Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Jussi Björling Collection Volume 2. Songs in Swedish 1929-37
Ernesto de CURTIS (1875-1937)

Torna a Surriento

Henry GEEHL (1881-1961)

For You Alone

Mogens SCHRADER (1894-1934)


Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)


Enrico TOSELLI (1883-1926)




Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

Salut d’amour [Violer]

Tantis serenad
Varför älskar jag

Svarta ögon [Ochi chernye]

Giuseppe de CURTIS



Love me and the World is Mine


I lyckans temelgård


O milda sang


Min sommarmelodi

Johnny BODE

Min längtan är du


Klownens tango

Walter JURMANN (1903-1971)/Bronislaw KAPER (1902-1983)


Hugo GYLDMARK (1899-1971)

Gitarren klingar

Osman PÉREZ-FREIRE (1880-1930)

Ay, Ay, Ay

Enrico CARUSO (1873-1921)

Dreams of Long Ago

Paul DRESSER (1859-1906)

Barndomshemmet [On the Banks of the Wabash]
Jussi Björling (tenor) with
Nils Grevillius and His Orchestra - except two items with the Björling Juvenile Trio with anonymous piano and violin accompaniment, recorded 1929-37
NAXOS 8.110740 [70.20]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

The second volume in Naxos’s Björling collection covers much of the same chronological ground as the first but offers lighter repertoire. In my review of the earlier volume I noted the most extraordinary feature of his talent, which is not simply the beauty of his vocal production or its accompanying ease, but his extreme youth. He was nineteen when he made his first discs (or rather solo discs because this volume includes two of the Björling brothers’ sides made in America in 1920 when Jussi was just nine). His connection with Swedish HMV came about via John Forsell, distinguished baritone, Björling teacher and the head of the Royal Opera in Stockholm. The 1929 discs of theatrical material in volume one predate his operatic debut, revealing, it’s true, a few limitations, but in the songs and lighter traditional material in this volume pretty much all is well.

He was accompanied by the versatile figure of Nils Grevillius (and His Orchestra). Grevillius was to become the conductor of the Royal Court orchestra in 1930 and had had an eclectic career behind him – filling in as a "jazz pianist" so the notes say in the teens of the century (though what kind of jazz he would have been playing then is doubtful – probably he’d have played ragtime). There are certainly ups and downs here in terms of strength of repertoire and some eyebrow-arching oddities as well, though nothing so odd as the Hawaiian guitar in volume one. No matter how simple the tune or how generic the arrangement Björling as ever lavishes his beauty of tone and musical intelligence on all comers.

There are still indications of some cover in the voice in the earlier numbers – de Curtis’ Torna a Surriento is a case in point (it should be noted that all the selections here were sung in Swedish). He enters Hubert Eisdell territory in Henry Geehl’s For You Alone (apparently the first song Caruso sang in English) and tends to knock British tenors to all corners of the ground with his rendition – ardent, lyric if accompanied by some too-prominent salon strings. There’s simple plangency in Schrader’s Sommarnatt and controlled eloquence and expressivity in Mattinata. Arthur’s I dag (Today) is an operetta-ish number graced by some unforced high notes and Elgar’s Salut d’amour emerges as Violer, complete with violin introduction, registral changes and an entirely changed character. The leader is on hand again in Giuseppe de Curtis’ (brother of the earlier Ernesto) Carmela – lilting, charming, with Björling’s core tone of Italianate vibrancy superbly deployed. He nods to John McCormack in Ball’s Love Me and the World is Mine and tangos decorously in the domestic Astrom – and no one could easily touch him in the ardency of his singing of the folk-like Törnquist. If you are averse to shaking a leg and generally living it up in a 1930s restaurant you might want to pass over the gypsiana (yes I think that’s a vibraharp as well) of Varför älskar jag and the dance band ambience of the Bickvor (with its shades of Sam Browne and Ambrose). Dark Eyes is strong on balalaika impressions and muted trumpet but the Johnny Bode song is sung in great light lyric style with evenness of production and generosity of feeling.

A touch of opera manifests itself in tangential style in Handberg-Jørgensen’s tribute to Vesti la giubba, The Clown’s Tango (it’s naughtily quoted) – not so keen on the chug of the rhythm guitar though. He lacks for little in the Kiepura-patented Ninon – wonderful power, splendid tone, magnificently floated head voice (and sustained too) if not quite with his Polish rival’s generosity of conversational ease, that indefinably charismatic adornment. The Gyldmark song was dedicated to Björling – and he sings it with softened tone and real charm and vests the song always associated with Miguel Fleta – Ay, Ay, Ay – with portamenti, pianissimi, breath control and sustenance of the long final note.

The final two items are by the Juvenile Trio of Björling brothers recorded in 1920, reputedly in New York during one of the many tours the boys’ father organised for them. The discs were aimed at the large expatriate Swedish community in America. The Dresser is especially amiable and features a laugh at the end, happily retained in the grooves of the disc (Dresser incidentally was the brother of the more famous Theodore Dreiser). A very charming end in fact to another excellently programmed, well transferred and annotated offering in the Björling series.

Jonathan Woolf

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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