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L'art de Teresa Stich-Randall
CD 1
George Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Ode for Saint Cecilia (1739) [48.24] a
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Cantata ‘Jauchzet Gott in allen landen’ (1731) [21.02] b ; Laudamus te [4.36] c and Domine Deus [6.14] cd from Mass in B minor, BWV 232
CD 2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Exultate Jubilate KV 165 (1773) [17.10] e ; Laudamus te from Mass in C minor, KV 427 [4.10] e ; Messe solennelle de coronne, KV 317 (1779) [27.58] e ; Vesperae solennelles du Confessore, KV 339 (1780) [26.30] ef
CD 3
George Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759)
Cantata ‘In Praise of Harmony’ (1708-9) [13.52] e
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Salve Regina, D676 [12.22] e
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) 7 lieder [23.15] g
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) 9 lieder [28.40] g
CD 4
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Cantata ‘Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis’, BWV 21 (1714) [5.24] h
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Fantasia for piano, chorus and orchestra, op.80 [18.08] i
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Per pieta from Così fan tutte KV 588 [7.54] j
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Ah fors'e lui, sempre libera from La Traviata [8.13] k
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860-1956) Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée from Louise [4.54] k
Giaccomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Vissi d'arte from Tosca [3.33] k
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949) Es gibt ein Reich from Ariadne auf Naxos [5.21]; Vier Letzte Lieder [23.11] l
Teresa Stich-Randall (soprano)
a Alexander Young (tenor); London Chamber Singers and Orchestra/Anthony Bernard; rec. 1958
b Maurice André (trumpet)/Orchestre de Chambre de la Sarre/Karl Ristenpart; rec. 1961 (?)
c Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lorin Maazel; rec. 1965
d Ernst Haefliger (tenor)
e Orchestre de Chambre de la Sarre/Karl Ristenpart; rec. 1963
f Bianca Maria Casoni (alto)/Pietro Bottazo (tenor)/Georg Littasy (bass)
g Jacqueline Bonneau (piano); rec. 1961
h unnamed orchestra and conductor; rec.1954, mono
i Hans Richter-Haaser (piano)/Judith Hellweg (soprano)/Hilde Rössel-Majdan (alto)/Anton Dermota, Erich Majkut (tenors)/Paul Schoeffler (bass)/Vienna State Opera Chorus/Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Karl Böhm; rec. 1957, mono
j Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Rudolf Moralt; rec. 1956, mono
k Vienna Volksoper Orchestra and Chorus/Brian Priestman; rec. 1967
l Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra/Laszlo Somogyi; rec. 1964
All recordings stereo except where indicated. AAD.
ACCORD 476 8633 [4 CDs: 81.23 + 75.48 + 77.29 + 76.40]

In common with most music-lovers I have a list of artists from years past whom I would dearly like to have heard live. Teresa Stich-Randall’s name makes it onto my list of singers without hesitation along with others including Maria Callas. Were I pushed to do so I would opt for Stich-Randall in preference to Callas for the reason that her art seems less prone to intervene between music and listener. Stich-Randall’s art will be known to owners of Karajan’s famous Der Rosenkavalier or Falstaff sets, but it took a live lieder recital to reveal her greatness to me. Partnered by Hans Rosbaud at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1956, the programme consists of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, Debussy and Schumann – available on INA 262008. Hardly a song in the recital can be dismissed lightly and as a whole it’s noteworthy for the fact that well known and less known items sit comfortably beside one another. The encore, Schumann’s Widmung, is nothing less than a revelation.

Coming to this four CD boxed set I had high hopes that have for the most part been realised upon hearing it. That the set casts its net wide in terms of overall repertoire is commendable, as is the fact that it brings onto CD - often for the first time to my knowledge at least - studio recordings of extracts from roles in which Stich-Randall was much admired. The lieder items all but avoid duplication entirely with the INA disc. It is good that a few recordings have found their way complete into the set too, even if this is also a source of minor frustration at times. Just why was Beethoven’s Fantasia included? It is nearly 15 minutes into the piece before the chorus entry and even then Stich-Randall plays a minor recurring role in proceedings. Maybe if the performance as whole held together better than it does I would be more inclined to overlook this, but this is 18 minutes of playing time that says little in favour of The Art of Teresa Stich-Randall.

Handel and Bach afford much more of an opportunity for her to make an impression. CD 1 opens with Handel’s ‘Ode for Saint Cecilia’, which is given a spacious reading under the direction of Anthony Bernard, indeed he maintains a stately vision very much at odds with today’s period instrument approach. Stich-Randall shows her qualities as an unassuming stylist throughout the six sections to which she contributes. Not only is her tone assured and crystal-clear, but her English diction betrays nothing of her American origins. Alexander Young contributes his tenor line with firmness. Handel’s cantata ‘In Praise of Harmony’ gives her a fine vehicle again; indeed it is hard to imagine it sung with greater sensitivity. It’s no surprise the recording won the coveted Preis de Tonkunst for 1964. It still wears its years lightly.

That Bach accounts for a reasonable part of her concert repertoire can be appreciated from the items included here. She sings it with a sense of the eternal. Maurice André contributes his near constant trumpet part in ‘Jauchzet Gott in allen landen’ with enthusiasm and his tone works well against Stich-Randall’s voice. A good reminder of tenor Ernst Haefliger in his prime under a young Lorin Maazel is afforded by an extract from the B minor Mass.

Mozart with orchestra fills all of CD 2 and lieder with piano a chunk of CD 3. Though the style of the performances themselves are a little different, she can bring to mind another American, Barbara Bonney, as her closest equivalent today. Though Stich-Randall throws off Mozart’s florid lines in the orchestral works with ease, she is no mere songbird. Vocal agility, clarity of tone and diction and heartfelt feeling all contributed in making her one of the exemplary Mozart sopranos of her, indeed, of any age. Different colours are found in the voice to differentiate the various sections of ‘Exultate Jubilate’, the Mass and Vespers. It’s nice to have the Laudamus Te from the C minor Mass too. Karl Ristenpart conducts the Orchestra de Chambre de la Sarre with stately reverence at times (the andante in ‘Exultate Jubilate’ is a good deal slower than one might expect) but his is a genuine chamber orchestra that is well drilled and precisely balanced. What of Stich-Randall’s operatic Mozart though? Just a single aria from Così represents it (well, I might add); nevertheless it is a pity not to anything of the Figaro’s Countess, Giovanni’s Donna Anna (illustrated in the booklet), Magic Flute’s Pamina, Idomeneo’s Ilia or Entführung’s Konstanze. These roles were her regular calling cards at major Festivals around Europe.

Some compensation is to be had with the inclusion of the lieder. When encountering performances such as these one wonders why more singers don’t perform them regularly. Stich-Randall does so with the same care for nuance as exhibited in the orchestral works. Jacqueline Bonneau’s accompaniment is unassuming and a touch recessed at times. From that same recording of 1961 comes a group of nine Schubert settings to complete a programme of German lieder. The selection is of well known items but the readings are fresh and carefully prepared. Particularly impressive is the hushed control of tone combined with faultless breathing whichever evident whichever composer is being performed. Mozart’s ‘Das Lied der Trennung’ or Schubert’s ‘Du Bist die Ruh’ and ‘Nacht und Träume’ best illustrate this. ‘Die Forelle’ darts winningly in a swiftly flowing stream. The Schubert contribution to the set is rounded off with a pleasing reading of the ‘Salve Regina’, once more sensitively accompanied by Ristenpart’s Sarre forces.

The quartet of arias on CD 4 not yet mentioned give some indication of where her musical heart lay – with passionate roles that, alas, she performed all too rarely. La Traviata sees her Violetta in a whirl; Louise lacks for little tenderness; Tosca is reflective of music as the love she lived for. It is unsurprising that such a supreme Mozartian should bring much required intimacy to her performance of Strauss’s Ariadne monologue. That her mantra was "Die Musik ist heilige Kunst" one can believe and her performance of Vier Letzte Lieder shows this also. Occasionally she is taxed a touch by breathing, but overall it is a radiant reading that finds more shading in the lines than larger voices can do when they approach these songs. For a work that it’s hard to think of ever having a definitive performance, this version joins those by Jurinac, Popp and Schwarzkopf that bear repeated hearing.

The booklet offers only a brief three side appreciation and includes a rather pompously worded testimonial by Gabriel Dussurget. No texts or translations to accompany the music are included and some will find this a drawback. There might be a few quibbles over what is or is not included here, but it’s the quality of Stich-Randall’s singing that really matters and that is beyond reproach.

Evan Dickerson


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