Arias from Macbeth, Der Troubadour, Aida, Carmen, Samson und Dalila, Götterdammerung and Elektra
Elisabeth Höngen, contralto; Orchestras conducted by Ferdinand Leitner and Georg Solti
PREISER CD 93465 TT: 75:45

Arias from Figaro's Hochzeit, Der Freischütz, Undine, Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Mignon, Hoffmann's Erzühlungen, and Die verkaufte Braut
Anny Schlemm, soprano; Orchestras conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter, Ferdinand Leitner, and Fritz Lehmann.
PREISER CD 933461 TT: 77:18

RAVEL: Shéhérazade. MUSSORGSKY: Songs and Dances of Death. RACHMANINOFF: 10 songs. CHOPIN: Polish Songs.
Jennie Tourel, mezzo-soprano; Leonard Bernstein, pianist/conductor (Ravel/Mussorgsky); Erich Itor Kahn, piano (Rachmaninoff); George Reeves, piano (Chopin)
PREISER CD 89733 TT: 78:13

Arias from Il trovatore, Aida, Otello, and Andrea Chénier
Antonio Manca Serra, tenor; Orchestras conducted by Luigi Ricci and Alberto Paoletti
PREISER CD 89732 TT: 78:27

Arias from Don Giovanni, Der Barbier von Sevilla, Aroldo, Rigoletto, La traviata, Tannhäuser, Hoffmann Erzählungen,Bajazzo, and André Chenier.
Marcel Cordes, baritone; Orchestras conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter and Kurt Gaebel
PREISER CD 93464 TT: 79:23

Contralto Elisabeth Höngen (1906-1997) was favored by Karl Böhm, who took her to Vienna where she was a sensation in a wide range of roles. These included Lady Macbeth, Amneris, Carmen, Mozart's Dorabella and Marcellina, Strauss's Octavian, Herodias, Klytämnestra, and the Nurse in Die Frau ohne Schatten (which she recorded in 1955 with Böhm). Höngen also sang Wagner (Waltraute, Fricka) and many other wide-ranging roles. She was chosen by Böhm, Furtwängler and Karajan for Beethoven's Ninth, and we are fortunate to have a number of major live performances, including Die Frau Ohne Schatten, The Ring, Parsifal, and The Magic Flute. Preiser's CD includes DGG recordings made 1950-1952, with conductors Ferdinand Leitner and Georg Solti, the latter a 1952 performance of theconfrontation scene from Elektra. Her Klytämnestra can also be heard in the historic live BBC performance from 1947 conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, with Erna Schlüter in the title role and Ljuba Welitsch as Chrysothemis. Preiser's CD is essential in any vocal collection.

German soprano Anny Schlemm (b. 1928) had a remarkable career and was held in the highest esteem in the operatic world. She began with soprano roles and later switched to mezzo. It seems she sang just about everything and appeared in most of the major opera houses, in some of which she was awarded the title of Kammersängerin. In 2002 she sang her final performance, Mama Lucia in Frankfurt am Main. Preiser's CD features Electrola and DGG recordings 1953-1955 in roles in which she excelled, with conductors Ferdinand Leitner and Fritz Lehmann. A remarkable artist, indeed!

Mezzo Jennie Tourel began her career with a concert in Paris in 1920. Her debut in opera was a small role in Prince Igor with Opéra Russe conducted by Emil Cooper who championed Tourel and was an influence in her appearing at the Met. Although Tourel sang many minor roles, her artistry soon was recognized and she assumed major roles and also sang a number of seldom-heard operas. Toscanini chose her for his performance of Berlioz' Roméo et Juliette, and Tourel sang the American premiere of Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky with Stokowski. She also sang Baba the Turk in the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress conducted by the composer. Her concerts featured a wide repertory ranging from early Italian songs to songs by Poulenc many of which she premiered. Tourel had a close association with Leonard Bernstein. He wrote much music for her including the solos in two of his symphonies and the song cycle I Hate Music. Preiser's CD includes their superb 1950 performances of Songs and Dances of Death with Bernstein at the piano, and Ravel's Shéhérazade with a studio orchestra conducted by Bernstein. We also have ten songs by Rachmaninoff with Erich Itor Kahn, and three enchanting Polish songs by Chopin with pianist George Reeves. This well-filled CD ends with "Field of the Dead" from Alexander Nevsky from her 1945 recording with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. To hear Tourel in Rossini and Offenbach, check Preiser's CD issued several years ago (REVIEW).

Baritone Antonio Manca Serra (1923-1956) is totally forgotten today as his career was very brief. Born in Cagliara, he made his operatic debut in 1947 in Il trovatore to the highest praise. He was at the beginning of what promised to be a major career, appearing in many smaller opera houses, but April 25, 1956, when only 33, died during a rehearsal. Apparently he had a bad cold and a doctor gave him an injection of penicillin, not knowing the singer was allergic to it. This ended a most promising career, judging from what is heard on this CD.

Baritone Marcel Cordes (1920-1992) began his career as a tenor, switching to the lower range when he lost control of his higher register. His career was centered in Munich, but he sang in many other major opera houses as well. Cordes participated in several memorable recordings and was chosen by Wolfgang Sawallisch for his Orff operas (REVIEW). Preiser's welcome CD contains varied repertory, all sung in German, made for Electrola 1956-1958. Hearing these splendid performances shows the loss to the operatic world when in 1965, at the height of his career, Cordes contracted an ear condition that resulted in deafness in one ear.

R.E.B. (May 2010)