The best performances of Beethoven's Fidelio are those performances that force listeners out of themselves, out of their real lives and into better lives of deeper emotions and higher ideals, performances that force listeners to change their lives and become deeper, higher, better human beings. How it happened that some of the best performances of Fidelio from Germany and Austria from the middle years of the last century -- that is, during the darkest, most violent, and most horrible years in history -- is disputable but that it happened is indisputable. These two performances recorded live at the Vienna State Opera in 1944 and 1953 are incontrovertible proof of that. With Karl Böhm conducting a superb cast including the astounding Paul Schöffler as Pizarro, the heroic Torsten Ralf as Florestan, and the magnificent Hilde Konetzni as Leonore, this February 1944 performance is exalted and exalting, a performance that forces listeners to become deeper, higher, better human beings all the time all the while wondering what effect it had on a Viennese audience after assassination, Anschluss, annexation, and five years of war. And with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting an equally superlative Otto Edelmann as Pizarro, the valiant Wolfgang Windgassen as Florestan, and the glorious Martha Mödl as Leonore, this October 1953 performance is ecstatic and ennobling, a performance that forces listeners to become deeper, higher, better human beings all the while wondering what effect it had on a Viennese audience after another year of war, invasion, occupation, and, finally, rehabilitation. Andante's remasterings are models of the art of remastering: the sound is perhaps a bit distant but nevertheless absolutely real.