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La Nilsson box on Decca/UME
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Oscar
2018-07-31 18:43:18 UTC
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First big box purchase of the year for me. Stunning presentation, designed the very talented Matt Read at Combustion Ltd. Mr. Read has done many top boxes for Decca/UME including 2013’s Britten Complete Works art and the 100th anniversary VPO set (2014). Going to listen in order to all the discs over the next 60 days. First, discs 1-3: Solti’s Tristan und Isolde with Nilsson, Uhl, Resnik, Krause, Van Mill and the Vienna Philharmonic. One of my favorite Tristans. It has been remastered in 2018 and issued separately in UME’s CD/BD series with libretto. Texts, translations and synopsi are not included in La Nilsson, regrettably. Nor are there links to such texts online or as downloads. Still, an amazing set of riches.
m***@gmail.com
2018-07-31 19:33:10 UTC
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On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 2:43:20 PM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> First big box purchase of the year for me. Stunning presentation, designed the very talented Matt Read at Combustion Ltd. Mr. Read has done many top boxes for Decca/UME including 2013’s Britten Complete Works art and the 100th anniversary VPO set (2014). Going to listen in order to all the discs over the next 60 days. First, discs 1-3: Solti’s Tristan und Isolde with Nilsson, Uhl, Resnik, Krause, Van Mill and the Vienna Philharmonic. One of my favorite Tristans. It has been remastered in 2018 and issued separately in UME’s CD/BD series with libretto. Texts, translations and synopsi are not included in La Nilsson, regrettably. Nor are there links to such texts online or as downloads. Still, an amazing set of riches.

I have that Tristan on Blu Ray. Great if you want to really hear the score since the microphone set up has the orchestra way up front . Does it include the LP that was included with the set called Project Tristan???
Oscar
2018-07-31 19:49:28 UTC
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Yes, Project Tristan LP is disc 4.
Oscar
2018-07-31 22:34:38 UTC
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Gramophone review by Mike Ashman:

<< La Nilsson: Complete Decca, Philips and DG Recordings

This anniversary set places under one attractive, inevitably large yet manageably portable roof all of Birgit Nilsson’s major-label recordings (the Fanciulla del West, Turandot and Aida have been borrowed from Warner Classics to join the three companies principally credited). There are also DVDs of the BBC’s 1965 The Golden Ring and Brian Large’s film of her Metropolitan Opera Elektra in 1980.

Although Nilsson’s reservations about the voice/instrument balances on some of her leading Decca opera sets are now well known, we should remember that the Solti Ring and the two Strauss one-acters are quintessential gramophone products of their time, the first golden age of the stereo LP, made by an opera-devoted team of producer/engineers keen to show off their new medium – admittedly being more interventionist than they were later to become – as the message for hearing complete works at home.

This great run of German dramatic opera for the 1960s Decca team will, I suspect, remain Nilsson’s ticket to immortality on disc, whatever the counter-attractions of the live performances coming later in the year from Sony Classical. With this box you can once again set the soprano’s Brünnhilde live on Wagner’s own stage with an arguably more giving conductor (Böhm) and orchestra alongside the explosive and well-drilled achievements under Solti before the microphones of Vienna’s Sofiensaal. Both, I think, are essential in terms of exploring, in tandem, the work and the voice of its leading lady. There’s no one way, luckily, and you shouldn’t deny yourself – to take just one plum – the push and pull of Nilsson’s argument in Walküre Act 3 with the veteran Hans Hotter’s Wotan just because it is not part of one complete performance.

The 1960s Decca Strauss pair of Salome and Elektra remain as hot as the day they were first released. The former may be too extreme in terms of intervention from the production desk – especially if you recall that Maria Cebotari (for Clemens Krauss live, various sources) seemed to be able to do a teenager-of-death voice without the colouring of the acoustic around her – but it is a remarkably spooky evocation of the work’s atmosphere. And Elektra surely remains Nilsson’s most compelling single recording, a tour de force of strength on the verge of a nervous breakdown, brilliantly accompanied and supported.

Elsewhere there are treasures that have always been with us thanks to constant reissues (the Böhm Bayreuth Tristan, a performance clearly superior to its earlier Decca rival, also here and reviewed, separately, on page 93) or have been rather forgotten – the Scandinavian song recital that Nilsson herself valued highly. Do try to hear from it Rangström’s ‘Sköldmön’ with its top notes matching ‘the Valkyrie’ of its title. There’s also a kind of ‘what Birgit did next’ Wagner annexe – most of Parsifal Act 2 under Leif Segerstam (the diva rather cautious with colour and expression), the Wesendonck Lieder and arias from the early major operas under Colin Davis and a less than thrillingly conducted Tannhäuser under Otto Gerdes with the soprano in the double role of Venus and Elisabeth, which apparently she much enjoyed.

Of course, even across a range of material with a consistently high performance standard from its solo star, not even Nilsson can ‘do it’ every time. Where she wasn’t 100 per cent familiar with a character or a work, she could opt on a recording for a more ‘old style’ neutral presence and profile to match her inevitable vocal security. The Tosca disappoints because Nilsson remains a grand prima donna, obviously a relevant attribute but one that, in this case, ignores most of the sensuality and humour that Callas brought to the part. The Webers (Freischütz and Oberon) – which we tend to think of as trainee Wagner – are exquisitely vocalised but lacking in engagement with her lovers or companions. And it should be noted that the Met Elektra film, while certainly important as a souvenir, preserves a voice (but not an actress) that has run its majestic course.

However, the grander Verdis (Ballo, Aida, Macbeth) do come off as convincing music drama rather than a mere Gastspiel away from Wagner and Strauss. Her Amelia really suffers in scenes with Giulietta Simionato’s Ulrica or Cornell MacNeil’s rather bumpy Renato and she certainly fires up Giuseppe Taddei’s admirable Macbeth to seek power. A well-rehearsed 1962 Decca recital under Argeo Quadri shouldn’t be ignored for its high tension ‘Pace, pace, mio Dio’ (pity there’s no complete Leonora) or ‘O don fatale’.

Each recording has its original sleeve artwork. There are no texts or translations, but a good-sized book with recording details (a few errors here) and endearing choice of photos. A fine chance to study a great era of music-making en bloc. >>
Oscar
2018-07-31 22:40:32 UTC
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Gramophone review of the deluxe CD/BD sets w/ libretto by Hugo Shirley, April 2018:

<< WAGNER Tristan und Isolde. Parsifal (Solti)

After Solti’s two Strauss one-acters with Birgit Nilsson (10/17), Decca now gives the lavish hi res reissue treatment to two more of his recordings from Vienna. As with those earlier releases, both the 1960 Tristan and the 1973 Parsifal scrub up very well in their new guises, revealing a wonderful wealth of detail and vividness, if also showing up a few seams in the editing process (especially in the Tristan). Their reissue offers the chance, though, for a reappraisal of two sets that have never really established themselves in the recorded Wagnerian canon – at least not like certain other Solti Wagner recordings.

With the Tristan, the reasons are perhaps not too difficult to find. Despite it featuring the same soprano-conductor combination as that Elektra and Salome – not to mention the Decca Ring – it finds neither of them on ideal form. The reprinted cover inadvertently points to another issue with the release: the names of Nilsson and Solti are given pride of place, with the name of the Tristan relegated, with the others, to something like a bit part.

Admittedly, that name, Fritz Uhl, has not secured its place in vocal Valhalla, and he is very much a weak link. The voice is occasionally appealing but never heroic: he bobs around helplessly in Wagnerian waters made especially choppy by an apparently impatient Solti. But even Nilsson herself can struggle to assert herself against Solti’s Vienna Philharmonic – strident and somewhat stringy of tone in a score that demands something more yielding and seductive.

One can tell that it’s still early days for the soprano in a role that she would make her own: she’s heard to much better effect in the Böhm-Bayreuth set, which also benefits from what she’d learnt from working with Wieland Wagner. Tom Krause’s lively Kurwenal is the best among the rest of the cast. There are some thrills, undeniably, to hearing the fierce orchestral performance dusted off, and there’s a welcome bonus in the form of a contemporary radio documentary (presented by John Culshaw) about the recording, although a segment featuring Solti at the piano duetting with Uhl sounds suspiciously like a singalong around a pub piano.

The Parsifal is a far more impressive achievement. Solti is in less of a mad rush and paces the score extremely well, despite never really getting that close, to my ears, to its spiritual heart. Despite the cleaned-up remastering, the orchestral sound is still a little short on bloom and roundness, with a slight reediness to the violins and a thinness to the oboe.

The cast is a serious, much better-balanced line-up, though. Gottlob Frick, an implacable Hagen and Hunding in Solti’s Ring, is an honest, moving Gurnemanz; his bass, though showing its age, is sonorous and imposing. René Kollo is an impressive, fresh-voiced Parsifal and Christa Ludwig a gloriously seductive Kundry. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau makes a convincing Amfortas, though with a little help, one suspects, from the engineers. Hans Hotter certainly leaves no doubt as to Titurel’s frail condition. A bunch of Flower Maidens that includes Lucia Popp and Kiri Te Kanawa is not to be sniffed at.

Both releases are amply documented, and Culshaw’s lengthy note on the Tristan recording (it was Christopher Raeburn by the time of Parsifal) is particularly revealing, not least regarding the way in which his engineering favours the orchestra. Neither of these sets would be a first choice, least of all the Tristan, but both are important documents that fully deserve the treatment they get here. >>
m***@gmail.com
2018-07-31 23:25:26 UTC
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On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 6:40:34 PM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> Gramophone review of the deluxe CD/BD sets w/ libretto by Hugo Shirley, April 2018:
>
> << WAGNER Tristan und Isolde. Parsifal (Solti)
>
> After Solti’s two Strauss one-acters with Birgit Nilsson (10/17), Decca now gives the lavish hi res reissue treatment to two more of his recordings from Vienna. As with those earlier releases, both the 1960 Tristan and the 1973 Parsifal scrub up very well in their new guises, revealing a wonderful wealth of detail and vividness, if also showing up a few seams in the editing process (especially in the Tristan). Their reissue offers the chance, though, for a reappraisal of two sets that have never really established themselves in the recorded Wagnerian canon – at least not like certain other Solti Wagner recordings.
>
> With the Tristan, the reasons are perhaps not too difficult to find. Despite it featuring the same soprano-conductor combination as that Elektra and Salome – not to mention the Decca Ring – it finds neither of them on ideal form. The reprinted cover inadvertently points to another issue with the release: the names of Nilsson and Solti are given pride of place, with the name of the Tristan relegated, with the others, to something like a bit part.
>
> Admittedly, that name, Fritz Uhl, has not secured its place in vocal Valhalla, and he is very much a weak link. The voice is occasionally appealing but never heroic: he bobs around helplessly in Wagnerian waters made especially choppy by an apparently impatient Solti. But even Nilsson herself can struggle to assert herself against Solti’s Vienna Philharmonic – strident and somewhat stringy of tone in a score that demands something more yielding and seductive.
>
> One can tell that it’s still early days for the soprano in a role that she would make her own: she’s heard to much better effect in the Böhm-Bayreuth set, which also benefits from what she’d learnt from working with Wieland Wagner. Tom Krause’s lively Kurwenal is the best among the rest of the cast. There are some thrills, undeniably, to hearing the fierce orchestral performance dusted off, and there’s a welcome bonus in the form of a contemporary radio documentary (presented by John Culshaw) about the recording, although a segment featuring Solti at the piano duetting with Uhl sounds suspiciously like a singalong around a pub piano.
>
> The Parsifal is a far more impressive achievement. Solti is in less of a mad rush and paces the score extremely well, despite never really getting that close, to my ears, to its spiritual heart. Despite the cleaned-up remastering, the orchestral sound is still a little short on bloom and roundness, with a slight reediness to the violins and a thinness to the oboe.
>
> The cast is a serious, much better-balanced line-up, though. Gottlob Frick, an implacable Hagen and Hunding in Solti’s Ring, is an honest, moving Gurnemanz; his bass, though showing its age, is sonorous and imposing. René Kollo is an impressive, fresh-voiced Parsifal and Christa Ludwig a gloriously seductive Kundry. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau makes a convincing Amfortas, though with a little help, one suspects, from the engineers. Hans Hotter certainly leaves no doubt as to Titurel’s frail condition. A bunch of Flower Maidens that includes Lucia Popp and Kiri Te Kanawa is not to be sniffed at.
>
> Both releases are amply documented, and Culshaw’s lengthy note on the Tristan recording (it was Christopher Raeburn by the time of Parsifal) is particularly revealing, not least regarding the way in which his engineering favours the orchestra. Neither of these sets would be a first choice, least of all the Tristan, but both are important documents that fully deserve the treatment they get here. >>

Regarding the Tristan engineering this is the time Culshaw got it wrong. Apparently in an attempt to translate the theory that the voices really aren't needed much in this work and you can get all you need about the work from the orchestra alone (no you can't) he submerged the voices into the orchestra. Nilsson low notes are often not discernable, poor Uhl really suffers and the love duet is a half hour hole in the score. I like Solti's punch but Nilsson was early into the role (the first act scene with Tristan goes for nothing), Uhl singing Tristan makes as much sense as Sayao singing Turandot, Resnik is choppy, Krause is just average and van Mill is dull. The sound is spectacular
Tassilo
2018-07-31 23:17:07 UTC
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Is the RCA Turandot with Nilsson, Tebaldi, Bjoerling, and Leinsdorf included?

On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 2:43:20 PM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> First big box purchase of the year for me. Stunning presentation, designed the very talented Matt Read at Combustion Ltd. Mr. Read has done many top boxes for Decca/UME including 2013’s Britten Complete Works art and the 100th anniversary VPO set (2014). Going to listen in order to all the discs over the next 60 days. First, discs 1-3: Solti’s Tristan und Isolde with Nilsson, Uhl, Resnik, Krause, Van Mill and the Vienna Philharmonic. One of my favorite Tristans. It has been remastered in 2018 and issued separately in UME’s CD/BD series with libretto. Texts, translations and synopsi are not included in La Nilsson, regrettably. Nor are there links to such texts online or as downloads. Still, an amazing set of riches.
m***@gmail.com
2018-07-31 23:37:11 UTC
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On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 7:17:09 PM UTC-4, Tassilo wrote:
> Is the RCA Turandot with Nilsson, Tebaldi, Bjoerling, and Leinsdorf included?
>
> On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 2:43:20 PM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> > First big box purchase of the year for me. Stunning presentation, designed the very talented Matt Read at Combustion Ltd. Mr. Read has done many top boxes for Decca/UME including 2013’s Britten Complete Works art and the 100th anniversary VPO set (2014). Going to listen in order to all the discs over the next 60 days. First, discs 1-3: Solti’s Tristan und Isolde with Nilsson, Uhl, Resnik, Krause, Van Mill and the Vienna Philharmonic. One of my favorite Tristans. It has been remastered in 2018 and issued separately in UME’s CD/BD series with libretto. Texts, translations and synopsi are not included in La Nilsson, regrettably. Nor are there links to such texts online or as downloads. Still, an amazing set of riches.
Yes the Leinsdorf Turandot is included
Oscar
2018-07-31 23:53:27 UTC
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Excellent analysis, meyers. I concur. “Thirty-minute hole in the score” (the love duet) nails it. Uhl is not charismatic at all and got the shaft by Culshaw in the mix down. Solti thrills per usual, and the sound is spectacular, but there is a reason this one has not entered the pantheon of Wagner recordings that changed the world. And it’s not because of La Nilsson.
m***@gmail.com
2018-08-01 00:31:41 UTC
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On Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 7:53:30 PM UTC-4, Oscar wrote:
> Excellent analysis, meyers. I concur. “Thirty-minute hole in the score” (the love duet) nails it. Uhl is not charismatic at all and got the shaft by Culshaw in the mix down. Solti thrills per usual, and the sound is spectacular, but there is a reason this one has not entered the pantheon of Wagner recordings that changed the world. And it’s not because of La Nilsson.

The really wonderful thing about Nilsson is that though she was a singer who could have gone along just with that wonderful voice, she always improved her interpretations. Compare the two commercial Tristans which are six years apart and the the two commercial Walkures which are five years apart and there is a definite improvement dramatically. Same for the Decca Aida excerpts and the complete EMI recording. She was never an actress of the arched eyebrow sort but she always tried to improve
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