Great British Sopranos
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Ocean, thou mighty monster! (from Oberon – Act II) [4:23]
Agnes Nicholls. Sung in English, recorded 19th December, 1911
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Misera Elvira..... Mi tradi quell’alma ingrate (from Don Giovanni – Act II) [4:04]
Miriam Licette. Sung in Italian, recorded 2nd May, 1929
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
One fine day (from Madam Butterfly, Act II) [4:06]
Eva Turner. Sung in English, recorded 10th June, 1933.
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Mes longs cheveux (from Pelleas et Melisande, Act III)
Mary Garden. Sung in French, recorded 1904
Psyche [2:50]
Maggie Teyte. Sung in French, recorded 26th March, 1941
Reynaldo HAHN (1875-1947)
Ce n’etait pas la meme chose [2:34]
Maggie Teyte. Gerald Moore (piano). Sung in French, recorded 20th May 1946
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Chanson d’Avril [2:30]
Maggie Teyte
La flute de Pan [2:28]
Maggie Teyte. Recorded 12th March 1936
Henri DUPARC (1848-1933)
Phidyle [4:23]
Maggie Teyte. Recorded 31st July 1940
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)
Le temps des lilas [3:52]
Maggie Teyte
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Ne’ trionfa d’Alessandro…Lusinghe piu care (from Alessandro) arr. Sir Henry Wood [6:27]
Isobel Baillie. London Symphony Orchestra/Malcolm Sargent, Sung in Italian, recorded 16th February 1949
O Sleep! Why dost thou leave me? (from Semele) [3:35]
Elsie Suddaby. Sung in English, recorded June 1927
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Hark! The echoing air (from The Fairy Queen, Act V) [1:39]
Elsie Suddaby. Sung in English, recorded 11th July 1924
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Cradle Song [2:15]: The Nightingale [2:00]
Recorded 24th June 1929
Evening Voices (Twighlight Fancies) [4:10]
Recorded in 10th July 1929
Dora Labette. Thomas Beecham (piano). Sung in English
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Variations on a Nursery Theme ‘Listen Mother, to my tale’ [4:18]
Gwen Catley Flute obligato by Lionel Solomon/ Orchestra/Eric Robinson, Sung in English, recorded 7th March 1949
Bimba dagli occhi (Love duet: Act 1; Madam Butterfly) [8:31]
Orchestra of La Scala, Milan conducted by Carlo Sabanjo, Aureliano Pertile (tenor), Margaret Sheridan. Sung in Italian, recorded 1927
Un bel di vedrimo (Act 2 Madam Butterfly) [4:28]
Margaret Sheridan. Sung in Italian, recorded November 1926
E questo? (Act 2 Madam Butterfly) [4;13]
Margaret Sheridan. Orchestra/Eugene Goossens. Sung in Italian, recorded November 1927
Si, mi chiamano Mimi (from La Boheme, Act I) [4:39]
Margaret Sheridan. Sung in Italian, recorded 1926
REGIS RRC1374 [79:44]

This is a reasonable selection of recordings, and at super-budget price it would be prissy to complain too much about the documentation and some of the transfers, but duty demands that I should certainly note one or two faults along the way.

The track listing is sometimes good – it gives the full recording date of Agnes Nicholls’s 1911 Weber recording, for example – and sometimes bad; there is no indication at all of the provenance of the live Maggie Teyte recordings. Regrettably there are no matrix details or even release numbers, so you will search for these in vain. They’re not hard to find and I assume that if you are transferring them it’s not too onerous to note the numbers; whilst I appreciate this is not a specialist disc as such, I’d far rather have this basic information included.

The selection is not chronological and there are certainly artists who are, for some reasons, darlings of the selection committee; Margaret Sheridan (four tracks) for one, Teyte too especially (six tracks). The lovely Dora Labbette is represent by three of the 1929 Delius songs she recorded with her lover, Thomas Beecham. One who also sang and recorded with Beecham was Elsie Suddaby, whose singing I also greatly like. Like Labbette, Suddaby’s voice has purity and charm, but it’s a more versatile instrument. She sings one early electric Handel, and a late acoustic Purcell, both captivatingly. If you like Suddaby, pursue Amphion, who have released two fairly decently transferred discs of her recordings.

It’s good to see that Miriam Licette is getting an airing again – my last encounter was on a Dutton disc, of which in some ways this disc reminds me, though Dutton’s are more clearly focused and better selected, and considerably better transferred. Eva Turner, rather predictably, is heard in her Madam Butterfly performance. Mary Garden, back in the first decade of the twentieth century is heard singing Debussy, accompanied by the composer. I’m afraid this transfer can’t hold a candle to Marston’s superb work on 52054-2 where it’s been pitch-stabilised and is much clearer. Night and day, really.

I assume that the orchestrally-accompanied Maggie Teyte sides (born plain Tate, by the way) are from her American ‘Concert Hall’ broadcasts of 1947, but I’m no expert on her discography. This really should have been made clear. Though Isobel Baillie’s name is plastered on the booklet cover she only contributes the one Handel aria, though she does so with characteristic crystalline purity, unhampered by Flash Harry’s rather Big Band accompanying and Henry Wood’s Old School arrangement. For coloratura there’s the dynamic pocket battleship of Gwen Catley, all 4 foot 11 of her, in hair-raising Adam. And then we finish with Sheridan, whose meteoric rise was mirrored by a near-catastrophic fall. I was intrigued to note, looking at an old HMV catalogue, that the Irish soprano had made it to the Red celebrity pages in 1928, ones reserved only for the crème de la crème of international artists. She’d only begun recording two years earlier. I believe these 1926 tracks were conducted by Blois of Covent Garden, but the La Scala one is directed by Sabajno – not ‘Sabanjo’ as the notes have it (what a weird instrument that would be) – and the E questo is conducted by Goossens, whose name is missing an ‘s’ in the documentation in much the same way that Labbette’s is missing a ‘b’. A bit inattentive, all this.

I am, as you can tell, in several minds about this release and feel a bit schoolmasterly. It’s a decent enough selection, though top-heavy with Teyte and Sheridan. The transfers are adequate but no more. The notes are not bad. But there’s no discographical information, and the approach is a bit scattershot. Precision targeting next time would pay dividends.

Jonathan Woolf

In several minds about this … decent enough selection, though top-heavy with Teyte and Sheridan.