Met's Ring Cycle, and had no notion of what Norman was singing. I couldn't understand her German. Yet I could feel the hair rising up on the back of my neck. By the time she had finished, I was crying.
That brief seven minute film clip was an epiphany for me. I fell desperately in love with Richard Wagner and Jessye Norman (Von Karajan was no slouch, either). I was elated when I came across this Deutsche Grammophon recording that was made during the filming of "Karajan in Salzburg." These four exerpts from "Tannhauser," "Sigfried," and "Tristan und Isolde" are Wagner at his most sublime. The climax is Norman's clear, tender 'Liebestod':
"Do I alone/ hear this melody/ which, so wondrous/ and tender/ in its blissful lament,/ all-revealing,/ gently pardoning,/ sounding from him,/ pierces me through..."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2012
This concert was recorded on the Feast of the Assumption in 1987. It was the centrepiece of the turpitudinous `Karajan in Salzburg' documentary. While this disc has never been remastered, the sound is terrific for a live recording where people were hanging off the rafters, ghoulishly trying to glimpse the Maestro before the Grim Reaper brought down the scythe.

The Tannhauser Overture, as performed here, is an exemplar on how to sustain momentum, tension and nobility in Wagner (ineptly played, nothing is coarser in the world). Like Christ's garment, Karajan's conception is seamless and miraculously so. No mere speed merchant, he builds inexorably towards the climax and then lets fly with an orgasmic excitement that is astounding. It is so much more gripping than Abbado's flaccid `Beauty is All' expositions of the same work Wagner: Orchestral Music- Tannhauser / Parsifal / Tristan &Wagner: Gala (Tannhaüser, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Die Walküre).

Next comes the Siegfried Idyll. What a paean it is to the bliss of domestic life: however momentarily, we are union! There are some colours for which there are no names and they can be glimpsed at 16'40" ff in this performance. It is stupendous. Karajan's touch throughout is unerring and as light as a feather - entranced, the Vienna Philharmonic venture into realms far removed from a mere concert hall.

The second half of the concert is less memorable. The Tristan Prelude is consummately played but it cannot compete with the `postcards from the edge' performance with the Berliners from 1984 Wagner: excerpts from: Tannhauser / Die Meistersinger / Tristan

Come the Liebestod, the merits of Jessye Norman's contribution will come down to taste. While I ultimately find her lacking in anguish and vulnerability, is it wrong to revel in a voice that is so sonorous, powerful and yet delicate? Others will demur either way.

This was a great concert. Relive it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If you want to be alternately caressed by the cool, tapering fingers of attendant naiads, wafted aloft on roseate clouds, rocked while reclining upon the ample pneumatic charms of Venus's bosom then you might like to buy this disc.

This concert was the product of the late re-emergence of the love-affair between Karajan and the Vienna Philharmonic once he had irreparably fallen out with his long-time orchestral spouse in Berlin and the orchestra play for him like one silky, muscular, homogenous organism; I don't think I've ever heard a band play more beautifully. The amount of detail which emerges through the glorious blend of sound is astonishing; never before have I so clearly heard the scurrying sixteenth note figure for the violas in the "Tannhäuser" overture. Balances are perfect -and this was a live concert.

The "Siegfried Idyll" is a miracle of deft tenderness and nuance while the Prelude and Liebestod from "Tristan" make a supremely satisfying conclusion to a master-class in conducting and playing. While I prefer this music delivered a tad more urgently, the sheen on the sound and the application of cumulative tension despite the restrained tempo create an overwhelming erotic tension. Wheeling out Jessye Norman's plush velvet and steel soprano was the ideal programming; what other voice could have so aptly matched the sound of the VPO in this music? (What a pity she never felt able to record the whole role.) The final "unbewusst, höchste Lust" is magical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2014
This is one VERY special disc. In a career that was not short on superlatives, this is one of the very greatest achievements of Herbert von Karajan. These works have all been recorded multiple times by Karajan, and while I've heard some of his recordings of them, I would not claim to have heard them all. But I know each of these Wagner works like the back of my hand, and by any standards, each of them receives a phenomenal performance. Taken together, this is simply unsurpassable. These are perfect performances of some of Wagner's most beautiful and moving music, gorgeously played, performed, and recorded. Kudos also to the great Vienna Philharmonic and Jessye Norman. They are all on the same page working at the same exalted level, and all deserve exceptional praise for these great performances.

If there is one adjective that to me is distinctive about these performances, the word that I would use is loving. The performances are tender, gorgeous, moving, and bathe the listener in an aura of love, humanity, and farewell. They come at the very end of Karajan's life, and reflect a lifetime of wisdom and experience.

I treasure this disc.
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on August 12, 2013
Excellent recording and performance. With Jessye Norman in one of here signature roles and Von Karajan, how could you be disappointed.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2009
Criticizing Jessye Norman's vocal colors is like telling Picasso he has used the wrong tone--how ridiculous! Furthermore, an artist's use of the full palate is something to be lauded, not criticized. I just can't get over the liberties people take--These sorts of criticisms are slightly reminiscent of intolerance for diversity/anything that departs from the expected.

This is a magnificent album, in every respect!
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on August 27, 2014
Do you want to know what perfection sounds like? Here you go.
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on January 3, 2015
Jessye Norman and von Karajan? Yes, please.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2009
I think highly enthusiastic absorption is one of Karajan's characteristic. Wagner is an excellent material for him to fully develop this propensity. The overture for Tannhaeuser and the Siegfried's Idyll are passionately played in this syle, so we are thrown into violent or intense ecstacy and yet the most beautiful and symbolic melodies are clearly floating before our mind. Wagner is clearly analysed in ecstatic passion....to such an extent that we are slightly reminded of Wagner's and Hitler's racism which were so violent and so merciless. Clearly melodious, passionate and not a little ominous.
As for Jessye Norman, I feel she is no less a superb exquisite musical instrument rather than a human being. So, I dare say we are allowed only to be intoxicated by her heavenly voice rather than go about deciphering the German script.
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