Heinrich Schlusnus in Opera and Lieder
1. Hamlet, Thomas, O vin, dissipe la tristesse [4.04]
2. Faust, Gounod, Avant de quitter [3.51]
3. Carmen, Bizet, Chanson du Toréador [4.01]
4. Les Contes D'Hoffmann, Offenbach, Scintille diamant [4.13]
5. Les Dragons De Villars, Maillart, Glöcken des Eremitten [3.23]
6. Don Giovanni, Mozart, Deh, vieni alla finestra [1.57]
7. Don Pasquale, Donizetti, Bella siccome un angelo [2.29]
8. Il Trovatore, Verdi, Il balen del suo sorriso [3.48]
9. Il Trovatore, Verdi, Mira d'acerbe ... Contende il giubilo [7.38]
10. Rigoletto, Verdi, Cortigiani, vil razza dannata! [4.32]
11. Otello, Verdi, Era la notte [3.09]
12. Pagliacci, Leoncavallo, Si può?Si può? [4.29]
13. Hans Heiling, Marschner, An jenem Tag [4.33]
14. Tannhäuser, Wagner, Blick ich umher [4.26]
15. Tannhäuser, Wagner, O du mein holder Abendstern [4.42]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
16. Heimkehr Op.15, No.5 [2.36]
17. Ich liebe dich Op.37, No2 [2.16]
18. Ruhe meine Seele Op.27, No.1 [3.09]
19. Das Geheimnis Op.17, No.3 [2.25]
20. Die Nacht Op.10, No.3 [2.54]
21. Zueignung Op.10, No.1 [1.42]
Richard Strauss (piano) (trs. 17-21)
rec. 1919 – 1925, Berlin. ADD
NIMBUS PRIMA VOCE NI7907 [76:17]
I am a recent convert to the joys of Heinrich Schlusnus’s ringing high baritone. I suspect that he is less well-known to cognoscenti because he recorded opera exclusively in German, as was the norm in his day. He spent most of his thirty year career with the Berlin Staatsoper. It is an extraordinarily smooth and flexible voice, with a seamless legato, easy top notes and a comparative weakness in the low notes. This latter is rarely evident when he is singing in his true Fach of the Verdi baritone with its high tessitura.
The firmness and steadiness of vocal emission is a wonder; he is never throaty or constricted and seems incapable of faulty intonation. The acoustic recordings made just before the advance of electrical technology give a clean, clear idea of the character of his virile baritone; only “Scintille diamante” (here “Leuchte heller Spiegel, mir”) is marginally compromised by his lack of resonance in the lower reaches but the range of this aria is notorious and his subsequent top A flats are splendid.
As a bonus, Frida Leider is impressive as Leonora in “Il trovatore; both singers have Wagnerian heft but also the agility and thrust of true Verdians. Their duet is highly charged, taken very fast and driven to a terrific climax. All the arias being sung in German, this sometimes militates against the necessary suavity and cunning one expects of the ideal Iago, for example, but Schlusnus’s smoothness lends unctuousness to his interpretation. Similarly, Mozart’s Don emerges as a seductive individual. The ease of vocal production and vibrant vibrato make one regret afresh the lack of Italian in the “Pagliacci” aria and once again his free top is astounding.
The longevity of Schlusnus’s vocal health is testimony to his superb technique. He was equally at home in bel canto Donizetti, Verdian cantilena and declamation and the nuances of Schubert Lieder. He was still singing superbly before his early death from a viral heart condition in 1952 shortly before his 64th birthday. The criticisms of his lower notes apart, the only other reproach levelled at this singer’s singer was some lack of differentiation in his characterisation, in that he concentrated on evenness and “classicity” of emission before inflection. That is not to suggest that his singing was ever dull; far from it.
The six Strauss songs form a lovely, gentle postlude to the operatic programme of fifteen items here; the composer himself is pianist and they are flawlessly sung, even though the recorded sound is crumblier and rumblier than the preceding tracks. His soft singing in “Ruhe meine Seele” is sublime.
An extraordinarily smooth and flexible voice, with a seamless legato and easy top notes.