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Kathleen FERRIER (contralto)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Mass in B Minor

CD 1


Kyrie eleison (Chorus)
Christe eleison (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Kathleen Ferrier)
Kyrie eleison (Chorus)

Gloria in excelsis Deo (Chorus)
Laudamus te (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf)
Gratias agimus tibi (Chorus)
Domine Deus (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Walter Ludwig)
Qui tollis peccata mundi (Chorus)
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris (Kathleen Ferrier)
Quoniam tu solus sanctus (Paul Schöffler)
Cum Sancto Spiritu (Chorus)

Credo in unum Deum (Chorus)
Patrem omnipotentem (Chorus)
Et in unum Dominum (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Kathleen Ferrier)
Et incarnatus est (Chorus)
Crucifixus (Chorus)

Et resurrexit (Chorus)
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem (Paul Schöffler)
Confiteor unum baptisma (Chorus)
Sanctus and Benedictus

Sanctus (Chorus)
Osanna in excelsis (Chorus)
Benedictus (Walter Ludwig)
Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei (Kathleen Ferrier)
Dona nobis pacem (Chorus)
Vienna Singverein
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Herbert Von Karajan
Broadcast on 15 June 1950: 200th anniversary of the composer’s death.
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897). Four Serious Songs. Opus 121. (Vier Ernste Gesänge)
‘One thing befalleth’
‘So I returned’
‘O death, how bitter art thou’
‘Though I speak with the tongues of man’
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent.
Broadcast 12 January 1949
CD 3
Oslo Recital
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

The Fairy Queen, ‘Hark! The echoing air’
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Atlanta, (1736) ‘Like as the love-lorn Turtle’
Admeto, (1727) ‘How changed the vision’
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903). 'Secrecy – Veborgenheit’. ‘The Gardener’. ‘On gazing at an old picture- Auf ein altes Bild’. ‘Travelling’
Oslo Recital, October 1949

Adolf JENSEN (1879-?). ‘Altar’
London Recital

Henry PURCELL (1659-1695). arr. Britten (1913-1976). ‘From silent shades’
Sir Charles V STANFORD (1852-1924). ‘The Fairy Lough’. ‘A soft day’
Joseph PARRY (1848-1918). ‘Love is a bable’
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958). ‘Silent Noon’
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941). ‘Go not, happy day’
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) ‘Sleep’. ‘Pretty ring time’

arr. Britten ‘Come you not from Newcastle?’
arr. Hughes ‘Kitty my love’
Broadcast by the BBC on 5 June 1952

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In the 50th anniversary year of her tragically early death, it at first seemed perverse of Richard Caniell, directing genius and factotum of Guild’s Historical issues, and a Ferrier devotee, to highlight the Bach Mass in this issue of broadcast items, some not previously available. The recording of the Mass was made by a German collector. Caniell explains that over two minutes of the beginning was missing and he has interpolated the ‘equivalent’ part from Karajan’s 1952 recording made in the same venue. The alto’s contribution to this great work is limited to two solos and the duet ‘Domine Deus’ (CD1 tr.7) hence my expression of perversity. Of the solos the greatest is the ‘Agnus Dei’ (CD2 tr.7) the penultimate part of the work. However, by the time I reached it, I was already disconcerted by Karajan’s variation of tempi, and found the ‘Agnus Dei’ positively turgid. How Ferrier holds the line whilst managing so much colour and expression I don’t know. On later reading of the usually informative Guild booklet, I noted that Derek Adlam states (p.16): ‘In this movement Von Karajan adopts a tempo so extraordinarily slow that it is difficult to think of any other singer who could have sustained the long phrases so effortlessly, whilst making perfect sense of them’. I couldn’t agree more. So maybe as an illustration of Ferrier’s art and genius it wasn’t so perverse after all!

Without doubt the highlight of this three disc issue is the Brahms (CD2 trs.10-13). Not only are the songs better recorded than the other items, but also Ferrier’s singing is of the highest quality, dripping in feeling. Some have suggested particular poignancy in her rendering of ‘O death how bitter art thou’ (CD2 tr.12). I suggest that such comments are with the benefit of that most accurate of vantage points, hindsight. I focus on the rich resonances of the voice in all these songs, its even, pure projection (CD2 tr.10) and the pure chest note at 2.00 in tr.11, sung without any ‘plumminess’ in the tone whatsoever. It is these vocal qualities, allied to a keen intelligence and innate musicality, that underpin the insights in the delivery of these songs. ‘Flash’, as Sargent was known, allows some stridency from the orchestra in ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men’ (tr.13) forcing Ferrier to put pressure on her voice thus taking away some of its ethereal beauty.

Richard Caniell acknowledges that some parts of the recitals from Oslo and London, contained on CD3, have previously been released and admits (p.26) confusion as to whether Purcell’s ‘From Silent Shades’ was from the Oslo or London event, whilst Derek Adlam (p.10) attributes the Jensen aria (CD3 tr.9) to Oslo although the track listing puts it as London. Whilst Ferrier introduces the Jensen in English, and the announcer concludes likewise, there is concluding applause, as with the other Oslo items, and which is absent from the London. No matter; Ferrier’s singing of the Wolf (CD3 trs.4-7) will please all her admirers and those who appreciate quality lieder singing. There is a little surface noise to be heard, but the recording is of good overall standard and catches the voice and accompanying piano well. The warm audience applause is in no way intrusive. As to the London recital one can only admire the range, diction and expression that the singer brings to the demands of the Purcell (tr.10) although there is some distortion at times as well as tape hiss. However, these do not disturb the ‘sotto voce’ notes of Stanford’s ‘A soft day’ (CD3 tr.12). Yes, some of these items by ‘lesser’ English composers are musically trite but they provide a feast of delight for lovers of Ferrier’s art. She treats these songs to the full range of her artistry and vocal skills, for which, fifty years after her premature death, we can be forever grateful as we wallow in gratitude and enjoyment.

If not a perfect selection as a tribute to Ferrier’s memory, there is much to enjoy for lovers of her singing. Commended.

Robert J. Farr

see also review by Robert Hugill



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