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Ingvar Wixell By Request

1. Madrigal [2:37]
Evert TAUBE (1890–1976)
2. Stockholmsmelodi [2:24]
3. Min älskling (My love) [2:36]
Birger SJÖBERG (1885–1929)
4. På begäran (By request) [4:10]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871–1927)
5. En positivvisa (A barrel-organ song) [1:49]
Joseph Martin KRAUS (1756–1792)
6. Gå Pluto gå att din maka (Jupiter’s aria: Go Pluto go to thy spouse) [4:38]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858–1919)
7. Si puo? Si Puo? (Pologue) [5:52]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
8. Die Zufriedenheit, KV 473 [3:08]
9. Die betrogne Welt, KV 474 [2:50]
Die Zauberflöte:
10. Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen [4:04]
11. Papagena! Weibchen [5:32]
12. Pa Pa Pa Papagena [2:42]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Don Carlo:
13. Per me giunto è il di supreme … O Carlo, ascolta [9:00]
14. Tregua è cogl’ Unni … Dagl’ immortali vertici [5:41]
15. Cortigiani, vil razza dannata [4:45]
La forza del destino:
16. Urna fatale … Egli è salvo  [5:10]
Ingvar Wixell (baritone)
Busk Margit Jonsson (soprano) (12), Swedish Radio Light Orchestra/Åke Jelving (1, 3), Jerry Högstedt (2); Åke Jelving’s Orchestra (4); Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sten Frykberg (6); Frieder Meschwitz (7, 16); Royal Orchestra/Herbert Sandberg (10-12), Silvio Varviso (13); Dresden State Orchestra/Silvio Varviso (14, 15); Jan Eyron (piano) (5); Sixten Ehrling (piano) (8, 9)
rec. 1956–1976
BLUEBELL ABCD 079 [68:21]


A couple of months ago I contributed an omnibus review of five discs from Bluebell’s “Great Swedish Singers” series. These were issued some years back but are still in the catalogue. During the next few weeks I am going to review some more recent issues from the same series. I start with Ingvar Wixell who, from the mid-1960s and three decades onwards, was one of the foremost lyric-dramatic baritones on the international circuit. His was a bright, easily produced voice with almost tenoral height and a characteristic quick vibrato that with advanced age became more pronounced and was sometimes described as ‘gritty’. He started as a lyrical baritone, making his debut as Papageno. Three excerpts from his assumption of role are presented on this disc. In common with most of the contents of this disc the recordings derive from the archives of Swedish Radio. Born on 7 May 1931 he was not yet twenty-five when the recording was made. Even so his was already a fully developed voice, supple and expressive and produced with such lightness and beauty that he soon became a favourite far beyond the opera-going public. In 1959 he recorded an LP, Fridas visor, with songs by Birger Sjöberg, a Swedish poet, novelist and singer who wrote a great number of songs about middle-class life in a small town. The record was a best-seller and track 4 on this disc is reproduced here courtesy EMI Svenska AB. It was frequently played on Swedish Radio and hearing the unaffected, conversational story-telling paired when needed with obvious theatrical operatic heft is a pleasure. I bought the LP in 1962 and have treasured it ever since, only recently supplanting it with the CD reissue.

He went on to sing other popular material, both on record and on radio and TV, notably Swedish uncrowned Poet Laureate Evert Taube, represented here by two songs. It should be mentioned that Min älskling (tr. 3) is Taube’s interpretation of Robert Burns’ O my Luve’s like a red, red rose. Wixell even represented Sweden at the European Song Contest in 1965, singing a song by Dag Wirén, known at least to somewhat older readers for his oft-played Serenade for Strings.

His easily produced and flexible voice also made him an excellent Lieder singer, as we can hear in Wilhelm Stenhammar’s joyous Positivvisa, with Sweden’s then answer to Gerald Moore, Jan Eyron, at the piano. That song, coupled with more Stenhammar and a couple of Rangström songs, was also issued on an EMI EP with Sixten Ehrling accompanying. We can hear the great conductor in that role on the two Mozart songs on this disc, light and stylish. That Wixell was an important Mozart-singer is, I hope, still well-known. In the early 1970s he recorded both Don Giovanni (the title role) and Le nozze di Figaro (Count) for Philips with Colin Davis conducting. These versions that can still make claims to be among the most recommendable. It is also interesting, to say the least, to hear him in Jupiter’s aria from the Proserpin of Mozart’s exact contemporary Joseph Martin Kraus. There his fluent coloratura technique is quite amazing for a baritone. Unfortunately the sound is a bit uneven, fading up and down. The end is very abrupt but the singing of the young star-to-be still makes it well worth the effort.

One of Wixell’s earliest roles at the Royal Opera in Stockholm was Silvio in Pagliacci. When his voice grew more dramatic it was natural for him to upgrade to Tonio, whose Prologue is heard here in a recording from 1975, when he was at the zenith of his career. He recorded the role complete for Decca at about that time with Pavarotti. By the side of Scarpia, however, it was in the Verdi roles that he possibly reaped his greatest laurels. Four Verdi operas are represented here – the oldest from 1966, where he makes a heartrending reading (in Swedish) of Posa’s death scene from Don Carlo. He was a natural actor with enormous stage presence, and hearing him as Rigoletto on this disc evokes very vivid memories of seeing him in the role. Both the despair and hatred are depicted in his tone. During his years in Stockholm he actually sang four different parts in this opera. His Ceprano can be heard on the live recording from 1959, (BIS-CD-296), conducted by Sixten Ehrling at white heat, Nicolai Gedda as a most exuberant Duke, Margareta Hallin challenging every other recorded Gilda in history and Wixell’s great predecessor in Stockholm, Hugo Hasslo, likewise on a par with most other Rigolettos.

The Attila aria, recorded at the same time as the Rigoletto, and issued on an all-Verdi recital disc on Philips, shows Wixell on top form with ringing top and an intensity and swagger in the cabaletta that practically sweeps you off your feet. That the audience at Circus in Stockholm were just as stunned by the Forza aria, concluding the disc, is easy to conclude from the ovations.

Among his roughly contemporary competitors in the Italian Fach, Piero Cappuccilli may have been an even deeper-probing interpreter of some roles but with a duller voice. Renato Bruson was the greater bel canto artist with a legato and seamless phrasing not heard since Battistini’s days but also without real bite in the more dramatic moments and too often quite monotonous. Sherrill Milnes had a snarl and venom that at best made him the most evil sounding of baritones, but his was also a more uneven tone. Wixell with his tenor-like brilliance up high, his involvement and his gusto deserves a place at least on a par with the aforementioned and above a herd of unmentioned baritones. He also sported a lyrical lightness retained practically unimpaired during the greater part of his long career. These his assets can be heard to great effect on this disc. The sound is slightly variable but, the Kraus excerpt apart, is never less than good.

Göran Forsling 


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