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Robert Merrill and Jussi Björling - Operatic Arias and Duets
rec. 1949-51
NIMBUS NI 7945 [78:31]

Experience Classicsonline


Charles GOUNOD (1818 – 1893)
1. Salut! Demeure chaste et pure² [5:01]
Georges BIZET (1837 – 1875)

Les Pecheurs de perles
2. Au fond du temple saint ¹² [4:40]
La fleur que tu m’avais jetée² [4:08]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791 – 1864)
4. O Paradiso!² [3:34]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)

Don Carlo
5. Io l’ho perduta!¹² [10:30]
6. Cortigiani, vil razza dannata¹ [4:26]
Il trovatore
7. Il balen del suo sorriso¹ [3:14]
La forza del destino
8. Solenne in quest’ora¹² [4:15]
Un ballo in maschera
9. Eri tu¹ [4:15]
Credo in un Dio crudel¹ [4:45]
11. Si, pel ciel¹² [4:29]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863 – 1945)

Cavalleria rusticana
Il cavallo scalpita¹ [2:44]
13. Mama, quell vino è generoso² [3:58]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1858 – 1919)

14. Si può? Si Può?¹ [4:57]
15. Vesti la giubba² [4:00]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)

La bohème
Che gelida manina² [5:11]
O mimi, tu più non torni¹² [4:14]
Jussi Björling (tenor, Robert Merrill (baritone)¹

RCA Victor Orchestra/Renato Cellini (1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 15, 16, 17); Arthur Fiedler (6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14); Swedish Radio Orchestra/Nils Grevillius (3; 13)
New York, November 1949 (6, 7, 9, 10 12, 14); November 1950 (5); January 1951 (2, 8, 11, 16, 17); March 1951 (1, 4, 15); Stockholm, September 1950 (3, 13)


The centrepiece of this release is the series of duets that Björling and Merrill recorded, one that has stood the test with the best of those ‘from the dawn of recorded time’ as the phrase sonorously has it. We have never lacked for transfers of this material but its appearance here, in the context of solo forays from the two men, is still warmly to be welcomed.

 I suppose the most famous is The Pearl Fishers duet, a recording that has doubtless graced many a Desert Island gramophone over the half century since its release. The mellifluousness and warmth of the singing are imperishable but no less admired, surely, is the Forza del Destino extract. This is every inch a match for the classic Peerce/Warren recording, singing of nuance and authority. Even though Björling never sang it on stage his singing of it is characteristically insightful as to dynamics and blending with the more overtly extrovert Merrill.

 The duets are interspersed among solo items sung by both men. This is a perfectly reasonable position programmatically – it brings variety to the seventy-eight minute recital. Björling sings Salut! Demeure chaste et pure with a highly expressive legato and discloses an unusually warm and interior dramatic self. The sole aria from Carmen, La fleur que tu m’avais jetée is a most attractive example of his vocal art, though he doesn’t make much of the concluding pianissimo and the interpretation is inclined to sound somewhat generic.

 His companion in arms Merrill takes a stentorian, forceful and dramatic approach to Rigoletto’s Cortigiani, vil razza dannata. It’s splendidly done, as far as it goes, but is a touch unsubtle. His Un Ballo though is considerably better – commanding and sensitively done. The two men take one aria each from Pagliacci, then Bjorling moves onto La Boheme singing Che gelida manina before he and Merrill sing the duet from the same opera. 

 Not all the solo songs are as well known, by a long way, as the duets so they will be a catch for collectors especially in these very quiet and attractive sounding transfers.


Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Goran Forsling






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