The Flagstad Recitals - Volume 2
CD 1
Edward GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid) Song-cycle to poems by Arne Garborg, Op. 67
1. I Det syng (Enticement) [4:30]
2. II Veslemøy (The little maiden) [3:04]
3. III Blåbaer-li (Blueberry slope) [4:03]
4. IV Møte (The encounter) [4:19]
5. V Elsk (Love) [3:30]
6. VI Killingdans (Kids’ dance) [1:44]
7. VII Vond Dag (Sorrowful day) [2:35]
8. VIII Ved Gjaetle-Bekken (At Gjaetle brook) [6:58]
9. Jeg elsker dig (I love thee), Op. 5 No. 3 (H C Andersen) [3:17]
10. Eros Op. 70 No. 1 (Otto Benson) [3:13]
11. Millom rosor (Among roses), Op. 39 No. 4 (Kristofer Janson) [2:02]
12. Der ginger en båd på bølge (In the boat), Op. 59 No. 1 (Otto Benson) [3:03]
13. Hytten (The little hut), Op. 18 No. 7 (H C Andersen) [1:32]
14. Det første mode (The first meeting), Op. 21 No. 1 (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson) [4:20]
15. Jeg giver mit digt til vaaren (I give my song to the spring), Op. 21 No. 3 (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson) [3:26]
16. Med en primulaveris (With a primrose), Op. 26 No. 4 (John Paulsen) [2:20]
17. Med en vandlilje (The water lily), Op. 25 No. 4 (Henrik Ibsen) [2:41]
18. En drøm (A dream), Op. 48 No. 6 (F M von Bodenstedt) [2:34]
19. I liden højt der oppe (High up in the leafy hills), Op. 39 No. 3 (Jonas Lie) [2:12]
20. Fra Monte Pincio (From Monte Pincio), Op. 39 No. 1 (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson) [6:17]
21. Liden Kirsten (Little Kirsten), Op. 60 No. 1 (Vilhelm Krag) [3:52]
22. Den aergjerrige (Ambition), Op. 26 No. 3 (John Paulsen) [1:32]
CD 2
Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957)
1. Till kvällen (To the night), Op. 17 No. 6 (A V Forsman-Koskimies, orch. Jalas) [1:36]
2. Var det en dröm? (Did I just dream?), Op. 37 No. 4 (J J Wecksell, orch. Jalas) [2:17]
3. Höstkväll (Autumn evening), Op. 38 No. 1 (Viktor Rydberg, orch. Sibelius) [5:26]
4. Demanten på marssnön (The diamond on the March snow), Op. 36 No. 6 (J J Wecksell, orch. Sibelius) [2:16]
5. Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote (The girl returned from meeting her lover), Op. 37 No. 5 (J L Runeberg, orch. Pingoud) [3:07]
6. Arioso, Op. 3 (J L Runeberg, orch. Sibelius) [4:03]
7. Våren flyktar hastigt (Spring fleets fast), Op. 13 No. 4 (J L Runeberg, orch. Sibelius) [1:36]
8. Se’n har jag ej frågat mera (Since then I have stopped asking), Op. 17 No. 1 (J L Runeberg, orch. Sibelius) [2:22]
9. Min min fågel märks dock icke (But my bird is nowhere to be seen), Op. 36 No. 2 (J L Runeberg, orch. Pingoud) [2:43]
10. På verandan vid havet (On a veranda by the sea), Op. 38 No. 2 (Viktor Rydberg, orch. Sibelius) [3:06]
11. Den första kyssen (The first kiss), Op. 37 No. 1 (J L Runeberg, orch. Fougstedt) [2:02]
12. Svarta rosor (Black roses), Op. 36 No. 1 (Ernst Josephson, orch. Pingoud) [1:58]
13. Säv, säv, susa (Sigh, rushes, sigh), Op. 36 No. 4 (Gustav Fröding, orch. Hellmann) [2:37]
14. Kom nu hit, död! (Come away, death), Op. 60 No. 1 (William Shakespeare, orch. Sibelius) [3:36]
Edward GRIEG
15. Efterårsstormen (Autumn storms), Op. 18 No. 4 (Kristian Richardt) [3:24]
16. Og jeg vil ha mig en silkevest (I would like a waistcoat of silk), Op. 60, No. 5 (Vilhelm Krag, arr. Valdar) [1:35]
17. Jeg giver mit digt til våren (I give my song to the spring), Op. 21, No. 3 (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, arr. Valdar) [3:21]
18. Til én I (To you I), Op. 59 No. 3 (John Paulsen, arr. Valdar) [2:22]
19. Til én II (To you II), Op. 59 No. 4 (John Paulsen, arr. Valdar) [1:57]
Arne EGGEN (1881 – 1955)
20. Aere det evige forår I livet (Praise the eternal spring of life) (Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson) [3:21]
Eyvind ALNAES (1872 – 1932)
21. De hundrede fioliner (A hundred violins)(Arnulf Øverland) [3:27]
22. Vårlaengsler (Yearnings of spring) (Nils Collett Vogt) [3:28]
23. Nu brister alle de kløfter (About love) (Viggo Stuckenberg) [2:53]
24. Februarmorgen ved Golfen (Nils Collett Vogt)) [2:38]
Sigurd LIE (1871 – 1904)
25. Nykelen (The key) (Aslaug Vaa) [4:59]
26. Skinnvengbrev (The letter) (Aslaug Vaa) [4:58]
Kirtsen Flagstad (soprano)
Edwin McArthur (piano) (CD 1), London Symphony Orchestra/Øivin Fjeldstad (CD 2)
rec. Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, March 1956 (CD 1 except Haugtussa) and November 1956 (Haugtussa); Kingsway Hall, London, UK, February 1958 (Sibelius) and Walthanstow Assembly Hall, London, UK, January 1959 (CD 2: Grieg, Eggen, Alnaes, Lie)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 1804 [74:24 + 78:41]
When Kirsten Flagstad gave her farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 September 1957 she didn’t choose anything by Wagner but instead turned to ten songs by her compatriot Edward Grieg. His songs had followed her throughout her career. She had recorded them on several occasions. At the end of the concert, which was conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, she said: “As an encore I purposely chose ‘I love but thee’. With it I wanted to express my affection for Edvard Grieg and for my concert public, to whom I am now saying goodbye for good. This concert marked the end of my singing career abroad.” These Grieg songs are available on BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4190-2, together with Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder and the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, recorded a few years earlier. The previous year she had recorded the Grieg songs that constitute CD 1 in this volume with her accompanist of almost twenty years Edwin McArthur. Several of these songs were also performed in the Albert Hall, and can thus be regarded as Flagstad’s musical last will and testament.
The Haugtussa song-cycle, by many commentators regarded as Grieg’s best work, was a longstanding favourite with Flagstad. Her first recording, made in 1940, also with McArthur at the piano, is available on a Naxos disc (see review) with some tremendous Beethoven, Weber and Wagner arias as ‘fillers’. Compared with some more recent favourite recordings of Haugtussa (von Otter and Monica Groop) she is several minutes slower and the present Decca version is even slower. What is interesting is however that one doesn’t get the feeling that she is slow, since her insight is so deep and her phrasing and colouring of the voice so natural, so idiomatic. And her handling of the text, singing in her mother tongue, is authentic. It should be noted, though, that Arne Garborg wrote his poems in ‘nynorsk’, a linguistic variant closely related to rural Norwegian dialects, and I am not sure Flagstad spoke this variant in her daily life. Objections tend to creep in when it comes to the actual sounds of the great soprano. Haugtussa is about a young girl and in the 1950s the contralto quality of Flagstad’s voice hardly made her sound youthful. This was notable also in 1940 – after all she was already forty-five then – but sixteen years later it is even more pronounced. Nor is she as agile as before in Killingdans. As always her portamenti – the scooping from one note to the next – may be a hindrance to appreciate her singing in full.
Make no mistake, however: there is so much here that is splendid, and the rest of the songs – including several of the best known – find her in excellent form. Highlights are a poised Jeg elsker dig, the beautiful setting of H C Andersen’s (not ‘Anderson’ as the tracklist says) sincere poem and a powerful Eros, the dancing Hytten, light and elegant. Also notable here are a warm reading of Det første mode, one of the very finest of Grieg’s songs, as are almost all his settings of Bjørnson, who constantly seemed to inspire him to great achievements.
The orchestral songs with the ever reliable Øivin Fjeldstad as conductor are a joy to hear. Flagstad’s monumental voice was after all best suited to orchestral accompaniments and the fourteen Sibelius songs – several of them in the composer’s own orchestrations – are gems. Having spent quite some time in Sweden during her early career, her Swedish is all one could wish. Höstkväll is sung inwardly and with beautiful pianissimo, the tragic Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote is vividly and dramatically intense while Våren flyktar hastigt lacks the nervous lightness one ideally would wish. Svarta rosor, a favourite also with Jussi Björling, is heroic and she ends the recital with an inward reading of Come away, death!
The five Grieg songs may not be among his best, apart from Jeg giver mit digt til våren, which is also heard in the piano version on CD 1, but Arne Eggen’s powerful Aere det evige forår i livet is a catchy song and Eyvind Alnaes is simply the best song composer in Norway after Grieg. These four songs are masterly and immediately attractive and it is a great shame that they are not heard more often. The two songs by Sigurd Lie are also very fine and they are sung gloriously.
I can understand if non-Scandinavian readers are reluctant to invest in 2½ hours of songs in an incomprehensible language. However Grieg and Sibelius, who should be on the Top-10 list of the greatest song composers, should be enticement enough and hearing them sung by ‘The Voice of the Century’ in still sterling form makes them even more attractive.
Göran Forsling
‘The Voice of the Century’ in still sterling form … see Full Review