WAGNER: Tannhäuser
Lauritz Melchior (Tannhäuser). Kirsten Flagstad (Elisabeth). Emanuel List (Landgraf Hermann). Kirsten Thorborg (Venus). Herbert Janssen (Wolfram). Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf, cond.
PRISTINE CLASSICAL PACO 130 (2 jewel boxes/3 disks). TT: 2:54:58

TIPPETT: Symphony No. 2. BLISS: Welcome the Queen. March from Things to Come. Checkmate (excerpts). Theme and Cadenza for Violin and Orchestra. Overture: Edinburgh.
BBC Symphony Orch//Sir Adrian Boult, cond. (Tippett). BBC Concert Orch/Sir Arthur Bliss, cond.

Wagner's Tannhäuser has had a rough time of it in recent years. The Met HD telecast was marred by inferior singing, and the latest Bayreuth "industrialized" production is a disaster both in production and vocally (REVIEW). Now sanity returns in the form of a Met broadcast from Jauary 4, 1941. The cast is absolutehy perfect featuring the greatest Wagnerian singers of the time, all in top form. And conductor Erich Leinsdorf is a master of Wagner. This is one of the most important Wagner recordings, and Andrew Rose's XR remastering is quite superior to the Sony issue. This is essential in any Wagner collection, a definitive performance in best possible audio.

The Tippett/Bliss CD is an oddity. It features the world premiere of the composer's Symphony No. 2 from a BBC broadcast in Royal Festival Hall February 5, 1958 with Sir Adrian Boult and the BBC Symphony, the world premiere of the work. This music has never been a concert favorite and there have been few recordings. The premiere was a disaster for various reasons, mostly because of incorrect orchestral parts, and a conductor who wasn't quite up to the score's demands. Throughout the performance playing is sloppy, and about 2 minutes into the first movement, Boult stopped and restarted. His announcement to the audience is heard on this recording. Details of the disaster are outlined in CD notes. It is difficult to imagine why anyone would choose to hear this unfortunate concert. Of greater interest is the remainder of the disk, music of Sir Arthur Bliss with the composer conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra in live performances from December 21, 1956. All of these are annouced by Bliss, and the studio recordings are first-rate technically. We have some of the composer's liveliest music, excerpts from ballet and film music and the sparkling Edinburgh Overture. Highly entertaining!

R.E.B. (March 2015)