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Elisabeth Schumann (1888-1952): Early Recordings 1915-1923
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Fidelio: O, wär ich schon mit dir vereint; Carl Maria von WEBER (1786–1826)
Der Freischütz: Trübe Augen, Liebchen; Kommt ein schlanker Bursch gegangen; Ambroise THOMAS (1811–1896) Connais-tu le pays?;
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791) Le nozze di Figaro: Non so più; Voi che sapete; Don Giovanni: Vedrai, carino;
Albert LORTZING (1801–1851)
Der Wildschütz: Auf des Lebens raschen Wogen;
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
Faust: Air des bijoux;
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Durch Zärtlichkeit und Schmeicheln; Welche Wonne, welche Lust; Don Giovanni: Batti, batti, o bel Masetto;
François AUBER
Fra Diavolo: Quel bonheur;

Hänsel und Gretel
: Wo bin ich? Wach ich? Ist es ein Traum?;
Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Exultate, Jubilate: Allegro; Andante; Alleluia; Le nozze di Figaro: Deh vieni, non tardar; Die Zauberflöte: Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden;
Elisabeth Schumann (soprano)
with orchestra rec. 1915 (tracks 1-4), 1920 (tracks 5-14), 1922 (tracks 15-18) and 1923 (tracks 19-20). Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Ward Marston. ADD
NAXOS 8.111098 [77:10]


This reissue of Elisabeth Schumann’s earliest recordings is part of the Naxos ‘Great Singers’ Series. It’s been remastered by Ward Marston, so sound quality is improved, while still retaining that aura of antiquity that so vividly reminds us that we’re listening to a fragment from the past. These recordings are nearly a hundred years old. They are a window on a world which no longer exists, a tantalizing glimpse into a whole experience beyond most people’s living memory. Scratchy sound quality and deeply recessed orchestration are a small price to pay: our imagination can restore something of what it must have been to have lived in those times and hear Schumann live.

The recordings here are taken from Schumann’s recording series, for Edison Diamond and for Polydor . The Edison group date from 1915, during the First World War, when Germany was still relatively unscathed by the famine and social upheaval that was to come. Schumann sings one of her trademark roles, Ännchen, from Der Freischütz, which she was later to perfect in Vienna. The cover photo confirms that the freshness and charm of her voice was also matched by her looks and costume. Only one of her two recordings of Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon is included, but it is the glorious Kennst du as Land. She must have been a perfect Mignon, waif-like, childlike and pure, yet capable of intense nobility of feeling.

The Polydor recordings are reproduced complete. Schumann records, for the second time, the arias from Le Nozze de Figaro, Neue Freuden and Ihr, die ihr Triebe des Herzens kennt, which she had first recorded in 1913. How frustrating that technology and performance practice at the time deprives us of complete Schumann portraits, in different roles, at different times in her career, and, in ensemble with her contemporaries. Fortunately, we have here glimpses of Schumann’s Susanna as well as her Cherubino, in Endlich naht sich die Stunde, from 1923, and of her Zerlina and her Blonde, to tantalize us. Her Exultate, Jubilate is of course exquisite, but her strength as a singer of character roles must have been stunning. What a pity film did not capture it.

It is hard to think of Schumann without also thinking of Richard Strauss. They inspired and mutually shaped each others work. Far from being conservative with repertoire, Schumann actively sought out “modern” material to promote. She sang Mahler and Křenek, for example, and actively promoted the lieder of Otto Klemperer. Here we have just one Strauss song, Die heiligen drei Könige aus Morgenland. It is an underrated setting of Heine’s poem about the Three Kings from the East searching for the baby Jesus. When they reach the cradle, the ox bellows, the baby screams and the kings burst into song. It’s a merry, unstuffy song to which Schumann brings great wit and vivacity.

Anne Ozorio

see also Reviews by Jonathan Woolf and Göran Forsling






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