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Glenn Gould - The Schwarzkopf Tapes
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Drei Lieder der Ophelia, Op. 67/1 [8:19]
Burleske in D minor for Piano and Orchestra (Glenn Gould “playing and singing)* [15:23]
Burleske in D minor for Piano and Orchestra** [23:58]
Wer lieben will, muss leiden, Op. 49, No. 7 [2:45]
Morgen, Op. 27, no. 4 [3:37]
Winterweihe, Op. 48, No. 4 [2:38]
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano)
Glenn Gould (piano)
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Golschmann**
rec. 14-15 January, 1988; *c. 1955; **1-4 September 1967. Venues not specified.
SONY CLASSICAL 88725441362 [56:37]

Experience Classicsonline



 
This CD restores to circulation Glenn Gould’s recording of the Strauss Burleske and also the Drei Lieder der Ophelia, which he set down with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in 1966. Issued for the first time are three more lieder from those 1966 sessions and a private recording of Gould rehearsing alone the Burleske.
 
As the title of the album makes clear, the prime interest lies in the Gould/ Schwarzkopf recordings. Gould, who was an enthusiast for the music of Richard Strauss, had long wanted to record some of his lieder with Schwarzkopf and, though they were contracted to different record companies, a chance finally arose in January 1966 when she was in New York to sing in Don Giovanni at the Met. In his fascinating notes Michael Stegemann relates the story of these ill-starred sessions from which only six songs were recorded. A third day of recordings was simply cancelled. Though it appears from Schwarzkopf’s subsequent reminiscence that there was no falling out with Gould - “we parted amicably - we (Schwarzkopf and Walter Legge) simply left” - I think the term “irreconcilable artistic differences” probably applies.
 
Stegemann quotes the subsequent recollection of the producer of the recordings, Paul Myers: “Schwarzkopf thought she would have a very distinguished accompanist. Glenn Gould thought he was going to have a very distinguished collaborator, and that’s a slightly different thing.” Apparently, Schwarzkopf was unsettled by Gould’s very free way with the piano parts. Furthermore, she and Walter Legge, accustomed to listening to play backs with hyper-sensitive attention to detail, were unimpressed by Gould’s complete disinterest in hearing play backs in the control room: he just stayed in the studio and continued to play. The last straw, however, seems to have been the heating in the studio, which Gould insisted should be turned up fully, causing Schwarzkopf and Legge great and genuine concern for her vocal health. 

Around the time that this disc arrived for review I read a Letter to the Editor in the December 2012 issue of International Record Review. It was from Paul Myers, the producer of these Gould/Schwarzkopf recordings. Mr Myers says he is now “the only survivor of those unfortunate sessions with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf” and his letter complements the story of the sessions as related in the booklet note. Essentially, Myers corroborates Stegemann’s note. However, it appears that Gould only asked for the heating to be turned up full blast on the second day of sessions - the Drei Lieder der Ophelia had been put safely in the can the day before. A comment about Walter Legge fascinated me. Myers says that on day one Legge sat in the control room and offered some constructive suggestions - “His presence was welcome”. However, Myers felt that Gould was somewhat in awe of Legge and this became a factor on the second day when, perhaps understandably, the situation over the studio temperature and the potential adverse effect on his wife’s voice made Legge somewhat tetchy. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy with Legge and Schwarzkopf: after all she had a pre-existing commitment to the Met to honour.
 
Myers also says in his letter that in 1979 he sought Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s permission for a first release of the Ophelia songs as part of a Gould 25th anniversary album. Once she’d heard a tape she gave her consent immediately, but “insisting that nothing else from the sessions should be issued.” It’s surprising, therefore, that Sony Classical has now issued the other three songs, apparently with the permission of Dame Elisabeth’s estate. 

Turning from the background to the performances, the Drei Lieder der Ophelia come off well. In the first one, ‘Wer erkenn’ ich mein Treulieb vor andern nun?’, we hear some crystalline pianism from Gould and Schwarzkopf’s creamy legato. As ever with this singer, great care is taken over the enunciation of the words. There’s apparent great care for the music from both artists in the final song, ‘Sie trugen ihn auf der Bahre bloß’ where again Dame Elisabeth’s delivery is completely characteristic.
 
As I listened to the other three songs I tried to spot reasons why Schwarzkopf - and Legge - might have been wary of publication. I have to confess that I couldn’t readily discern anything but, then, what do I know about the human voice - and abut that voice in particular - compared to those two fastidious judges? I was mindful too of the comment about Gould, in their view, taking liberties with the piano part. When listening to Morgen I noted that in the piano introduction Gould doesn’t linger over the rising phrases as some pianists do; his delivery is pretty direct and straightforward, almost plain; might that be a cause for objection? Then, however, since I couldn’t lay my hand on a Schwarzkopf version of the song with piano accompaniment I turned instead to her celebrated recording of the orchestral version with George Szell and there the approach is pretty much the same. I did wonder if Schwarzkopf sounded a little hurried in some of the phrases on this Gould recording, but I can’t be sure - and this is emphatically not the case with the last couple of phrases and the piano postlude, which are lovingly drawn out. Winterweihe was the only one of the three which I could follow from a copy and, to be honest, I couldn’t detect any liberties on Gould’s part. However, Schwarzkopf doesn’t nail securely the change from top G to F sharp on the word “sel’gen” in the last phrase and elsewhere she doesn’t always sound completely at ease, by her immaculate standards, when the line ventures to top F or beyond. I don’t think anyone listening to these three songs is going to be disappointed in any way but perhaps Sony should have respected the wishes of the artist?
 
They should most certainly have left in the archives the private recording of Gould running through a large chunk of the Burleske. It’s thought this was made at his parent’s home in Canada prior to his first performance of the work. Not only is the piano hideously out of tune and clangy in tone but also Gould vocalises the orchestral part. The results are hideous to my ears and I can’t see that this issue does the artist any service at all. If you want to hear him in the piece - which isn’t one of Strauss’s finest anyway - then at least Sony provide a studio recording of the complete score with the proper accompaniment. The orchestra, as recorded, sounds bright and forward and the recording isn’t flattering to them. Gould plays with no little brilliance.
 
As I’ve said, the booklet note is good. Reprehensibly Sony provide neither texts nor translations for the songs. It’s asking a lot to buy this disc for the sake of six songs which total some 17 minutes of playing time. I think this issue is strictly for Gould completists.
 
John Quinn

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