Looking back at 'Tristan und Isolde' twenty years after its composition, Wagner told his wife Cosima: 'My model was Romeo and Juliet - nothing but duets!' He was invoking Bellini's opera, 'I Capuleti e i Montecchi', which he had conducted many times as a young man. Indeed, there had been much in the Italian master's legacy that had impressed the young Wagner, including the 'long, long, long melodies' that Verdi described and the technique of melodic sequence in which a phrase is repeated with rising pitch and heightened effect. The erotic potential of such procedures is famously exploited in the 'night of love' in Act II of 'Tristan und Isolde'. And while this might well claim to be Wagner's best-known duet, this innovative 2CD set, compiled by Australia's Wagner expert Peter Bassett (who also contributes the notes) brings together a collection of dialogues, musical conversations and duets from the major Wagner operas.
The recordings are among the finest ever made. The singers are a Who's Who of great names from the sixties, seventies and eighties - Fischer-Dieskau, Janowitz, Vickers, Thomas, Price, Kollo, with conductors like Karajan, Kleiber and Jochum directing these revelatory performances. The breadth and diversity of the emotion on this double album is matched by the generous playing times: more than two hours and forty minutes of music on a 2CD set.