You know, I think this isn't the first time I've bought a CD and been disappointed and wanted to hit rewind right to the moment where I'm at Academy wondering whether the Callas Vespri is in acceptable sound and decide instead to go with the Beecham Elektra. Which I know is going to be in primitive sound, but some Callas stuff is in a particular kind of reel-to-reel-under-a-heavy-wool-coat sound that really does ruin the fun. Hey actually I didn't finish my thought up there. The thought got too long and the last clause kind of snapped off. So: not the first time I've bought, been disappointed, but THEN felt the bonus tracks made up for the sorry state of things.
Erna Schluter as Elektra: there's nothing terrible about her...in the debit column, she takes "der jauchzt" down a hefty interval--high notes aren't everything but it is the climax of the first half of the opera; in the credit column, she sings with real lyricism in the recognition duet, perhaps inspired by Schoffler? The main thing is she sounds like she's reading the role from a score. Perhaps Beecham wanted no effects--there is no laughter from Klytamnestra when she is told that Orest ist tod, none from Elektra at the suggestion that Aegisth is ein Mann, etc. It makes the whole thing decidedly drama-free, despite Beecham's happily heavy-handed orchestral gestures. This crushes the life out of Hongen's perfectly respectable Klytamnestra as well, and nearly does the same for the uncrushable Ljuba Welitsch.
Ok but then there are bonus tracks. I actually haven't listened to the Siegfried tracks yet because I have this unshakeable hunch the tenor is going to blow, but the Tristan!!! Hang on, let me run down to the corner for more punctuation. Ok, back. The Tristan, conducted by Furtwangler, is heartstoppingly beautiful, and I hope you know I hate phrases like that. Suthaus really is the only acceptable consolation prize we have after it became clear that Melchior would never happen again. Klose makes Brangaene's "Einsam Wachend in der Nacht" practically the centerpiece of the scene, and Schluter here is golden. !!! There, I've gone and used them all again. Isoldes Tod, which I'm not calling the Liebestod (or even the Love-Frog as some of us like to) in case any purists are reading, is rapturous, Wagner as we long to hear him; Wagner in the mode guys like Barenboim and Eschenbach shoot for sometimes with great success and sounding sometimes like an imitation.
I'd love it if anyone could tell me if it's from a complete Tristan, actually.