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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: Rare Recordings - 1946–1954
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Il Re pastore
1. L’amerò, sarò costante [8:27]
Die Entführung aus dem Serail
2. Welcher Kummer … Traurigkeit [9:02]
3. Martern aller Arten [8:52]
Don Giovanni
4. In quali eccessi … Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata [6:45]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1827)
5. Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du Hin?  [7:40]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
La traviata
6. Addio del passato [4:39]
Gustave CHARPENTIER (1860 – 1956)
7. Depuis le jour [5:58]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
La bohème
8. Donde lieta usci [2:59]
Madama Butterfly
9. Un bel di vedremo [3:58]
10. Signore, ascolta [2:09]
11. Tu, che di gel sei cinta [2:55]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Wiener Philharmoniker/Josef Krips (1, 2), Herbert von Karajan (3), Karl Böhm (11); Philharmonia Orchestra/Josef Krips (4), Herbert von Karajan (5), Alceo Galliera (6, 8-10), Issay Dobrowen (7)
rec. 1946 (1-3), 1947 (4), 1949 (11), 1950 (6-10), 1954 (5)

Experience Classicsonline


‘Rare recordings’ the front cover says. This may be correct as to the last half dozen titles but about the first five this statement is not quite true. The four Mozart arias were included on an all-Mozart Preiser disc that I reviewed some years ago (see review). Leonora’s Abscheulicher, a role she never sang on stage, was issued not so long ago by Naxos as ‘filler’ to a Schubert programme (see review). About the Mozart arias I wrote, with special reference to Martern aller Arten, that ‘her singing here is as near to perfection as one can possibly get in an imperfect world’, and this goes for the rest as well. Konstanze in Die Enrführung aus dem Serail was a role she sang for a while after the war but then dropped, which was a pity. The Mozart roles she stuck to were the Contessa in Le nozze di Figaro, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. She made complete recordings of all three but it is good to have her Elvira here, recorded more than a decade prior to the legendary complete set with Giulini and with another great Mozartean at the helm, Josef Krips.

The Beethoven aria was something of a surprise since Leonora is a part normally sung by a dramatic soprano – in Schwarzkopf’s days the greatest was undoubtedly Kirsten Flagstad – while Schwarzkopf was cut out for the lyrical role of Marzelline. It is true that she has some trouble with the lowest notes but at least in the studio, where the engineers can adjust the balance, she is fully capable of moulding the phrases memorably – especially the lyrical music.

She was in general less suited to the Italian repertoire, but even though her slender Germanic voice never feels idiomatic her great musicality and sense of phrasing and word-meaning allows her to make memorable readings of the standard arias she chose for these 78rpm recordings. Violetta’s Addio del passato from the beginning of the last act of La traviata may seem too studied but her lovely tone and the sense of vulnerability is compensation enough. The only French item, Depuis le jour from Louise is deeply felt even though her French is somewhat hesitant – and the vocalisation is superb. It is again a weak woman sensitively portrayed.

Another vulnerable creature is Mimi in La bohème and her most emotional utterance is her act III aria. Schwarzkopf doesn’t sound Italianate enough, which Victoria de Los Angeles, with basically the same voice type, does. Nor is Butterfly her cup of tea. Here though we are reminded in the first nobly pronounced phrases of the aria that Cio-Cio-San comes from an aristocratic family. Liù, the slave girl in Turandot, is a role where Schwarzkopf’s reading is preserved also in a complete studio recording that she made a good handful of years after the arias here. Turandot on that recording was Maria Callas (see review). Schwarzkopf’s reading of the arias is basically very similar to the ones here, which means that they are not very Italianate but deeply moving.

Schwarzkopf collectors will need this disc even if it involves some duplication of material but that is a side effect one has to live with. The transfers are just as good as on the Preiser disc. The Mozart sides are indispensable, the other arias, though less idiomatic, all show the high artistic level of whatever Elisabeth Schwarzkopf did.

Göran Forsling




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