Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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The Great Singers
Jussi Björling - PUCCINI Nessun dorma (Turandot)
Maggie Teyte - DEBUSSY Trois Chansons de Bilitis La flûte de Pan; La chevelure; Le tombeau des Naiades [r. 1936]
Enrico Caruso - DONIZETTI Act II Una furtiva lagrima (L’Elisir d’amore) [r. 1902]
Rosa Ponselle - VERDI Mira d’acerbe lagrime (Il Trovatore) [r. 1920]
Nellie Melba - HANDEL Sweet Bird That Shunn’st the Noise of Folly (Il Penseroso) [r. 1904]
Kathleen Ferrier - MAHLER Von der Schönheit (Das Lied von der Erde) [r. 1948]
Jennie Tourel - MUSSORGSKY Serenade [r. 1950]
Richard Tauber - THOMAS Leb’wohl Mignon and Wie ihre Unschuld (Mignon) [r. 1923]
Ferruccio Tagliavini and Pia Tassinari - MASSENET Il faut nous séparer (Garden Scene, Act II (Werther) [r. 1949]
Beniamino Gigli - LEONCAVALLO Un tal gioco, credetemi (Pagliacci) [r. 1934]
Kirsten Flagstad - WAGNER Mild und leise (Liebestod) (Tristan und Isolde) [r. 1936]
Licia Albanese and Giuseppe di Stefano - PUCCINI O soave fanciulla (La Bohème)
Elisabeth Schumann - SCHUBERT Der Hirt auf dem Felsen [r. 1937]
Set Svanholm - WAGNER Morgenlich leuchtend (Preislied) (Die Meistersinger Act III) [r. 1947]
Pia Tassinari - OREFICE Grand Aria (Chopin) [r. 1949]
Feodor Chaliapin - MASSENET Oh, mon maître Oui! Je fus le chef (Don Quichotte) [r. 1927]
Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber - KORNGOLD Gluck das mir verblieb (Die tote Stadt) [r. 1924]
Erna Berger - MOZART Martern aller Arten (Die Entführung aus dem Serail)
Frida Leider - BEETHOVEN Abscheulicher, wo eilst du hin? (Fidelio) [r. 1928]
Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior - WAGNER Ich sah’ das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust (Parsifal ActII) [r. 1940]
Ferruccio Tagliavini - VON FLOTOW M’appari (Martha) {r. 1949]
Ezio Pinza - VERDI - Confutatis (Requiem) [r. 1939]
Renata Tebaldi - PUCCINI Si, mi chiamano Mimi (La Bohème) [r.1951]
NAXOS 8.10781-82 [2CDs: 65.54+76.06]

Fresh from a recent legal triumph in fending off a copyright challenge from Capitol Records, Naxos continues to expand its growing catalogue of historical transfers. Their value is unquestionable and, thanks to intelligent marketing and production techniques, the results admirable. This set will comfort anyone who may be wondering whether all we have left to applaud nowadays are three tenors. Yet there was a time (and I well remember it) when names such as Gigli, Tauber, Albanese, Melchior, Flagstad and Chaliapin were as familiar to the public as those of today’s pop idols, and their sheer vocal presence continues to provide authentic thrills. The recordings range from 1902 to around 1951, a ‘golden age’ of outstanding voices from Caruso to Tebaldi. There were many improvements in recording and reproduction technology from the 1930s onwards, and the sound quality on these CDs varies from pretty awful to very good, despite their differences in age and early failures to record orchestral instruments satisfactorily. Sound fidelity improved rapidly in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Even the vinyl era produced memorable and legendary performances such as Flagstad’s and Melchior’s 1940 Tristan and Isolde, which come through impressively. Erna Berger’s deliciously flirtatious aria from Il Seraglio is unfortunately undated, but it cannot be later than 1955 when she gave up performing to concentrate on teaching. Again the voice is flawless and the sound remarkably well-balanced.

The choice of tracks is somewhat predictable after all we want to hear stars in star roles but there are delightful surprises: the airy delicacy of Maggie Teyte’s Debussy (accompanied by Alfred Cortot), the controlled passion of Albanese and di Stefano’s duet from La Bohème, the pathos of Tebaldi’s Mimi in the same opera, and the noble despair of Flagstad’s Liebestod are all revelations; and if the Melba and Caruso contributions are a little beyond their sell-by date, the ever-youthful voice of Elizabeth Schumann comes up daisies in Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, and with a bonus Reginald Kell plays the clarinet part. Richard Tauber is also represented to remind us that he was not just a master of Viennese schmaltz but also a very fine lyric tenor.

In an effort to make every CD squeaky clean we may have lost sight and sound of the immediacy and dramatic power of such inspired interpretations. The applause heard on several tracks suggests that they were recorded live, a risk rarely taken today. Has opera simply become less ‘grand’, less fashionable and, one might add, less satisfying than it used to be? If so who is to blame? Certainly not the singers; yet where can one go today to hear the likes of Jennie Tourel, Lotte Lehmann, Jussi Björling and others in this set? So thank you, Naxos, for coming to the rescue for less than the price of a seat in the gods.

Roy Brewer



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