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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Tenna Kraft. The Danish Soprano of the 20th Century
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Vissi d’arte (Tosca)
Un bel dì, vedremo (Madama Butterfly)
Quando me’n vo soletta (La Bohème)
Ora stammi sentir (Tosca)
Vissi d’arte (Tosca)
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Un di, felice, eterea (La Traviata)
Ah, fors’è lui che l’anima (La Traviata)
Sempre libera degg’io (La Traviata)
Tu che la vanità (Don Carlos)
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Tatyana’s Letter Scene (Eugene Onegin)
Peter Arnold HEISE (1830-1879)

Lady Ingeborg’s Farewell to the Marshal (King and the Marshal)
Siegfried SOLOMON (1885-1962)

Med sorrig jeg mig lagde (Leonora Christina)
Der er tre hjørnestene (Leonora Christina)
Francis THOMÉ (1850-1909)

Simple aveu
Ange FLÉGIER (1846-1927)

Les Stances
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Ave Maria
Peter Erasmus LANGE-MULLER (1850-1926)

Fini HENRIQUES (1867-1940)

To må man være
Henriette RANTZAU (1844-1913)

Hvor tindrer nu min stjerne
Christoph Ernest Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842)

I fjerne kirketårne
Tenna Kraft (soprano) with unnamed accompaniments except variously
Vilhelm Herold (tenor), Louis Jensen (cello), Folmer Jensen (piano) and conductors Johan Hye-Knudsen, Emil Reesen and Egisto Tango
Recorded 1911-1940

UK: Discovery Records: Tel: 01380 728000, Fax: 01380 722244, E-mail:

Danish soprano Tenna Kraft’s long and impressive recording career stretches back to pre-electrical recording days and covers the majority of the first half of the 20th century. Tenna Frederiksen Kraft was considered by many to be the most gifted Danish female singer of the 20th century.

The lyric-dramatic soprano was employed by the Royal Theatre, in Copenhagen from 1906 to 1939 and became the theatre’s prima donna absoluta, taking many leading roles in operas by Verdi, Puccini and Wagner et al. It was said that not only was Kraft a great soprano, but she was also an outstanding actress; particularly suited to the demands of the parts of Violetta, Tosca and Butterfly and also comic roles such as Despina.

When visiting Denmark in 1932 conductor Fritz Busch heard Tenna Kraft for the first time and said, "How is it possible to hide such an artist from Europe?" It was explained that Kraft had never learned any languages other than Danish and as was the custom of the time she sang all her parts in her mother tongue. In addition Kraft suffered from terrible stage fright, a condition that grew worse as she grew older.

The comprehensive booklet notes with this historical Danacord release are a mine of information. Interestingly they detail early 20th century recording techniques and the difficulties experienced with sound quality. On this recording it is so very easy to let the manifold problematic sound quality overshadow the singer’s performance. We are informed how recording strings to accompany Kraft was practically impossible in the pre-electrical amplification era. The dynamic range of the music often exceeded the capacity of the recording equipment and Kraft would have to find techniques to modify her forte and pianissimo to best fit inside the available range. In addition, as the volume difference between the lower and upper registers of a women’s voice is wider than a male voice it is more difficult to record successfully. Consequently Kraft’s forte passages often blare-out as a result of feedback and her pianissimo is often rendered almost inaudible. It is not surprising that only in the selections from the 1934 HMV recording and the 1940 Odeon recording do we hear the soprano’s voice at anywhere near her finest.

I had never heard Tenna Kraft prior to receiving this review copy and despite the acoustic reservations of listening to historical recording, I found her voice extraordinarily moving. Kraft seems to have the special quality of ease of vocal production and carrying capacity; with a certain purity and evenness to her voice. This recording, in spite of the most uneven sound quality, is an astonishing historic legacy to Kraft’s art, particularly her rich tones and lovely phrasing and her pure and golden timbre that she clearly maintained throughout her career. The highlights I feel are Kraft’s memorable performances of Schubert’s Ave Maria and Puccini’s Un bel di, verdremo, from Madam Butterfly and Vissi d’arte, from Tosca.

This Danacord release provides a marvellous glimpse into the career of a soprano who was for so long Denmark’s hidden gem. The recorded sound may prove too problematic for most. Strictly for enthusiasts of historical recordings only.
Michael Cookson

see also review by Jonathan Woolf


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