WAGNER Wesendonck Lieder. Tristan und Isolde Prelude and Liebestod
This is a truly riveting recital of Wagner from Varady (magnificent singing) and Fischer- Dieskau. Varady's reading of the Wesendonk Lieder is remarkable, enthralling. There's nothing here of the slow, wallowing approach often favoured today. The feeling of the words is one of very present emotions. Try the final section of 'Stehe still!' starting 'Die Lippe verstummt' or the emphasis on the single word 'Smaragd' in 'Im Treibhaus' or the whole of a most beautifully etched 'Träume'. She's helped here by Fischer-Dieskau's refusal to indulge the music.
There have been few such warmly and intelligently sung versions of the Immolation. Maybe on stage Brünnhilde might have been beyond Varady; here there's not a sign of strain as she rides the orchestra, sympathetically supported by her husband. But what makes it stand out from performances by possibly better-endowed sopranos is her deep understanding of the text: again and again, nowhere more so than at 'Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott', where Varady's vibrating lower register is so effective, you feel the tingle factor coming to the fore. In the more heroic final sections, this Brünnhilde is like a woman transfigured.
And transfiguration is a feature of Varady's concentrated, urgent Liebestod, her complete absorption with the text as much as with the music an object-lesson in great Wagner singing.
The players of Fischer-Dieskau's Berlin orchestra cover themselves in glory. The recording is exemplary.