"Songs You Love" - music of Martini, Stötzel, Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Dvorák, Hahn, Tchaikovsky, Jensen, Grieg, Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Wolf, and traditional songs
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Gerald Moore, pianist
EMI CLASSICS 65292 (B) TT: 78:16

"A World of Song" - music of Mendelssohn, Grieg, Brahms, Dvorák, Martini, Hahn, Delibes, Tchaikovsky, Sadero, Iradier, Ovalle, Luna and Chapí; Zarzuela arias by Giménez, Chapí. Chueca, Valverde, Serrano, Lieó, Caballero and Barbieri
Victoria de los Angeles, soprano; Sinfonia of London/Spanish National Orch/Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 56535 (B) TT: 79:48

Arias from Ruslan and Lyudmila, Siegfried, Carmen, Samson et Dalila, Boris Godunov, Pique Dame, Sadko and The Decembrists.
Nikandr Khanayev, tenor; Bolshoi Theater Orch/S. Samosud, A. Melik-Pashaev, N. Golovanov, and V. Nebolsin, cond.
PREISER 89650 (F) TT:75:28

Arias from Fidelio, Götterdämmerung, Tristan und Isolde, Lohengrin, Ariadne auf Naxos and Elektra. WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder.BRAHMS: Die Mainacht. WOLF: Verborgenheit. STRAUSS: Traum durch die Dämmerung. Zueignung.
Anny Konetzni, soporano; various orchestras, Hans Weisbach Franz Alfred Schmidt, Erwin Baltzer, Rudolf Moralt, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Max Schönher, cond; pianist Erik Werba
PREISER 89649 (F) TT: 76:26

WAGNER: Die Walküre (Act I). Birgit Nilsson (Sieglinde); Set Svanholm (Siegmund); Josef Greindl (Hunding); Hamburg Radio Orch/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, cond. Excerpt from Götterdämmerung. Josef Greindl/Bavarian State Opera Chorus; Munich Philharmonic Orch/Fritz Rieger, cond.
PREISER 93447 (F) TT: 74:11

WAGNER: Excerpts from Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung, and Tristan und Isolde.
Audrey Stottler, soprano; Academic Symphony Orchestra of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic/Arkady Steinlucht, cond.
ROMEO RECORDS 7250 (F) TT: 46:57

This group of vocal releases contains some treasures as well as some duds. The treasures include the two EMI mid-price reissues of favorite recordings by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Victoria De los Angeles, both CDs packed to maximum playing time with fine—and famous—performances by these two late sopranos (Schwarzkopf died August 3, 2006, de Los Angeles January 15, 2005). Schwarzkopf's archly mannered singing may not be to everyone's taste, but if you enjoy this style, here it is in spades. The Spanish soprano's singing is magnificent in her chosen repertory, which in four selections overlap Schwarzkopf; I rather imagine most listeners would prefer De los Angeles, who has the advantage of sensitive and tasteful orchestrations by Douglas Gamley; Gerald Moore is pianist for Schwarzkopf. Rafaek Frühbeck de Burgos is the ideal conductor for De los Angeles, particularly in the vivid group of zarzuela arias. Both CDs contain complete texts and translations.

Russian tenor Nikandr Sergeyevich Khanayev (1890-1974) didn't begin to study singing until he was 31 but quickly developed into one of Russia's leading tenors, particularly at the Bolshoi Opera where he sang a wide variety of roles. He can be heard in complete recordings of Khovanshchina, Ruslan and Ljudmila, Sadko, The Queen of Spades and Carmen. Khanayev had an extraordinary voice and n some of his greatest roles are presented on this new CD, particularly Boris Godunov and Pique Dame, as well as an aria from Shaporin's The Decembrists. Khanayev was a heldentenor as well, and this CD includes a radio broadcast of the forging scene from Siegfried. He also sang Otello and Radames. A remarkable singer indeed, and a welcome addition to the CD catalog. Less satisfying is the Preiser issue of recordings by soprano Anny Konetzni (1901-1968). Perhaps her voice did not record well, but on this record her singing often is slightly off-pitch and she slides into notes even in music from Fidelio, Ariadne auf Naxos and the three Wagner operas which were recorded during her prime (1933-1944). The Immolation Scene is not complete. The Elektra excerpt is from the Mitropoulous 1950 festival performance (see REVIEW), hardly a memorable performance and a surprising addition to this CD.

The late soprano Birgit Nilsson first sang Sieglinde in 1949, again in 1951. The third time was in 1953, heard in this radio recording of the first act of Die Walküre; her other performances were two in 1957 in Bayreuth, and three in February 1975 at the Met. Here's an opportunity to hear her in the role, at least in Act I, with a strong supporting cast and a fine conductor and orchestra. As a bonus, Preiser had provided an excerpt from Götterdämmerung with Josef Greindl. This is an important addition to the Wagner discography, which cannot be said about Romeo Records issue of Wagner sung by Minnesota-born Audrey Stottler. Now at the beginning of her career, Stottler already has to her credit performances at leading opera houses as Turandot, the Dyer's Wife, Abigaille and other demanding soprano roles, and has sung with many leading conductors. These Wagner performances, recorded in Russia September 2005, are serviceable but hardly memorable. She has a tendency to slide into high notes, her pitch is sometimes questionable, and her voice, although of ample volume obviously, is not very attractive. The orchestral conclusion of the Immolation Scene is omitted. Playing time of this CD is less than 47 minutes; in this case no major omission.

R.E.B. (August 2006)