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Gré Brouwenstijn - Operatic Arias
Track-listing at end of review
Gré Brouwenstijn (soprano)
The Hague Philharmonic Orchestra (1-2)/Willem van Otterloo
Vienna Symphony Orchestra (3-8); Vienna Cathedral Orchestra (9-10)/Rudolf Moralt
rec. September 1952 (1-2); April 1956 (3-10), mono. ADD
NEWTON CLASSICS 8802061 [70:00]

Experience Classicsonline

Before listening to this recital, I knew and admired Dutch soprano Gré Brouwenstijn (1915-1999). This was down to her contribution as a vibrant Sieglinde to the famous 1961 studio recording of Die Walküre conducted by Leinsdorf. She was also a shining soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Symphony conducted by Cluytens and Desdemona in the live Covent Garden performance of Otello conducted by Kubelik. These all require a big, secure, imposing voice and although Brouwenstijn had her detractors, on account of an intermittently tremulous quality in her tone and a lack of variety in expression, she was also one of the most admired and sought after lyric-dramatic sopranos of the 1950s and 1960s throughout Europe. While I recognise her many gifts, I admit to being a little disappointed by the evidence of her art on this compilation of mono recordings from two sessions in 1952 and 1956; there is sometimes a wearing shrillness in alt and a monotony in her characterisation which for me compromises her art.

An elegant and striking woman of an unorthodox beauty often compared to that of Ingrid Bergman, she evidently made quite an impact onstage. On record, certain vocal flaws are more in evidence. Her forays into Verdi evince a lack of Italianate sensuousness and warmth; hence her Elisabetta and two Leonoras sound almost boyishly plaintive and disembodied in tone, lacking the heroic steadiness and refulgence of voice which mark out the greatest Verdian sopranos. Ah, perfido has never struck me as one of Beethoven’s more inspired compositions and it is over-long at over thirteen minutes, but Brouwenstijn’s cooler, more Germanic temperament and vocal lay-out suit both this and the Weber aria better. The four arias from three Wagner operas are best of all; the steely quality and sense of ecstasy engendered by the flicker in her vibrato lend them the same febrile intensity she brought to her Sieglinde in the complete recording but there is more than a suspicion of uncertain intonation in the quieter, slower sections of “Dich, teure Halle”. Her concluding top B, however, is thrilling. The conducting of Rudolf Moralt – who was in charge of the first, excellent and complete post-war recording of the “Ring” in 1949 - is sprung and alert; the mono sound acceptable and undistorted. I do not think that this is a disc I shall return to often but Brouwenstjin fans who have more of a taste for her voice will want this new issue from Newton, as she did not make that many recordings.

Ralph Moore

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
1. Ah, Perfido! Op.65
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Der Freischütz
2. Wie nahte mir der Schlummer... Leise, Leise, fromme Weise
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
3. Dich, teure Halle, grüß' ich wieder
4. Allmächt'ge Jungfrau, hör mein Flehen!
5. Einsam in trüben Tagen
Der fliegende Holländer
6. Johohoe! Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an
Giuseppe VERDI (1813–1901)
Don Carlo
7. Tu che le vanità
Il trovatore
8. Timor di me...D'amor sull'ali rosee
La forza del destino
9. Son giunta! Grazie, o Dio!
10. Pace, pace, mio Dio!








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