> NILSSON Decca Singers 4679122 [CC]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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BIRGIT NILSSON
Adolphe ADAM (1803-56) O holy nighta. Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Fidelio ­ Abscheulicher!; Komm, Hoffnungb. César FRANCK (1822-90) Panis angelicusa. Franz GRUBER (1787-1863) Silent nighta. Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Nabucco ­ Ben io t’invenni … Anch’io dischiuso un giornoc. La forza del destino ­ Pace, pace, mio Dio!c. Richard WAGNER (1813-83) Tristan und Isolde ­ Mild und Leised. Götterdämmerung ­ Starke Scheite (Immolations Scene)e. Tannhäuser ­ Dich, teure halleb. Die Walküreb ­ Der Männer Sippe; Du bist der Lenz. Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826) Der Freischütz ­ Wie naht mir der Schlummer … Leise, leiseb.
Birgit Nilsson (soprano); aÅke Levén (organ); bcOrchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/bEdward Downes, cArgeo Quadri; dBayreuth Festival Orchestra/Karl Böhm.
Recorded in aAugust, bMay 1963, cAugust 1962, live performances from the Bayreuth Festival in dJuly 1966, eAugust 1967. [ADD]
DECCA The Singers 467 912-2 [70.15]


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If ever there was a voice that matched up to the Everests of the repertoire, it was Birgit Nilsson’s. All of the operatic excerpts here come from the heftier end of the operatic spectrum (more of the rest later).

Included amongst these gems is the climax of one of the finest operatic recordings ever made – Karl Böhm’s 1966 Bayreuth Tristan. Shorn of the preceding hours of music, it nevertheless retains its ability to move in no uncertain measure. While one listens awe-struck at Nilsson’s power at the end of one of the most straining parts in the soprano repertoire, the activities of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra are almost as impressive: the thunderous, climactic brass surely sent shock waves into the Bayreuth environs.

Ever suited to the larger roles, Nilsson’s 1963 account of Abscheulicher! reveals her in her element. The resolution she feels is almost palpable, the ideal contrast to the prayer-like, lulling parts of the Weber.

Of course the practice of excerpting is particularly cruel to Wagner (it is a particular shame that Der Männer Sippe is curtailed after a gripping account: listen especially to the resplendent trumpet from the Covent Garden Orchestra). Verdi can seem a little more amenable in this respect: Pace, pace o Dio from Forza del destino is characterised by Nilsson’s innate sense of the dramatic, aided by the Covent Garden inspired by Argeo Quadri. In such hands, the aria from Nabucco is positively ennobled by this treatment.

The final three tracks show a different side of this singer. Adam’s O Holy Night does indeed sound strange straight after the exultant Du bist der Lenz, and at least she scales it down for Panis angelicus. But it should not be for these that one purchases this disc. It should be for a memento of a great singer in the repertoire that suited her best.

Decca’s ‘The Singers’ series are all enhanced CDs. This means that there are no texts and translations supplied. For these one has to insert the disc into one’s computer (assuming there is one handy) where there are internet links, a (label-specific) discography and a photo gallery (22 photos, in the present case). And the texts, of course. It’s very impressive, but there is something to be said for having the texts in one’s hands …

Colin Clarke


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