Music from Ein Maskenball, Aida, Othello, Tristan and
Isolde, Die Meistersinger, Siegfried, Götterdammerung, Parsifal, and Palestrina.
Arias from Don Pasquale, L'elisir d'amore, Turandot, Falstaff,
Adriana Lecouvreur, I pagliacci, songs of Rotoli, Brogi,
Pinelli-Brogi and Lorenzini-Billi.
MAHLER: Lieder eines fanrenden Gesellen (Heinrich Schlusnus,
baritone; Hessian Radio Orch/Winfried Zillig, cond. Rec. 1950). Kindertotenlieder (Hermann
Schey, baritone; Hague Philharmonic Orch/Willem van Otterloo, cond.
Rec. 1951). BRAHMS:
Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53 (Elisabeth Höngen, alto; Berlin
Philharmonic Orch/Ferdinand Leitner, cond. Rec. 1952). STRAUSS: Four
Last Songs (Christel
Vienna Pro Musica Orch/Heinrich Hollreiser, cond. Rec. 1956).
Arias from Don Giovanni, La Damnation de Faust, Mignon,
Hamlet, Don Carlos, Boris Godunov, Louise, Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame,
Don Quichotte, Panurge, Pelléas et Mélisande, Monna Vanna, and La
Arias from Der fliegende Hollander, Lohengrin, Tristan und
Isolde, Die Meistersinger, The Tales of Hoffmann, and Pique Dame.
Here are five intriguing releases from Preiser! All contain performances of enormous interest for operaphiles, and most are initial CD issues. Recently this site mentioned a remarkable DVD about heldentenor Max Lorenz (1901-1975) (REVIEW). Now we can hear a number of recordings from live performances. Most of these were a gift from Viennese friends on the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1971. They had been able to locate air checks taken from performances at the Vienna State Opera from the 1930's to 1940: the CD also contains other live recordings made up to 1955. Lorenz did not like to record, and he very much approved the live performances heard on this disk, feeling they captured his true sound. And, indeed, they are exciting. All of these must have been exhilarating in the theater, and the tenor's vibrant assured sound is extraordinary. The Verdi excerpts are, of course, sung in German. The orchestras from the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Colón and the Vienna Philharmonic, are directed by the major conductors listed above. Sound quality is often a bit substandard, but the singing comes over adequately.
Italian baritone Afro Poli (1904-1988) had a solid but rather undistinguished career. He was favored by many conductors because of his ability to learn new roles quickly, and appeared in a number of unusual operas long since forgotten: Le preziose ridicole by Lattuada, Zandonai's Conchita, Il gobbo del Califfo by Casavola, and Mascagni's Isabeau—the latter with the composer conducting. Poli's handsome appearance compensated for his limited vocal resources. He appeared in a number of operatic films, and can be seen as Sharpless in the 1956 RAI telecast of Madama Butterfly starring Anna Moffo (REVIEW). Preiser's CD offers recordings made from 1932 to 1953 in standard repertory and four Italian songs. This is the least interesting of these Preiser releases.
Two historic Mahler recordings can be heard on Preiser. Baritone Heinrich Schlusnus (1888-1952) sings Songs of a Wayfarer with the Hessian Radio Orchestra conducted by Winfried Zillig. The famous singer was at the end of his career in 1950 when this recording was made, but in good voice. Collectors might also wish to investigate another early recording of this cycle, with Eugenia Zareska and the London Philharmonic conducted by Eduard van Beinum, made in 1946 (REVIEW). Hermann Schey (1895-1981) gives a sensitive performance of Kindertotenlieder, also one of the first recordings of this music, made by Philips in Holland in 1951. Contralto Elisabeth Höngen (1906-1997) was a favorite of Karl Böhm who took her to Vienna where she appeared from 1944-1971. Although soprano Christel Goltz (1912-2008) was famed as a singer of Strauss, particularly Salome and Elektra, she is not very effective in Four Last Songs recorded in 1956. Her steely sound is inappropriate for this music, but it is intriguing to hear. Excellent audio as usual with Preiser, no texts.
French baritone Vanni Marcoux (1902-1988) would be not highly regarded today. His light voice, with a marked vibrato, seems totally out of place as Boris (although Toscanini chose him to sing the role at La Scala in 1922), or King Phillip. Marcoux was the prime interpreter of his time in French roles, many of which can be heard on this CD. He sang in the American premiere of Don Quichotte and Monna Vanna, both with Mary Garden with whom he had an affair—he divorced his second wife in the hope that Garden would marry him, which she did not. Marcoux was a superb actor and always insisted on costumes appropriate for his roles. It is said that he had Russian emigrants in Paris weave special fabrics for his Boris costumes based on original patterns. Marcoux was a great favorite at the Chicago Opera, but the Paris Opera was where he achieved his greatest triumphs, appearing in the premieres of a number of French operas all now forgotten. All recordings on Preiser's CD were made 1927-1934 when he was in his prime.
Viennese-born bass-baritone Jaro Prohaska (1891-1965) had an extraordinarily powerful voice and was a major figure for 12 years in Bayreuth and two decades with the Berlin State Opera. Unfortunately he made relatively few recordings. A number of live performances have been preserved including a 1949 Rosenkavalier from the Salzburg Festival conducted by Szell. On Preiser's CD we have excerpts from live performances recorded 1942-1946; Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde, Pique Dame, Lohengrin and Tales of Hoffmann. Audio quality is sufficient to capture the remarkable sonority of Prohaska's voice.
This "paperback" md-price issue of Tosca is a Philips commercial recording made in 1957. Soprano Antonietta Stella, who had the misfortune of being on the scene at the same time as Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, is outstanding in the title role. Giuseppe Taddei is a powerful Scarpia in every way—it is easy to understand why Karajan chose him for the same role in 1962 when he made his recording with Leontyne Price and Giuseppe Di Stefano. The weak link here is tenor Gianni Poggi, who on a good day was acceptable, as he is here. Tullio Serafin keeps things going in an appropriate way, and this version of Tosca is worth owning for two of the three principals. The mono sound is excellent.
R.E.B. (January 2010)