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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Flagstad Recitals - Volume 3
Wagner and Mahler
Kirsten Flagstad (soprano)
Rec 1956
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 1796 [60:25 + 64:31]


Experience Classicsonline

CD 1
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
Die Walküre
1. Der Männer Sippe [4:48]
2. Du bist der Lenz [2:21]
3. Siegmund! Sieh auf mich (Todesverkündigung, Act II) [21:30]
4. Einsam in trüben Tagen [6:29
5. Ich sah das Kind [5:50]
6. Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort (Immolation Scene, Act III) [18:58]
CD 2
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
1. I Der Engel [3:08]
2. II Stehe still [3:51]
3. III Im Treibhaus [6:07]
4. IV Schmerzen [2:24]
5. V Träume [4:48]
Gustav MAHLER (1860 – 1911)
6. I Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n [6:01]
7. II Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen [5:54]
8. III Wenn die Mütterlein [5:33]
9. IV Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen [3:41]
10. V In diesen Wetter [6:36]
Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
11. I Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht [3:52]
12. II Ging heut’ morgen über’s Feld [4:09]
13. III Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer [2:57]
14. IV Die zwei blauen Augen [4:59]
Kirsten Flagstad (soprano)
Set Svanholm (tenor) (CD 1, tr. 3), Egil Nordsjø (bass) (CD 1, tr. 6), Wiener Philharmoniker/Hans Knappertsbusch (CD 1, tr. 1, 2, 4, 5; CD 2, tr. 1-5), Sir Georg Solti (CD 1, tr. 3), Sir Adrian Boult (CD 2, tr. 6-14), Norwegian State Radio Orchestra/Øivin Fjeldstad (CD 1, tr. 6)
rec. Sofiensaal, Vienna, Austria, June 1956 (CD 1, tr. 1, 2, 4, 5; CD 2, tr. 1-5); May 1957 (CD 1, tr. 3; CD 2, tr. 6-14); Norwegian Radio Studios, Oslo, Norway, January 1956 (CD 1, tr. 6)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 1796 [60:25 + 64:31]
I am engaged in a fascinating journey through the late recordings of Kirsten Flagstad and this set is one of the most fascinating in the series. Having recently evaluated the complete acts one and three of Die Walküre, set down in 1957, it is a thrill to hear her Wagner recordings from the previous year, especially since there are a couple of over-laps. I suppose that the complete first act of Die Walküre wasn’t planned when the Wagner recital with Knappertsbusch was recorded in 1956 and Sieglinde’s two solos (trs. 1-2) are thus duplicated. Good as she is in the complete set, she is even more glorious on these earlier takes. There is a freshness and brilliance here that eludes her a year later. The Todesverkündigung from the second act of the opera, recorded in connection with the recording of act III in 1957, finds her in glorious form, restrained as befits the situation, and with Set Svanholm noble and heroic as Siegmund. Her Elsa in Lohengrin, a role she rarely sang during the last twenty years of her international career, is still a creditable reading with silvery tone and a certain tangible vulnerability. Kundry was another occasional role and good though the reading is, her portamenti can be a bit heavy. This is generally part of her style and I can understand that some listeners react more negatively to this than I do.
The final scene from Götterdämmerung is from a radio recording by the Norwegian Radio in 1956 and it requires some indulgence from the listener, both technically – the recording is definitely sub-standard for its time – and for some less than attractive shouting from Flagstad. Anyway it is a valuable document of her last appearance in one of her greatest roles and also as the trigger for this Decca series. Producer John Culshaw, then in the initial stage of his illustrious career as the inspired producer at Decca, met Flagstad in 1956. The condition for the future recordings was that Decca issued the complete Götterdämmerung, which was an all-Norwegian production, bar the participation of Set Svanholm as Siegfried. The overall impression is however impressive and the lion’s share of the scene is almost on a par with her famous studio recording with Furtwängler some years earlier. And Fjeldstad wrings a lot of impassioned playing from the orchestra in the final pages, where the Rhine is flooded.
The Wesendonck-Lieder, which open the second CD, were recorded during the same sessions as the four arias with Knappertsbusch on CD 1; they were originally issued together on LP. Flagstad’s ability to fine down her magnificent instrument to the intimate format of songs is everywhere in evidence and the whole cycle must rank among her greatest achievements during her Decca Indian summer. Her dramatic declamation in Stehe still is utterly convincing, Im Treibhaus is soft and inward, Schmerzen has an incandescence and youthful freshness that belies her age and Träume is truly affecting.
I suppose many readers regard Sir Adrian Boult as primarily an advocate of British music, but he was a man with catholic tastes. He might have been a surprising choice as conductor of Mahler but after the war he conducted the first British performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and there are recordings of both this and the First Symphony. His readings of the two Mahler song-cycles, set down in May 1957, are honest and well balanced. Flagstad is at her most restrained in Kindertotenlieder, singing with deep feeling without sentimentalizing the songs. For the final song, In diesem Wetter, she has the dramatic soprano’s extra heft in reserve, and the effect is heart-rending. The Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen are also well sung without being exceptional, but it is good to have them even so. I have to admit that I always prefer them sung by a male singer.
The recorded sound is excellent and at Eloquence price this should be attractive for all lovers of great singing – even though I know there are some listeners who are not partial to Flagstad’s voice production.
Göran Forsling



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