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America’s Singers Recorded - The First Generation
Frederic COWEN (1852-1935)
The Promise of Life [3:02]
Belle Cole
Francisco Ernani BRAGA (1868-1945)       

La Serenata [2:59]
Ada Adini        
Walter DAMROSCH (1862-1950)
Danny Deever [3:59]
David Bispham
Richard STRAUSS (1865-1949)
Ständchen [3:04]
Lilian Nordica 
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Messiah Come unto him [3:22]
Emma Juch      
Landon RONALD (1873-1938)
Rosy Morn [1:58]
Zelie de Lussan
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

Les Huguenots - Nobil signor salute [3:46]                   
Rosa Linde Wright
William WALLACE (1860-1940)                   
Lurline - Sweet spirit hear my prayer [2:51]
Alice Esty                      
André MESSAGER (1853-1929)
Veronique - The swing song [4:37]
Emma Eames and Emilio de Gogorza   
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)                  
Die Ehre Gottes [2:47]
Arthur van Eweyk
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Das Rheingold - Erdas Warnung [3:52]
Edyth Walker
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Judas Maccabaeus - Sound an alarm [4:23]
Evan Williams  
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Zauberflöte - In diesen heil'gen Hallen [3:14]    
Robert Blass
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Robert le Diable (Meyerbeer) Robert toi que j'aime [4:08]
Auguez de Montalant
TRADITIONAL
 
Believe me if all those endearing young charms [3:08]
Dennis O’Sullivan
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)     
Cavalleria Rusticana - O Lola ch'ai di latti [2:28]
George Hamlin
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)            
Carmen - Kartenarie [2:47]
Sarah Jane Walker
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)                               
Hérodiade - Il est doux, il est bon [3:40]
Susan Strong
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhäuser - Gar viel und schön [4:06]
Leon Rains
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)        
Adriana Lecouvreur - Acerba volutta [4:10]
Louise Homer
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre - Seek not o maid [4:04]             
Clarence Whitehill and Minnie Saltzmann-Stevens
Charles HAWLEY (1858-1915)

The sweetest flower [2:17]       
Emilio de Gogorza
Leo STERN
 
Coquette [2:45]
Suzanne Adams
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Les Vêpres Sicilienne - Merci, compagnons bien-aimés [1:59]
Lilian Blauvelt
Rec. 1901-13
SYMPOSIUM 1361 [79:40]
 


The “First Generation” referred to in the disc’s title runs from Belle Cole who was born in 1845 to Minnie Saltzmann-Stevens, born thirty years later. Each track traces singers chronologically, beginning logically with Cole, and this only fails when such as Saltzmann-Stevens recorded with partners and are tracked with them. So you will find Saltzmann-Stevens under Clarence Whitehill’s name. Similarly though Emilio de Gogorza (b.1872) is listed in the running order, between Whitehill (b.1871) and Esther Palliser (b.1872), one’s referred back to track nine, where he sings Messager with his wife Emma Eames.
 
The theory behind the music is to capture the earliest born American singers and invariably the recordings are early too. The very earliest dates from 1901 and the latest from 1913. Within this space of a dozen years or so we run the gamut from the legendary – Eames, Walker, Homer, Nordica, Bispham - to the forgotten; Zelie de Lussan, Robert Blass, Rosa Linde Wright. At the time all had claims of one kind or another on the attention of record companies on both sides of the Atlantic and one of the very real pleasures of a collection such as this – apart from whetting one’s appetite for more of the same by particular singers – is to encounter the less well remembered and the unjustly overlooked.
 
The music is similarly varied as well, ranging across parlour, oratorio, concert hall and operatic stages. A few thoughts on the singers and one or two strange coincidences. Of the five singers here who ended up in England two of them – Susan Strong and Suzanne Adams – forsook singing to run high-class laundries. Musical and social histories gently interweave in that image. Belle Cole was another of the singers to spend much of her life in England becoming an oratorio stalwart. Her 1902 Cowen recording was made in London and it discloses her powerful if somewhat lugubrious rather English voice. Bispham didn’t have much of a voice but what an artist he was. Few can ever have rivalled his sense of narrative histrionics in Danny Deever – an ultimate in communicative projection.
 
Nordica is metrically wayward in Strauss but it’s good to hear non-operatic repertoire from her. Emma Juch had been retired a decade when she was invited to the New York studios in 1904 to record Handel, which she does with tremendous style. Rosa Linde Wright’s powerful chest register is barely contained by her 1906 recording of Meyerbeer. Arthur van Eweyk has an otherwise undistinguished voice per se, but his eloquence in Beethoven is undeniable. Stalwart Evan Williams is here – his complete recordings are on Cheyne – singing Handel with power. A year younger than Williams was Dennis O’Sullivan who sings a song we’d now associate with John McCormack. But O’Sullivan sounds rather older than thirty-three and is a lachrymose embarrassment.
 
Sarah Jane Walker is rather better known as Sarah Jane Charles-Cahier. She premiered Das Lied von der Erde with Bruno Walter in Munich in 1911. The list of her pupils was august – Anday, Marian Anderson, Ljunberg, Melchior - and she lived to the grand age of one hundred and one. A most important presence here. I suspect the Tannhäuser extract with Léon Rains is derived from an amazingly complete recording of Act II made in 1913 – though other sources have it as 1909. Whether it is or not Rains proves a singer of nobility if not intrinsic beauty. And with so many of his confreres he had a notable European career.
 
The great Louise Homer is, as ever, powerful and impressive and, as nearly always, under-characterized. Whitehill proves a forceful and credible Wagnerian. Esther Palliser dispenses pure charm. And Suzanne Adams, soon to run that laundry, sings a song by her husband the English cellist Leo Stern – the man who premiered the Dvořák Cello Concerto.
 
Given the age and condition of the originals Symposium have handled them with discretion and care. Their by now famous Authentic Transfer Process means a minimum of filtering, with concomitant surface noise, but no frequency loss. Also - importantly – in this instance no blasting or extraneous noises. Excellent and succinct biographical notes complete an evocative package.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 

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