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Great Singers Live – BR Klassik Archive: Margaret Price
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Or sai che l’onore (Don Giovanni) [2:51]
Parto, parto, ma tu ben mio (La Clemenza di Tito) [6:55]
Come scoglio immoto resta (Cosi fan tutte) [4:31]
E Suzanna non vien’ – Dove sono I bei momenti (Le Nozze di Figaro)*
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle (Der Freischütz) [4:58]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Bel raggio lusinghier (Semiramide) [6:12]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Casta Diva (Norma)* [6:24]
Francesco CILEA (1866-1950)
Poveri fiori (Adriana Lecouvreur)** [2:55]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Ritorna vincitor (Aida) [6:58]
Mi parea – Piangea cantando nell’erma landa (Otello) [9:28]
Ave Maria piena di grazia (Otello)* [4:53]
Pace, pace mio Dio (La Forza del Destino)** [5:24]
Tu che la vanità conoscesti del mondo (Don Carlo) [10:47]
Dame Margaret Price (soprano)
Münchner Rundfunkorchester/Heinz Wallberg/*Leopld Hager/**Thomas
rec. 16 January 1977, München, Kongresssaal Deutsches Museum; *3
February 1991, München Philharmonie im Gasteig; 29 March 1981, München,
Kongresssaal Deutsches Museum; **16 March 1986, München, Kongresssaal
BR KLASSIK 900305 [78:41]
These recordings come from four appearances by the late Dame
Margaret Price, between 1977 and 1991, at the regular Sunday
concerts given by the Münchner Rundfunkorchester. This collection
on CD offers a timely memorial to the peerless soprano, who
died in January 2011. It’s valuable firstly for reminding us
how wonderful she was in Mozart and Verdi and secondly for giving
us a glimpse of her in some repertoire with which she was not
quite so closely associated.
This is one of those discs where I don’t think it’s necessary
to go into huge detail, for it is a feast for the ears from
start to finish and all devotees of great singing will admire
and relish it, I feel sure. One sometimes hears the comment
that such and such a singer was “in sovereign voice” during
a particular performance. On this particular occasion I think
the phrase is justified for everything on the disc – and note
that the performances span fourteen years, yet the quality of
the voice remained remarkably consistent.
The singing is characterised at all times by burnished tone,
the voice produced evenly throughout its compass. In some of
the Verdi items Dame Margaret deploys a strong and completely
authentic-sounding chest register for the lower lying passages.
Yet in these Verdi pieces, and elsewhere, there’s also an effortless,
gleaming and accurate top register on display.
At the start we hear an imperious, outraged Donna Anna and then,
a couple of tracks later, as the Countess, Price shows regal
dignity, especially in the recit, followed by resigned, aristocratic
melancholy in the aria. ‘Come scoglio’ is but one of several
commanding performances, reminding us that here was a great
and cultivated Mozart soprano.
At the other end of the disc comes Verdi, another Price speciality,
and there’s little room for doubt that, as a Verdi soprano Dame
Margaret was the Real Thing. In ‘Ritorna vincitor’ she offers
some thrilling top notes in a searingly dramatic piece of singing.
As Desdemona she tugs at our heart strings, really articulating
the heroine’s plight – here, as is the case throughout the disc
– Dame Margaret shows tremendous care for the words, really
singing off them. The final item on the disc, from Don
Carlo, is a truly magnificent, all-encompassing account
of Elisabetta’s aria.
I’m not normally drawn to the music of composers such as Bellini
but I loved the performance of ‘Casta Diva’. Here, as everywhere
else in the collection, Dame Margaret seems to have inexhaustible
reserves of breath and, as a result, the line is always maintained.
But though she excels in long, sweeping phrases, she’s not found
wanting when it comes to vocal agility, as Semiramide’s aria
proves. She’s imperious in the opening slow section of the aria
but when the faster music is reached (from 3:23) there’s a dazzling,
yet seemingly effortless display of dexterity in the rapid passagework.
Hearing this item made me long to hear her in Rossini’s Stabat
Mater but that’s almost certainly a forlorn hope – I doubt it’s
a piece that was in her repertoire.
The orchestra, under three different conductors, gives their
distinguished guest good support. There’s little in the way
of distracting audience noise, with one glaring exception. At
the end of the slow section of the Rossini aria a few people
are caught unawares and start to applaud, which is a pity. Ironically,
there’s no applause included at the end of this item or, indeed,
after anything else. The sound is perfectly satisfactory. The
booklet contains a warm appreciation of the singer but no texts
Dame Margaret Price was one of the finest British singers of
the post war era and this disc is a reminder of her tremendous
artistry. I loved every minute and I feel confident that those
wise enough to invest in this disc will feel the same.