Zubin Mehta conducting Bayerische Staatsoper Bayerisches Staatsorchester (National Theatre Munich)
Zubin Mehta: why I won’t play Wagner
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s director for life insists that Hitler’s favourite composer is still banned – for the moment
Mehta is quoted as saying, “I was born in India, and I am not Jewish. My connection with Israel, however, goes back over 30 years. In 1961, I went to Israel to substitute at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) for the great conductor Eugene Ormandy, who was ill. Immediately after the performance, the concert master said to me, “I am sure we are going to be together for the next 25 years.” He was more than right. I have been music director of the IPO since 1969, far more than the 25 years he predicted. And through these years, my love and admiration for, and solidarity with, the people of Israel has only grown stronger. I’m constantly being thanked for what I’ve done for Israel, my leadership of the IPO and my devotion to the people of Israel. But Israel has given me back tenfold what little I have offered of myself.”
Disgusting, isn’t it? But Mehta conducts Wagner all over Europe. So this is him sucking up to his Israeli public and employers. And it is disgusting.
Mehta is a Parsi (the Zoroastrian people in India, originally from Iran).
So who does the best version of Tristan & Isolde?
I’m my opinion there are two conductors with whom, as a general rule, one can never go wrong: Herbert von Karajan and Willem Mengelberg (not Jewish by the way), Mengelberg’s recordings are much older and suffer in sound quality and so cannot be recommended for everyone (and in this case there is no complete Tristan by him anyway). Karajan, on the other hand, is always a safe bet for sound quality and performance. His Tristan is excellent. I would suggest buying his recording on EMI.
The most often recommended Tristan is Karl Böhm and it too is great but Karajan is the ‘go to guy’ for just about everything for me. I just checked youtube and there are some performances by Karajan and Mengelberg from Tristan on there so you might just want to compare for yourself. Also be sure to check out Mengelberg’s Beethoven 5–any version. It’ll give you chills.
I recommend Karl Bohm with Birgit Nilsson as Isolde
An older recording that still sounds wonderful is Furtwangler with Kirsten Flagstad as Isolde
Nilsson and Flagstad are two of the greatest Isoldes ever.
Thanks to you both. I will check then out.
The Carlos Kleiber recording is well worth a listen too.
Yes, the prelude and Liebestod!
I love Tristan & Isolde the most of Wagner’s operas. Everyone tends to love the ring cycle the most, but for whatever reason, Wagner’s erotic works always have made much more sense to me. They’re more cutting-edge in terms of tonality and chromatic experimentation, too, although I’ve noticed that the right-wing tends not to go for that sort of thing……