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Thread: Vocal recitals.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    What a treasure trove of great singing this is! Indeed four well filled discs of absolutely amazing singing.

    The layout pretty much makes sense too. Disc one is given over to Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meisteringer von Nürnberg, disc two to Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, disc three to Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and disc four to more from Die Walküre, plus Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. No texts and translations, but detailed information on the recordings and biographical notes on all the singers.

    With a few exceptions (Birgit Nilsson and Hans Hotter in Wie aus der Ferne from Der fliegende Holländer recorded in 1957, Lotte Lehmann singing Euch Lüften from Lohengrin in 1948) all these Wagnerian excerpts were recorded in a relatively short period of time between 1927 and 1942; a mere fifteen years, with the majority taken from the 1930s. It rather puts paid to the lie that, when comparing singers of today to those of the past, people are drawing from a much greater time period. How many singers active between 2004 and today can compare with the illustrious voices we hear on these discs?

    Only Marta Fuchs, singing Senta's ballad in 1940 gave me limited pleasure, especially when set next to ELisabeth Rethberg's 1930 account which follows. There are some famous names here of course, like Frida Leider, Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Meta Seinemeyer and Elisabeth Rethberg, but some of the less well known names are still startlingly good, for instance Florence Easton and Walter Widdop gloriously ringing and firm toned as Brünnhlide and Siegfried in the Prelude from Götterämmerung. The warm voiced Marjorie Lawrence's career was mostly confined to France and it is in French that she sings a wonderfully malevolent Ortrud, with Martial Singher as Telramund. Though she also sang other mezzo roles, like Brangäne, she is a superb Brünnhilde in both Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung, again in French, singing with rich, beautiful, unforced splendour throughout her range. Her Immolation scene is quite one of the best I have heard.

    There are other fine examples of Wagner in the vernacular. Again in French we have Arthur Endrèze as the Dutchman, Georges Thill and Germaine Martinelli as Walther and Eva and Germaine Lubin as Brünnhilde, and in Italian we have Aureliano Pertile (Lohengrin's Nun sei bedankt) and Hina Spani (Elsa's Euch Lüften).

    There are some well known names among the conductors too, like Leopold Ludwig, Albert Coates, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Thomas Beecham, Eugène Bigot, Rudolf Moralt and Leo Blech etc and indeed there is hardly a track that doesn't have some interest.

    Only the 1957 Holländer duet is in good stereo sound (Nilsson's top notes bursting forth from the speakers like laser beams) but few allowances need to be made for the recorded sound, and one's ears quickly adust.

    Anyone with an interest in Wagner and/or singing needs to have this set in their collection. Both as a historic document and a source of great listening pleasure, it is absolutely essential.
    Last edited by Tsaraslondon; Oct-08-2019 at 19:00.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  3. #152
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post

    some of the less well known names are still startlingly good, for instance Florence Easton and Walter Widdop gloriously ringing and firm toned as Brünnhlide and Siegfried in the Prelude from Götterämmerung.
    English soprano Florence Easton was evidently a superwoman and an opera management's dream who could learn a new role in a single day and who had, like Lilli Lehmann and Maria Callas, the technique to sing virtually anything written for the soprano voice. She may be best known now for some excerpts from the Ring - we can hear her with Melchior in the third act of Siegfried, sounding, at age 50, as free and easy as if she were serenading the birds down by the Salley Gardens - but in 1917 Puccini selected her to create the role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. Here's that duet from Siegfried:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZvZhP7A4-0
    Last edited by Woodduck; Oct-08-2019 at 19:34.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    English soprano Florence Easton was evidently a superwoman and an opera management's dream who could learn a new role in a single day and who had, like Lilli Lehmann and Maria Callas, the technique to sing virtually anything written for the soprano voice. She may be best known now for some excerpts from the Ring - we can hear her with Melchior in the third act of Siegfried, sounding as free and easy as if she were serenading the birds down by the Salley Gardens - but in 1917 Puccini selected her to create the role of Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. Here's that duet from Siegfried:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZvZhP7A4-0
    All I knew of her before was this excerpt from Sullivan's cantata



    Rather lovely in a sort of Elgarian way.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    All I knew of her before was this excerpt from Sullivan's cantata



    Rather lovely in a sort of Elgarian way.
    Different Florence! But Austral was also noted for the big Wagner parts.

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    Ljuba Welitsch, for the short time her star was in the ascendant, was undoubtedly a star, glamorous both of voice and personality. Renowned the world over for her Salome, a role in which Strauss himself had coached her, she was also known for her Tosca and Donna Anna. Unfortunately she had developed nodules by 1953 and thereafter, though she didn't retire completely, confined herself to character roles, like the Duenna in the Schwarzkopf/Karajan recording of Der Rosenkavalier.

    This two disc set showcases her Salome, Donna Anna and Tosca, as well as Johann Strauss (the Czardas from Die Fledermaus and Saffi's Gypsy Song from Der Zigeunerbaron). The rest is devoted to Lieder and songs by Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Darogmizhsky, Mussorgsky, Marx, Mahler and Strauss, all with piano accompaniment, even the Vier letzte Lieder.

    Whilst we get a good impression of the glamour and the silvery purity on high, the recordings do also rather show up her limitations. Best of the items is the 1949 recording of the Final Scene from Salome under Reiner, though, even here, I prefer the earlier performance she made under Lovro von Matacic in 1946, which, to my mind, has a greater degree of specificity. There is just the suspicion here that she had sung the role too many times; there is a touch of sloppiness in the delivery, which is complelely absent from the earlier recording.

    She makes an appreciable Tosca, and something of her stage personality comes across here, but, I hear little of Callas's detail or Price's or Tebaldi's vocal opulence. A tendency to be careless of note values is even more evident in the Donna Anna excerpts, where we also become aware of an unwillingness to vary the volume or colour of her singing. John Steane had similar misgivings in his book The Grand Tradition.

    It is hard to think of a voice with a brighter shine to it, or of a singer with greater energy and more sense of joy in that sheer act of producing these glorious sounds. Even here, however, one notes that subtlety is hardly in question; there is little of the lithe seductiveness which Schwarzkopf and Güden bring to the [Fledermaus] Czardas, for instance. And this limits much of her best work, even the Salome in which she made such an exciting impression on her audiences.
    These limitations are even more evident in the songs with piano, and, though there is still much to enjoy in disc one, I found much of disc two something of a trial to listen to, the voice just too bright and unrelentingly mezza voce. The Strauss Vier letzte Lieder can work with piano, as witness a recording by Barbara Bonney, but here I just longed for the greater subtlety and range of expression of Schwarzkopf or Popp, of Norman or Fleming. The Mahler had me thinking of the shattering Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the piano accompanied version, and the Schubert and Schumann songs hardly begin to challenge versions by a range of different sopranos from Welitsch's time onwards.

    If I were to choose but one representation of Welitsch's art, it would absolutely be the 1949 live recording from the Met of Salome under Reiner, but, for a recital I'd go for EMI's old LP and CD transfer of the 1946 Salome Final Scene, which also has on it a glorious version of Tatyana's Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin. This two disc set is, I'm afraid, a mite disappointing.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  10. #156
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post
    This two disc set showcases her Salome, Donna Anna and Tosca, as well as Johann Strauss (the Czardas from Die Fledermaus and Saffi's Gypsy Song from Der Zigeunerbaron).
    One of my first classical recordings (on vinyl) was the Met's English-language production of Fledermaus, in which Welitsch sang Rosalinda. I also recall Lily Pons as Adele, Richard Tucker as Alfred, and Martha Lipton as Orlovsky. Hearing the "Czardas," I wondered whether Welitsch was really Hungarian and asked my Hungarian father about it. He said the name didn't look Hungarian to him, and of course he was right. I got a lot of pleasure out of that recording but have heard or seen nothing about it since.

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    Senior Member Tsaraslondon's Avatar
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    This compilation mixes excerpts from complete studio recordings with performances taken from concerts featuring Bjørling with piano accompaniment. They cover a period from 1951 to 1958, just a couple of years before he died at the age of 51. The date of 1959 given for the duet from Tosca is surely wrong, as it was first issued in 1957. Bjørling sounds terrific by the way, but Milanov is decidedly over the hill and sounds more like Cavaradossi's mother to me. I don't much care for her in the Aida duet either to be honest, but she is a singer I've never really got on with.

    Milanov crops up in the duet from Cavalleria Rusticana as well, and, though it was recorded five years earlier, she still sounds old and, well, blowsy. Bjørling is terrific though, both vocally and dramatically, as he is in the excerpts from the 1952 recording of Il Trovatore, tossing off the free, ringing top Cs in Di quella pira without a hint of strain.

    His ardent Des Grieux from the Puccini opera is sampled from the Perlea recording with Licia Albanese, one of his best recorded performances. It is set alongside a performance of the Dream from the Massenet opera, this time in concert with piano, which displays his beautiful mezza voce. Also from this concert is a performance of Don Ottavio's Il mio tesoro, which is somewhat too muscular in approach and a little short breathed when compared to versions by John McCormack and Fritz Wunderlich. This is the only item that gave me limited pleasure. The final piece is also from a piano accompanied concert , though a later date (1958) is given. The audience go wild for it, but it doesn't begin to compare to his poetic, but thrilling 1944 account. I also wonder why BMG didn't opt for the version from the complete recording with Nilsson and Tebaldi.

    Not quite as satisfying as the two EMI discs taken from 78s, which I reviewed a few months ago, but an enjoyable selection nonetheless.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  14. #158
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post


    This compilation mixes excerpts from complete studio recordings with performances taken from concerts featuring Bjørling with piano accompaniment. They cover a period from 1951 to 1958, just a couple of years before he died at the age of 51. The date of 1959 given for the duet from Tosca is surely wrong, as it was first issued in 1957. Bjørling sounds terrific by the way, but Milanov is decidedly over the hill and sounds more like Cavaradossi's mother to me. I don't much care for her in the Aida duet either to be honest, but she is a singer I've never really got on with.

    Milanov crops up in the duet from Cavalleria Rusticana as well, and, though it was recorded five years earlier, she still sounds old and, well, blowsy. Bjørling is terrific though, both vocally and dramatically, as he is in the excerpts from the 1952 recording of Il Trovatore, tossing off the free, ringing top Cs in Di quella pira without a hint of strain.

    His ardent Des Grieux from the Puccini opera is sampled from the Perlea recording with Licia Albanese, one of his best recorded performances. It is set alongside a performance of the Dream from the Massenet opera, this time in concert with piano, which displays his beautiful mezza voce. Also from this concert is a performance of Don Ottavio's Il mio tesoro, which is somewhat too muscular in approach and a little short breathed when compared to versions by John McCormack and Fritz Wunderlich. This is the only item that gave me limited pleasure. The final piece is also from a piano accompanied concert , though a later date (1958) is given. The audience go wild for it, but it doesn't begin to compare to his poetic, but thrilling 1944 account. I also wonder why BMG didn't opt for the version from the complete recording with Nilsson and Tebaldi.

    Not quite as satisfying as the two EMI discs taken from 78s, which I reviewed a few months ago, but an enjoyable selection nonetheless.
    More than with any other tenor, listening to Bjorling always feels to me like coming home, that place where I can just relax in the security of knowing that I will not be let down and that there will be nothing to make excuses for. Others may be more complex and interesting in one respect or another, but Bjorling did what he did - opened his mouth and sang - as near to flawlessly as any singer could. When I first heard him at age 17, introduced by a friend to his incomparable rendition of Beethoven's "Adelaide," he shot instantly to the top of my tenor pantheon. The impeccable Swede still sits there, flanked by soul-of-Naples Caruso and lyric poet Schipa, partaking of some of the glories of each, but unique in revealing the self-sufficient, poignant beauty of sheer vocal perfection.

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    This collection of Broadway songs by Bernstein, Blitztein, Sondheim and Weil is an absolute delight from beginning to end.

    Aside from Bernstein's I feel pretty and, to a lesser extent, his Glitter and be gay none of the items here could be considered well-known and the choice of this particular quartet of composers, all of whom are connected in some way, is felicitous. Furthermore Upshaw's clear, bright soprano and natural, unforced diction make her the ideal interpreter.

    It is rare indeed for classical singers to embrace the idiom of Broadway without sounding self-conscious, but if you didn't know better, (and I mean this in a positive way) you would never know that Upshaw was also an operatic artist of the first order. Many opera singers have tackled Bernstein's Glitter and be gay, but none have ever, to my mind, challenged the original performer Barbara Cook, who not only manages to get round the notes, but really puts across the humour in the lyrics; none, that is, except Dawn Upshaw, who actually manages the coloratura with greater ease and beauty, but also points the lyrics with such ironic brilliance.

    It is just one of the highlights in an album of sheer delights and I'd be hard pressed to find a favourite but there were many wonderful discoveries, among them Sondheim's The girls of summer (1956) and the opening track, sung to just piano, Blitztein's I wish it so from Juno (1959).

    Only Glitter and be gay uses the original orchestration, but all the other arrangements are well done and the orchestra play excellently under Eric Stern, who himself was responsible for some of the orchestrations and provides the solo piano accompaniment on I wish it so.

    I can't recommend this disc too highly.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Barbara Bonney, though American, was once married to the Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, so it is not at all surprising to find her recording a disc of Scandinavian song, though of the composers represented here, only Stenhammar, Alfven and Sjöberg are Swedish, Grieg and Sibelius taking up the lion's share of the recital.

    The recording was made in 1999, by which time Bonney would have been 43, and though the voice retains its springlike freshness and purity, maturity has brought with a new richness and depth that perhaps would not have been available to her a few years earlier. Not only is it a beautiful instrument per se, but it is also beautifully expressive and she easily fills all the requirements of this varied group of songs.

    Some of the Grieg songs are well known, but I am guessing that most of the others will be unfamiliar, and whilst there is nothing here to challenge the greatness of song writers like Schubert, Schumann or Wolf, there is plenty to enjoy. The emotional range is wide too and Bonney seizes every opportunity for expression afforded to her.

    Pappano, unlike many conductors who have a go at piano accompaniment, offers superb support and the whole disc feels like a wonderful collaboration between two artists totally at one with their vision.

    A lovely disc and one of the most enjoyable recitals in my collection. Like Bonney's disc of early English song, which I reviewed a few months back, this comes with the highest recommendation.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post

    Barbara Bonney, though American, was once married to the Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, so it is not at all surprising to find her recording a disc of Scandinavian song, though of the composers represented here, only Stenhammar, Alfven and Sjöberg are Swedish, Grieg and Sibelius taking up the lion's share of the recital.
    Sibelius is, of course, identified with Finland, but his first language was Swedish, and a lot of his songs are set to Swedish texts.

    This is a wonderful recordings, one of my favorites of Bonney's discography.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post


    What a treasure trove of great singing this is! Indeed four well filled discs of absolutely amazing singing.

    The layout pretty much makes sense too. Disc one is given over to Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meisteringer von Nürnberg, disc two to Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, disc three to Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and disc four to more from Die Walküre, plus Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. No texts and translations, but detailed information on the recordings and biographical notes on all the singers.

    With a few exceptions (Birgit Nilsson and Hans Hotter in Wie aus der Ferne from Der fliegende Holländer recorded in 1957, Lotte Lehmann singing Euch Lüften from Lohengrin in 1948) all these Wagnerian excerpts were recorded in a relatively short period of time between 1927 and 1942; a mere fifteen years, with the majority taken from the 1930s. It rather puts paid to the lie that, when comparing singers of today to those of the past, people are drawing from a much greater time period. How many singers active between 2004 and today can compare with the illustrious voices we hear on these discs?

    Only Marta Fuchs, singing Senta's ballad in 1940 gave me limited pleasure, especially when set next to ELisabeth Rethberg's 1930 account which follows. There are some famous names here of course, like Frida Leider, Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Meta Seinemeyer and Elisabeth Rethberg, but some of the less well known names are still startlingly good, for instance Florence Easton and Walter Widdop gloriously ringing and firm toned as Brünnhlide and Siegfried in the Prelude from Götterämmerung. The warm voiced Marjorie Lawrence's career was mostly confined to France and it is in French that she sings a wonderfully malevolent Ortrud, with Martial Singher as Telramund. Though she also sang other mezzo roles, like Brangäne, she is a superb Brünnhilde in both Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung, again in French, singing with rich, beautiful, unforced splendour throughout her range. Her Immolation scene is quite one of the best I have heard.

    There are other fine examples of Wagner in the vernacular. Again in French we have Arthur Endrèze as the Dutchman, Georges Thill and Germaine Martinelli as Walther and Eva and Germaine Lubin as Brünnhilde, and in Italian we have Aureliano Pertile (Lohengrin's Nun sei bedankt) and Hina Spani (Elsa's Euch Lüften).

    There are some well known names among the conductors too, like Leopold Ludwig, Albert Coates, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Thomas Beecham, Eugène Bigot, Rudolf Moralt and Leo Blech etc and indeed there is hardly a track that doesn't have some interest.

    Only the 1957 Holländer duet is in good stereo sound (Nilsson's top notes bursting forth from the speakers like laser beams) but few allowances need to be made for the recorded sound, and one's ears quickly adust.

    Anyone with an interest in Wagner and/or singing needs to have this set in their collection. Both as a historic document and a source of great listening pleasure, it is absolutely essential.
    This is a great box. I have another devoted to French opera which is pretty special too. The 'Les Introuvables' sets are excellent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post




    This collection of Broadway songs by Bernstein, Blitztein, Sondheim and Weil is an absolute delight from beginning to end.

    Aside from Bernstein's I feel pretty and, to a lesser extent, his Glitter and be gay none of the items here could be considered well-known and the choice of this particular quartet of composers, all of whom are connected in some way, is felicitous. Furthermore Upshaw's clear, bright soprano and natural, unforced diction make her the ideal interpreter.

    It is rare indeed for classical singers to embrace the idiom of Broadway without sounding self-conscious, but if you didn't know better, (and I mean this in a positive way) you would never know that Upshaw was also an operatic artist of the first order. Many opera singers have tackled Bernstein's Glitter and be gay, but none have ever, to my mind, challenged the original performer Barbara Cook, who not only manages to get round the notes, but really puts across the humour in the lyrics; none, that is, except Dawn Upshaw, who actually manages the coloratura with greater ease and beauty, but also points the lyrics with such ironic brilliance.

    It is just one of the highlights in an album of sheer delights and I'd be hard pressed to find a favourite but there were many wonderful discoveries, among them Sondheim's The girls of summer (1956) and the opening track, sung to just piano, Blitztein's I wish it so from Juno (1959).

    Only Glitter and be gay uses the original orchestration, but all the other arrangements are well done and the orchestra play excellently under Eric Stern, who himself was responsible for some of the orchestrations and provides the solo piano accompaniment on I wish it so.

    I can't recommend this disc too highly.
    Another recital I need to get. Thanks Tsaras, I think!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsaraslondon View Post




    Barbara Bonney, though American, was once married to the Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard and is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, so it is not at all surprising to find her recording a disc of Scandinavian song, though of the composers represented here, only Stenhammar, Alfven and Sjöberg are Swedish, Grieg and Sibelius taking up the lion's share of the recital.

    The recording was made in 1999, by which time Bonney would have been 43, and though the voice retains its springlike freshness and purity, maturity has brought with a new richness and depth that perhaps would not have been available to her a few years earlier. Not only is it a beautiful instrument per se, but it is also beautifully expressive and she easily fills all the requirements of this varied group of songs.

    Some of the Grieg songs are well known, but I am guessing that most of the others will be unfamiliar, and whilst there is nothing here to challenge the greatness of song writers like Schubert, Schumann or Wolf, there is plenty to enjoy. The emotional range is wide too and Bonney seizes every opportunity for expression afforded to her.

    Pappano, unlike many conductors who have a go at piano accompaniment, offers superb support and the whole disc feels like a wonderful collaboration between two artists totally at one with their vision.

    A lovely disc and one of the most enjoyable recitals in my collection. Like Bonney's disc of early English song, which I reviewed a few months back, this comes with the highest recommendation.
    I got the English recital on your recommendation. I suppose it's now inevitable I get this as well! My bank balance thanks you. My wife, not so much!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbebleu View Post
    This is a great box. I have another devoted to French opera which is pretty special too. The 'Les Introuvables' sets are excellent.
    I used to have the De Los Angeles and Schwarzkopf Introuvables sets on LP, both excellent. There were others devoted to the Ring, Verdi and Mozart. An excellent series though most of them didn't make it to CD I believe.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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