Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Frieda Leider (1888-1975). A Vocal Portrait
Carl Maria WEBER (1786-1826)

Oberon; Ozean du Ungeheuer
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Rienzi; Gerechter Gott!
Der fliegender Holländer; Senta’s Ballade
Tannhäuser; Dich, teure Halle
Die Walküre; War es so schmählich
Siegfried; Ewig war’ ich
Parsifal; Ich sah’ das Kind
Wesendonck-Lieder: Der Engel; Im Treibhaus; Schmerzen; Träume
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Il Trovatore; Tacea la notte placida
Il Trovatore; D’amor sull’ali rosee
Aida; Ritorna vincitor
Aida; O patria mia
Don Carlos; O don fatale
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Ariadne auf Naxos; Es gibt ein Reich
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Don Giovanni; Or sai chi l’onore
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Armide; Ah! Si la liberté
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Fidelio; Abscheulicher, wo wilst du hin?
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Auf dem Wasser zu singen
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Meine Rose
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tristan und Isolde;
Doch nun von Tristan! And Liebesnacht [abridged]
Isolde! Tristan!…Doch es rächte
O sink hernieder
Soll ich lauschen?
Mild und Leise [Isolde’s Liebestod]
Act III; Closing scene
Schweigt eures Jammers jauchzended
Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort [Immolation Scene]
O ihr, der Eide, ewige Hüter!
Fliegt heim, ihr Raben!
Frieda Leider (soprano) with
Lauritz Melchior (tenor) and E Marherr-Wagner (soprano) with
Various orchestras conducted by John Barbirolli, Leo Blech and Albert Coates and with Michael Raucheisen (piano) in the Schubert and Schumann
Recorded 1921-1943
NAXOS 8.110744-45 [2 CDs 151.07]


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The most prominent of all inter-War Wagnerian sopranos, Leider has seldom, if ever, really lacked for reissues. Assiduous – and even more casual – collectors will already have her Preisers – acoustic and electric. Pearl has some significant material and the list of other companies who have some of her discs in their catalogues is a deservedly long one: Claremont, ASV, Danacord, EMI – of course – Memoir Classics, Music Memories. I’m sure there are and will be many more. This is terra cognita as far as great gramophone classics go but it might be instructive to concentrate on the acoustics which haven’t, by and large, received quite the plaudits of her famous series of Wagnerian discs of 1928-31.

The Oberon extract displays many of her great virtues; declamatory, oratorical power, an imperious command. In purely tonal and technical terms this demonstrates a fully supported bottom compass, as well as a mezzo-like depth and colour in the middle-to-bottom of her range; added to which the more florid technical demands are almost non-existent to her. Senta’s Ballad is sustained, from top to bottom, with emotional power and vocal agility of the highest order. The Wesendonck-Lieder – late acoustics from April 1925 - are notable for their emotional generosity without any hint of specious embellishment. The great Wagnerian discs are here, as well as the earlier, slightly less impressive acoustics (though in Leider terms that is very much a matter of infinitesimal degree). There are also some items one would not immediately correlate with her name – Gluck, Verdi and the late lieder discs of 1943. The Gluck is highly romanticised and deeply impressive on its own terms (tonal effulgence and immense generosity). The Verdi – Il Trovatore, Aida and Don Carlos – shows her off the beaten track and (in the case especially of O don fatale) in notably excellent voice. The Fidelio extract (Abscheulicher, wo wilst du hin?) is marginally less successful than elsewhere; a sense of rectitude informs it and rather dampens ardour. But her Donna Anna aria is splendidly forthright with prominent portamenti and a striking command embedded in the impersonation.

Where this double set scores highly is in collating the Schubert-Schumann lieder discs she recorded with the indefatigable pianist Michael Raucheisen. These are rather less well known than the Wagner that surrounds them. Even though they are late Leider (November 1943) they still make for fascinating listening. She began the lieder career primarily as a result of her Jewish husband, Rudolf Deman, having had to leave Berlin for Switzerland in 1940. Deman, an excellent quartet leader with his own eponymous group, was also leader of the Staatsoper in which dual role, despite his wife’s obvious prominence, he was doubtless a multiple affront to the Nazis. She then pretty much gave up the stage and concentrated on a career as a recitalist, making repeated visits to Switzerland to be with Deman. Those who find her an acquired taste in lieder singing may well point to the first of the titles presented here, Erlkönig (though the matrix numbers indicate that Schumann’s Marienwürmchen was the first to be recorded). It’s not a bad performance and of course - as far as the voice goes - it’s preferable to Therese Behr-Schnabel and her husband Artur in their recording of it. But there are rhythmic and other italicised idiosyncrasies, which will not be to all tastes. Auf dem Wasser zu singen is, perhaps because easier, much better. I liked Marienwürmchen – a lightness with splendid crescendos and well scaled – Raucheisen the guiding spirit here. She scales down her voice for Meine Rose – though it’s true that the voice has begun to wear and age – and sings with sympathy and great delicacy.

The selection is judicious, mixing classics with unexpected repertoire, a fine corpus of acoustics and the late lieder discs. They cover over twenty years in Leider’s performing life and it’s inevitably the case that one should be able, equally, to trace a hardening and coarsening of her vocal resources. Nevertheless this is a self-recommending disc and I’ve not even mentioned the words "Melchior" and "Tristan Act II". You just don’t need to.

Jonathan Woolf

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