Tristan und Isolde: Wilhelm Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

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Tristan und Isolde: Wilhelm Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

I have been listening to the Furtwangler's Tristan und Isolde ( EMI Classics). I am quite impressed with the timber and range of Flagstad. The question I have is it really her. ? The story (so I have been lead to believe) is that Flagstad due to her maturity was unable to sing certain ranges i.e. the high C. Instead the person who sang in her place was said to be Schwarzkopf and as it was in a recording studio no one was the wiser for some time.( until someone disclosed the fact) Is there any true in this or is to merely idle gossip?

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

Amfortas, I don't think you need worry too much.  What you hear is Flagstad.  It is possible though not certain that two notes, the two top Cs in Act Two, were sung by Schwarzkopf.  Several witnesses have confirmed that she came into the studio and sang those two notes during takes. But, as far as I know, no one has ever confirmed decisively that those takes made it to the final 'cut'. Even if they did I don't think it's a matter to disturb your peace of mind, is it? A storm in a teacup I think!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

Hello Chris,

Thank you for
your reply.

It is true
that this fact does not diminish the opera from an aesthetic perspective.
However it does seem to be a bit disingenuous if someone else did in fact perform part
of the Act Two ( other than Flagstad), but that fact was never disclosed. From what you suggest it is
something that we will never know.

.

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

Well, Amfortas, think of it another way. Flagstad was anxious about those Cs (two notes!) and could well have declined to make the recording at all. Would that have been preferable?

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

Actually (at the risk of sounding contentious), if Flagstad could not sing the high "C" then it would have been better if she had not sung at all. Birgit Nilsson or Elisabeth Schwarzkopf should have sung instead. Flagstad was there to sing the opera in total, not just parts of it. It was not a question of her saying. "Well I don't feel up to singing some parts of Act II, so I need a substitute! ( It is after all opera it is not a soccer match were you bring in replacement for the striker in the second half because he has sprained his ankle. )

In short if the cast list states that Flagstad is Isolde that is what I expect, not someone hiding behind the curtains singing the notes for her.

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Who is the real Isolde ?

I have full sympathy for what you claim, Amfortas, and I'm afraid, for what I have read too (from various sources), that, eventually, Schwarzkopf's two high Cs were used in the "final cut". However, the essence of the truth of this matter lies somewhere between your strict (but fair) position and the wisdom of Chris.

Parla

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

Come on Amfortas, we're not talking about "some of Act II": we're talking about two notes!  And Walter Legge encouraged Flagstad to take the role by offering confidentially the idea of support for those.  Probably only Legge knew whether that support was ultimately necessary.

But think for a moment: your attitude would close down almost all of the recordings of the digital era for you. Nowadays, Schwarzkopf would have been unnecessary. It is commonplace to correct poorly played or sung notes, or notes omitted altogether by taking another one from another place (not necessarily even the same pitch) and inserting it digitally. Flagstad could have sung a G or an A and had it digitally re-inserted as a C. There are numerous examples in modern recordings where notes you hear were not sung by the singer or played by the player, nor by anyone else but were spliced in electronically in this way.  Add to that the wholesale practice of recording repeated sections once only and then copying them mec hanically to make the repeat, numerous instances of splicing in from another session, perhaps even in a different country, of voices or instruments never present during the primary recording session - and surely the Flagstad story pales into insignificance.

On another aspect, there was a positive consequence of the leak: Flagstad was deeply upset when the story leaked out (not by Legge), and cancelled her EMI recording contract.  Without that we probably would not have her Decca recordings; Walküre Act 1 and Act 3, Wesendonck Lieder and her Fricka in Solti's Rheingold!

I for one am profoundly grateful for all of these!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real Isolde ?

c hris johnson wrote:

Add to that the wholesale practice of recording repeated sections once only and then copying them mechanically to make the repeat...

That is actually shocking.

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real

"There are numerous examples in modern recordings where notes you hear were not sung by the singer or played by the player, nor by anyone else but were spliced in electronically in this way. Add to that the wholesale practice of recording repeated sections once only and then copying them mec hanically to make the repeat, numerous instances of splicing in from another session, perhaps even in a different country, of voices or instruments never present during the primary recording session "

Do you have an authorative source for this practice?

Regards

Amfortas

RE: Tristan und Isolde: Furtwängler - Who is the real

Amfortas,

If you have been reading Gramophone reviews and session reports carefully, you will find plenty of examples, but there must be many more, unreported.  It's the obvious ones that get noticed - like when an extraneous sound can be heard in all the repeats, for example.  The correcting of 'cracked' notes this way is very well-known.  Artists, absent from a recording, dubbed in afterwards have also been reported frequently, without extra comment.

And what about the practice, standard for nearly seventy years, of editing in short sections from a retake to correct mistakes? Ein Schwindel, as Klemperer said!

One practical consequence has been bringing down the cost of otherwise economically impossible projects. 

Chris

 

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: TrisIsolde ?

Amfortas,

As Chris has said, this splicing and editing has been going on for years. It is so widespread and so widely acknowldged and commented upon (in reviews etc), it is not really the kind of thing one now requests evidence for. You can hear the hairline fractures between the "patches" in countless recordings - even good, contemporary ones.

Gould, as Camaron can attest, was one of the great pioneers and advocates of this studio monkey business........

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