ELISABETH OHMS sings music from Fidelio, Oberon, Der fliegende Holl”nder, Tristan und Isolde and Der Rosenkavalier; Schmerzen and Tr”ume from Wesendonck Lieder.  GERTRUDE KAPPEL sings music from Die Walküre, G–tterd”mmerung, La forza del destino and Faust
PREISER 89521 (F) (ADD) TT:  78:32
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Elisabeth Ohms is another superb singer of the past almost totally forgotten today. Were she singing today she would be in demand everywhere; singing of this quality is rare on the contemporary operatic scene.  Ohms was born in The Netherlands May 17, 1888 (the same birth year as Lotte Lehmann, Frida Leider, Elisabeth Schumann, Friedrich Schorr and Heinrich Schlusnus).  Only at the age of 28 did she study to become a singer, training in Amsterdam and Frankfurt.  She advanced rapidly, making her debut in Mainz when only 33.  Two years later she made her debut at the Munich Opera in Fidelio.  Munich was her artistic home for the next two decades singing their first Turandot in 1927, their first Egyptian Helen in 1928.

Arturo Toscanini admired Ohms bringing her to La Scala 1927-1929 where she sang Kundry and Isolde.  He also insisted that she sing Kundry under his direction in Bayreuth in 1931; she soon became one of the most famous Wagnerian singers of her time.  In Vienna in 1928 she sang Wagner with Richard Strauss on the podium, followed shortly by acclaimed appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in Fidelio and major Wagnerian roles.  After a decade of enormous acclaim she began to restrict her appearances and officially retired in 1942 -- another major singer, like Rosa Ponselle, who "retired" at the top.  Ohms was married to scene designer Leo Pasette and continued to live in Munich where she was a respected teacher.  She died October 16, 1974.

These recordings were all made for Grammophon in 1929 and show Ohms' firm, rich voice as well as sensitivity to text.  In addition to Senta's Ballad from Der fliegende Holl”nder, we have the duet "Versank ich jetzt" with Theodor Scheidl, one of the leading Wagnerian baritones of the time.  In the Rosenkavalier final Trio, she is joined by sopranos Adele kern and Elfriede Marherr. 

It's difficult to believe that Preiser could not find more Ohms recordings for this CD; to fill it out we have four performances by another noted contemporaneous singer, Gertrude Kappel (1884-1971).  Originally a contralto, she soon switched to soprano roles and was a favorite in Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Covent Garden, and at the Metropolitan Opera where she sang from 1927-1936.  She specialized in the heavier Wagner roles.  Her sumptuous voice is displayed via four 1924 recordings including a previously unissued "Hojotoho!" from Die Walküre, the Immolation Scene from G–tterd”mmerung, and two recordings of quite different repertory:  "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from Forza (sung in Italian, odd for German singers of the time) in which she interpolates florid embellishments, and music from Faust (sung in German).

This is a splendid collection affording us the opportunity to hear two leading singers of the past. Aside from several excerpts performed by Kappel from Vienna State Opera live performances issued by Koch Schwann, there are no other recordings currently available by either artist.  Preiser's transfers are excellent -- program notes are limited, and no timings are given. 

R.E.B. (April 2001)