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Blanche Thebom
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Don Carloa (1867) - Nei giardin del ballo Saracin [3’30]; O don fatale [4’43].
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-86)

La Gioconda (1876) - Voce di donnab [4’51].
Richard WAGNER (1813-83)

Tristan und Isolde (1865) - Einsam wachendc [3’54]. Das Rheingold (1869) - Weiche, Wotan, weiched [4’37]. Die Walküre (1870) - So ist es denn aus mit den ewigen Götternc [5’22]. Götterdämmerung (1876) - Höre mit Sinne [9’07].
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Samson et Dalilaf (1877) - Printemps qui commence [4’55]; Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix [5’00].
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)

Lieder eines fahrenden Geselleng (1885) [15’17].
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)

Auf einer Wanderung (1878)h [3’10]. Eichendorff Lieder (1880-88) - Verschwiegene Liebeh [2’20]. Verschling der Abgrundh [1’23]. Um Mitternacht [3’35]. Möricke Lieder (1888) - Schlafendes Jesukindh [3’24]; Elfenliedh [1’46]. Spanisches Liederbuch (1891) - Auf den grünen Balkonh [2’19].
Blanche Thebom (mezzo);
afLondon Symphony Orchestra/Warwick Braithwaite; bcdeRCA Victor Orchestra/Frieder Weissmann; gorchestra/Sir Adrian Boult;
From HMV aDB21494, fDB21263, gDB9576, RCA Victor b11-9795, c11-8928, d11-9795, e11-9296, Rec. afg1950, bcde1945, h1948. mono
PREISER LEBENDIGE VERGANGENHEIT 89559 [79’13]



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Preiser’s tribute to mezzo-soprano Blanche Thebom is a remarkably effective one. Impeccably programmed, Thebom’s strengths are very much to the fore. Too often referred to as the other weak link in the Furtwängler Tristan - Suthaus being the other - this disc goes a long way to redress the issue.

The role of Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo seems custom-made for Thebom’s strong voice. The first thing to strike one, though, is the excellent transfer including non-distracting ambient hiss! Thebom makes for a seductive Eboli, her superb technique making the neighbour-note decorations sound so easy yet so meaningful. The emotive, dark-toned ‘O don fatale’ stands in stark contrast, Thebom’s rock-solid lower register steely-string and resolute, yielding at the words ‘O mio regina’. They just don’t make them like this any more …

Intensity is once more the watchword in the Gioconda excerpt. This track also exemplifies the level of orchestral detail that is in evidence in these transfers – this the first of a sequence of five from RCA Victor. But the Giaconda cannot prepare the listener for they viscerally nocturnal ‘Einsam wachend’ (Tristan). Thebom’s career with the Met in New York began with Brangaene. She is absolutely hypnotic here, her tone of the utmost creaminess. In contrast, ‘Weiche, Wotan Weiche!’ (Rheingold) has Thebom as an Erda that defies anyone to defy her ... even head-God Wotan. This is commanding in the extreme, and mightily impressive.

Speaking of Wotan, ‘So ist es denn aus mit den ewigen Göttern’ is Fricka’s explosion of fury against him from Act 2 of Walküre. Thebom’s diction is amazing, and one really does feel that the culmination of the first part (‘Die Betrogne lass auch zertreten!’; ‘Trample on the wife you have cheated!’) is a real venting of the spleen. At 2’39 the music cuts to ‘Dort kommt eine kuhne Maid’ (of course omitting Brünnhilde and Wotan’s lines, then on to ‘Dein ew’gen Gattin heilige Ehre’; ‘Your eternal wife’s sacred honour …’), as proud a declamation as one could wish to hear.

Track 7 actually begins at ‘Höre mit Sinn’ (Waltraute’s Narration), rather than ‘Seit er von dir geschieden’, as on the disc back cover. This is Thebom in more hushed mode, and she is no less gripping and no less imposing. Braithwaite moves the music along nicely without rushing.

Götterdämmerung and Samson et Dalila might seem at a massive remove, but actually the latter proves the perfect contrast to the former without over-lightening the atmosphere. Thebom’s high register is glorious (within mezzo-piano). This is Saint-Saëns at his most glowing. Every time I hear this piece - and I refer to the opera as a whole - I ask myself why we don’t hear it more often. Thebom’s ultra-tender ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ merely confirms this impression.

Boult conducting Mahler is itself worthy of seeking out. To have Thebom as soloist is surely spoiling us. This 1950 recording, with ‘orchestra’, unnamed, is notable for the abrupt juxtapositions of the first song, ‘Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht’ - the fast opening woodwind in real contrast to the vocal entry. Then there are the sunny, outdoor nature of the second and the simply magical evocation of the ‘Lindenbaum’, that archetypally Romantic symbol, in ‘Die zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz. Only in the third song (‘Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer’) is there slight disappointment. More drama is called for here, surely, than Thebom and Boult provide yet even here the sighing gestures - ‘O Weh’ - are superbly done.

Wolf’s genius rounds off the disc in a selection of seven lieder, where Thebom is expertly accompanied by pianist William Hughes. Try his atmospheric introduction to ‘Verschwiegene Liebe’, for example. The first Lied, ‘Auf einer Wanderung’, playful to begin with, then shrouded in mystery causing Thebom almost to have recourse to parlando. Perhaps the most impressive is ‘Schlafendes Jesukind’ with its dark, slow-moving piano part and its true pianissimo (how rare!) and the end.

Well worth acquiring, then. As I said, they just don’t make ‘em like this any more.

Colin Clarke



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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Musicweb sells the following labels
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CDAccord
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Hallé
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Nimbus
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