"Terezin" Music of Weber, Svenk, Adolf Strauss, Roman, Krása, Taube, Ullmann, Haas, Schulhoff
Anne Sofie Von Otter, mezzo-soprano; Christian Gerhaher, baritone; Daniel Hope, violin; Bengt Forsberg/Gerold Huber, piano; Bebe Risenfors, accordion/double bass/guitar; Ib Hausmann, clarinet; Philipo Dukes, viola; Josephine Knight, cello.

HILLBORG: ...lontana in sonno... BOLDEMANN: 4 Epitaphs, Op. 10. GEFORS: Lydias sanger.
Anne Sofie Von Otter, mezzo-soprano; Gothenburg Symphony Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
Boldemann; Gefors; Hillborg: Vocal Works

Music from The Barber of Seville, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Der Wildschütz, Zar und Zimmermann, Nabucco, Sicilian Vespers, Simone Boccanegra, Tristan and Isolde, The Barber of Baghdad, The Bartered Bride, La Bohème, Die Kluge; Haydn, Mussorgsky, Schubert
Gottlob Frick, bass; Orchestras conducted by Karl Forster, Otto Matzerath, Wilhelm Schüchter, Franz Konwitschny; Kurt Striegler and Artur Rother
PREISER 93452 (F) TT: 77:26

Music from Orfeo ed Euridice, La favorita, Otello (Rossini), Don Carlo, Rigoletto, Carmen, Mignon; excerpts from Falla's El Amor Brujo; Lamentation from Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony
Nan Merriman, mezzo-soprano; Orchestras conducted by Frieder Weissmann, Walter Susskind, Arturo Toscanini, Pierre Monteux, Leopold Stokowski and Leonard Bernstein
PREISER 89706 (F) TT: 75:31

Arias from The Marriage of Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, The Magic Flute, Faust, Mignon, Pique Dame; excerpts from Grieg's Peer Gynt, Beethoven's Egmont; Brahms' German Requiem; songs of Zelter and Schubert
Elisabeth Grümmer, soprano; Orchestras conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter, Hugo Dietz, Artur Rother, Rudolf Kempe; Hugo Dieta, piano
PREISER 89701 (F) TT: 77:34

Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter has to her credit many superb recordings of a wide range of music focusing on Bach, Handel, Mozart and Strauss. (There is one exception: her participation in David McVicar's tasteless production of Carmen presented at Glyndebourne available on DVD (see REVIEW). She also has a keen interest in contemporary works, in particular written by Finnish and Swedish composers. Her two latest recordings are worthy additions to huge discography. One highlights two scores written for her, Lydia's Songs by Hans Gefors, commissioned by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic about a decade ago, and Anders Hillborg's "..lontano in sonno.." The latter, to texts by Petrarch, was written for the Gothenberg Symphony. The unusual instrumentation (including glass harmonica) is perfect for the tragic love story told in Sonnets 250 and 301. The CD is filled out with music of Laci Boldemann (1921-1969), 4 Epitaphs, Op. 10, a setting of four poems from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology. The other disk contains music composed by artists who were forced to live in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp near Prague during the Nazi reign of terror and oppression. Here the Nazis staged a whole range of entertainments including plays, concerts, operas, operettas and café concerts publicized for propaganda purposes. It is incredible that under these circumstances the artists involved were able to create music that is poignantly beautiful and touching. Performances are magic, and you will not forget what you hear on this disk. Complete texts are provided.

Wilhelm Furtwängler called Gottlob Frick "the blackest bass" of his generation, and if you'd like to know why, just listen to any track on Preiser's new CD, their second devoted exclusively to one of the great basses of the century. The first was mentioned on this site three years ago (see REVIEW). Frick recorded extensively, including Hunding and Hagen in the famous Solti version of Wagner's Ring. Although he sang bass roles in the Ring at the Met in 1961, most of his career focused in Europe, particularly Berlin, Munich, Vienna and Bayreuth. His voice recorded well—his powerful sound seems to leap from the speakers. Both of these solo disks are major releases.

Pittsburgh-born (1920) American mezzo-soprano Nan Merriman had a distinguished career, but not at the Met. She had an uncommonly rich voice with a distinctive vibrato. A favorite of Toscanini, she performed in a number of his broadcasts (two of which are excerpted here) and Van Beinum with whom she performed and recorded Mahler. She made three recordings of Così fan tutte, with Karajan, Jochum, and Cantelli. Three excerpts from Carmen conducted by Monteux are included, excerpts from El Amor Brujo from the Stokowski RCA 1946 recording, and an excerpt from Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony from the 1945 RCA recording with the composer. A favorite in Holland, she married Dutch tenor Tom Brand in 1965 after his wife died and devoted her time to raising his ten children, thus ending her career. Merriman was only 45 still in impeccable vocal form—a loss to the world of music.

German soprano Elisabeth Grümmer (1911-1986) sang mostly in European opera houses and enjoyed a distinguished, if rather brief, career. Her purity of sound and musicianship resulted in her recording Mozart with Böhm, Furtwängler and Solti, the Brahms German Requiem with both Klemperer and Kempe—and there are live recordings of Der Freischütz with Erich Kleiber, and Die Meistersinger from Bayreuth with Leinsdorf. This Preiser CD offers some of her signature roles recorded 1947-1955, all sung in German.

R.E.B. (June 2008)