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Oscar Natzke [Natzka] – A Legend In His Time
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Samson HWV 57 - Honour and Arms [4.18]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Zauberflöte – O Isis und Osiris [3.22]
Die Zauberflöte - Within These sacred Bowers [3.28]
Don Giovanni – Madamina, il catalogo e questo [4.54]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Barbiere di Siviglia – La Calunnia [3.14]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Mephistopheles’ Song of the Flea arranged Collett [3.11]
Albert KETELBEY (1875-1959)
Sanctuary of the Heart [4.12]
In A Monastery Garden [3.43]
Willoughby Hunter WEISS (Nineteenth century)
The Village Blacksmith (1857) [3.41]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur Op.48 No.4 [2.30]
Zartliche Liebe; Ich liebe dich WoO123 [2.32]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
The Two Grenadiers Op.49 No.1 [3.08]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
I Bless You Forests, Pilgrims Song Op 47 No.5 [4.01]
Leonid Dimitrievitch MALASHKIN (1842-1902)
O Could I But Express In Song [2.33]
Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918)
In A Persian Garden – Myself When Young [2.40]
John Hill HEWITT (1801-1890)
Out Where The Big Ships Go [3.09]
Shenandoah [3.09]
Blow The Man Down [1.34]
Hullaballo Belay [1.14]
Drunken Sailor [0.38]
Rio Grande [1.01]
Billy Boy [1.08]
Johann Ignaz Ludwig FISCHER (1745-1825)
In Cellar Cool – from Der Kritikaster und der Trinker [2.59]
Montague Fawcett PHILLIPS (1885-1969)
Wimmen Oh Wimmen [2.02]
Oscar Natzke [Natzka] (bass)
Unidentified accompanists and recording details [but they are - Hubert Greenslade (piano)/Orchestra conducted by Henry Geehl/ Orchestra conducted by Warwick Braithwaite, recorded 1938-43]
CD MANU 1365 [68.39]


Firstly a brief word about the name. I’ve bracketed Natzka after his name because he took this name in 1947 (to simplify pronunciation) but it’s actually quite correct to call him Natzke for these sessions, all of which predate his surname change. Secondly a moan about the presentation; there are no accompanists noted so I’ve given a skeletal emendation to alert one to the fact that the pianist is Hubert Greenslade and that the anonymous pick-up orchestras are conducted by Henry Geehl (he of popular song fame) and Warwick Braithwaite, a compatriot of the New Zealand bass. There are a couple of unannounced choirs as well.

So much for the discography, let me add that this is an opportunity missed. It would have been pleasurable to be able to recommend a highlights disc of this distinguished bass’s recordings. Atoll has done its duty by its son and has issued a four-disc set that collects much, though admittedly not all, of his legacy. That’s the first port of call for those who wish to get to grips with Natzka (let’s call him that for now).

The problem with this rather basically designed and presented highlights disc is the transfers. I’ve regrettably not had access to Atoll but I trust their transfers are not as muffled as these. I dug out Dutton’s transfer of the Handel in their Stars of the English Oratorio series CDLX7025 and did a listen. Why are reissue companies going in for wholesale shellac noise removal at the expense of any semblance of a normal open sound? The result is like pouring brown sauce over strips of venison. The Dutton is transferred properly. Similarly Naxos has transferred his Ketèlbey In A Monastery Garden on 8.110848. You just don’t get a proper representation of Natzka’s voice in Manu’s work – he was a big man but his voice here is neutered as a result of promiscuous noise reduction.

I’d meant to write about Natzka’s voice, about his poor Italian, his assumption of roles taken by Peter Dawson, how he tries to rival Antipodean Malcolm McEachern in In Cellar Cool, of his manly Handel, and the imperfectly judged ritards in the Don Giovanni. I’d also wanted to point out the Chaliapinesque Russian repertoire, the winsome tunes nestling amongst the pillars, the ballads and Nauticalia, some fine Empire flag wavers amongst them.  I might have had time to point out the lieder he espoused and the untapped potential there.

Unfortunately the transfers render this issue problematic and you’d better not have a dram when listening to our old friend “Traditional” because the track order has gone up the spout. So keep your wits about you.


Jonathan Woolf




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