Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CHRISTA LUDWIG sings Lieder and Operatic Arias
Lieder*

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56): Stille Tranen, Op 35 No 10; Der Nussbaum, Op. 25 No 3; Marzveilchen, Op. 40 No 1; Aus den Hebraischen Gesangen; Der Himmel hat Eine Trane Geweint; Die Stille; Mondnacht.
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911): Rheinlegendchen; Das Iridische Leben; Ich bin der Welt Abhanden Gekommen; Um Mitternacht.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897): Dein Blaues Augen; An Eine Aolsharfe; Immer Leiser wird Mein Schlummer; Madchenlied; Der Schmied; Standchen; Vergebliches Standchen
Richard STRAUSS (1846-1949): Gefunden, Op. 56, No 1; Begegnung; Du Meines Herzens Kronelein; Nacht; Ruhe, Meine Seele; Morgen!
Operatic excerpts**

Richard STRAUSS: ‘Was wills due Framer Munch’ – from Elektra (with Walter Berry, bass baritone); ‘Eon Schooners War’ – from Arians auf Naxos (with Ursula Schumacher & Annabelle Bernard, sopranos); ‘Bark, Mein Mann’ – from Die Frau Ohne Schatten (with Walter Berry)
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-87): ‘Leb Wohl! Lass dein Herz Treu Bewahren – from Iphegenie in Aulis
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868): ‘Frag Ich Mein Beklomm’ness Herz’ – from IlBarbiere di Siviglia
Richard WAGNER (1813-83): ‘Starke Scheite Schichtet mit Dort – from Gotterdammerung (with Sieglinde Wagner, alto)
Christa Ludwig (mezzo soprano)
*Charles Spencer (piano)
** Orchester des Deutschen Oper, Berlin, conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser
Recorded in *1993 and **1964
RCA RED SEAL ARTISTES ET RÉPERTOIRES 74321 845 972 [140.42] 2CDs Midprice


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Christa Ludwig was one of the leading operatic and recital singers of the post war generation. This two-disc set in RCA’s budget series offers a useful retrospective of music by some of the composers with which she was particularly associated. As we shall see, however, the operatic disc does not give such a true perspective on her career as does the lieder collection.

The disc devoted to lieder makes for very rewarding listening. The groups by Strauss and Mahler strike me as being particularly fine. Even towards the end of her long career Ludwig was able to call upon the resources of tone which these songs so often demand. This is not to imply that the offerings of Schumann or Brahms are in any way inferior. In these, too, she is in lustrous voice and sings with an innate understanding of the idiom. The programme is artfully chosen not only to present composers with whose music Ludwig had a particular affinity but also, just as importantly, with regard to the inevitable limitations the years may have placed upon her vocal resources. Suffice to say there is little or nor hint that we are listening to a singer aged 65. Though RCA’s totally inadequate documentation fails to make this clear, the whole lieder recital is taken from a disc entitled ‘Farewell to Salzburg’ and comprises the programme which she chose for her final recital in that city in August 1993. The recordings themselves were made in the previous January during performances in the Schloss Grafenegg in Haitzendorf, Austria.

The recordings of operatic excerpts come from much earlier in her career and make a curious mixture. Firstly, there is the fact that both the Gluck and Rossini items are sung not in French and Italian respectively but in German. I can’t believe that an artist of Ludwig’s range was incapable of singing these items in the proper languages so the decision seems strange. I’m not really sure her voice suits ‘Un voce poco far’ anyway and I doubt that she ever sung either of these roles on stage.

Secondly, I stand to be corrected by those with a greater knowledge of opera than I possess but I very much doubt that Ludwig ever essayed on stage any of the Strauss roles included here (Elektra, Ariadne or the Dyer’s Wife onstage), still less Brunnhilde. In one sense it’s very interesting to hear her in these excerpts, therefore, and at that stage in her vocal career she was more than capable of doing justice at least to these various excerpts from the roles. I suppose that the snag for RCA is that most if not all of her full operatic recordings were made for other companies so they were not in a position to feature excerpts from roles with which she was particularly associated in the opera house itself..

So, I suppose these discs could be summed up as partly a retrospective, partly a collection of "might have beens". The discs will give much pleasure for they are full of high quality artistry and all admirers of this great singer will want to snap up these recordings. Unfortunately, as is always the case with this particular RCA series the documentation is appalling. No texts or translations are provided (if Naxos can do it why can’t the big companies, particularly when reissuing material on which, presumably, they’ve already made some money?). Worse still, the sleeve information is exceedingly difficult to read and contains several inaccuracies, not least in the billing of supporting singers on the operatic disc, while the notes are plain inadequate. What a shame that, in paying tribute to a great artist, RCA have spoiled the ship for a ha’porth of tar. Recommended, however, for the music and the very fine performances.


John Quinn


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