Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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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



If you haven’t heard of Tenna Kraft (1885-1954) you are in good company. Even as late as 1932 when Fritz Busch was touring Denmark he is reported to have asked "How is it possible to keep such an artist from Europe?" Over seventy years later the question still has validity. Tenna Kraft was born Hortensia Kiristine Sofie Erogine Frederiksen in 1885 into a tough background in Copenhagen. Gifted but poor it took persistence to break into the Royal Theatre. After initial success at twenty-one she wisely sought further study in Berlin and later still in Paris with no less than Jean de Reske. Returning to Denmark she was the first native Tosca, Vilem Herold her Cavaradossi (an excerpt from her Tosca is included). From this time she became prima donna assoluta at the Theatre and successes followed in numerous works from the standard repertory – Verdi, Puccini, Gounod’s Faust, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin – as well as Danish operas and operetta. In all she sang at the Royal Theatre from 1906 until her operatic retirement in 1939. Apparently she was a nervous singer and didn’t learn foreign languages – all the selections here are sung, as was the custom, in Danish – which may have limited mobility had she wished to travel; not all artists do.

The selections cover the years 1911, by which time she was well established and with the Tosca premiere behind her (which was what must have encouraged Danish HMV to invite her to their Copenhagen studios for an excerpt) and the Danish songs of 1940 (Henriques and Weyse amongst them). The Tosca shows her fresh from de Reszke and in a forward recording with occasional shatter at fortes. At twenty-six she was still relatively young and the she does show some signs of immaturity in terms of voice production. There is a distinct lack of depth across the scale but her top is extremely well produced. Her coloratura in the La Traviata excerpts is fine though the duets with Herold (1865-1937) are a little unmatched; her fresh rather silvery tone and his more covered tenor don’t make for an immediately convincing match though what they lose in tonal blend they make up for in convincing theatrical response. In Sempre libera degg’io for instance, or its Danish equivalent, her runs are smooth, the top notes requiring little obvious mechanical effort, the tempo easy and pliant. By comparison Herold, a mature, serious and intelligent artist sounds technically at least somewhat more effortful.

By the time we reach 1920 there is audibly more body in Kraft’s tone. Where previously her voice could still be a little undernourished and unsupported now there is a greater range and weight. The development of her lower voice can be instanced by her accomplishment in a favourite assumption of hers, Tatyana’s Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin where the growth in her resources is quite explicit. Her powerful projection is equally evident in Puccini’s Un bel dì, vedremo from Madama Butterfly though I have to say I found the excerpt from La Bohème unconvincing and relatively superficial. She returned to Tosca in the HMV studios in 1928 but here she was accompanied by some very swoony salon strings, slide-laden and not many of them from the sound of it and has to fight hard to efface them. Her control of dynamics, clarity and intonation are all on show in Vissi d’arte as well as a kind of parlando portamento, which is very attractive (I’m less happy with the transfer which has attempted to eliminate clicks and scratches by removing part of the signal so the surface noise which accompanies all these recordings suddenly ceases for a second at a time – off-putting).

With Siegfried Salomon Kraft is on safe penitential ground. These hymns from Leonora Christina are immediately attractive if musically only so-so. The first is of rapt simplicity, the second sturdier, Kraft’s tone taking on a more resonantly devotional resonance. The excerpt from Don Carlos, nine minutes long, derives from the live recordings made in Copenhagen in the thirties. Many of these have been preserved and indeed Danacord have issued them in sumptuous boxes (my copies of the LP boxes stay on my shelves until the Day of Judgement). The sound is good, the orchestra quite forward in the balance but this is a valuable souvenir Kraft caught on the wing. Even if her voice is quite distant there is an undeniable sense of her conversational ease and indeed emotional unease, of a convincing dramatic persona. In lighter material Kraft was equally at home. Thomé’s Simple Aveu is in rather muffled sound and obbligato cellist Louis Jensen is in lacy mood but in Flégier’s Les stances Kraft packs quite a punch. By the time we reach 1934 (by which time Kraft was nearing fifty) a more matronly edge has crept into the voice as has indeed – maybe exacerbated by the recording – a certain metallic hardness. There is also a definable spread at the bottom of her range. Nevertheless there is great nobility and gravity in Heise’s little Forest Solitude and equally folk simplicity in the Lange-Müller. Henriques’ To må man være is a charmingly light song but it gets a sonorous and dignified interpretation from Kraft and an orchestra conducted by Emil Reesen. She is still agile in 1940, the year after her operatic retirement – witness the Rantzau - though maybe a little reserved and the recital ends with her benign assurance in Weyse’s Yonder in Distant Church Towers.

It’s been a rewarding experience listening to Tenna Kraft whose name I only knew from the occasional 78. Busch was right to ask his question. My only concern is the remastering because a number of tracks have been over cleaned in the way I described earlier. Still, irrespective of this, a strong recommendation.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Michael Cookson

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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