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Alla Breve

March 06, 1994|WALTER PRICE

WAGNER: Excerpts From "Tannhauser," "Gotterdammerung" and "Tristan und Isolde"; "Wesendonck" Lieder. Eileen Farrell, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, conductor. Sony SMK 47644. Farrell's work in the Immolation Scene and "Wesendonck" dates from 1961, the purely orchestral "Tannhauser" and "Tristan" from '67. It is an uneven disc. Although her top tends to splatter in Brunnhilde's music, chiefly because Bernstein drives ahead so unsparingly, Farrell seems to inspire her conductor for an otherwise tautly dramatic account of the music. When he gets his excitement under control, he and the soprano deliver nuanced, relaxed, almost languid readings of the exquisite songs, which sit squarely in the middle and most usable part of her range. Bernstein's way with the "Tristan" prelude and soloist-less "Liebestod" is, on the other hand, perfunctory, which is a shame since his New York ensemble gives him virtuoso playing. Perhaps he needed a soprano to egg him on.

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