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Remembering Jussi
Bror Magnus Tødenes (tenor)
Håvard Gimse (piano), Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Ingar Bergby
rec. 2014, Store Studio, NRK, Oslo
No texts enclosed
SIMAX PSC1338 [51:07]

There are many examples of precocious sopranos in the history of music. “The Swedish Nightingale” Jenny Lind sang Agathe in Der Freischütz when she was 18 and she was appointed Royal Court Singer when she was 20; Maria Callas sang Tosca when she was 19; Giuditta Pasta was also 19 at her debut and Maria Malibran was only 17 when she sang Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Male singers have usually been somewhat slower starters but Jussi Björling made his debut at the Stockholm Opera at 19.

Here now is a brand new CD-homage to the Swedish mastersinger, “Remembering Jussi”, recorded in October 2014 by the 21-year-old Norwegian tenor Bror Magnus Tødenes. It is the foremost Norwegian record company Simax Classics which has have been responsible for this and they have provided first class backing with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under Ingar Bergby and internationally renowned pianist Håvard Gimse.

My first reaction was that this might be a disservice to a young singer by putting him in relief to a legend like Björling – and moreover in repertoire that is so intimately associated with him. In fact fears are toned down when you start listening and find that here is a brilliant talent who already possesses many of the qualities you would expect in a great-singer-to-be.

He has a pure, beautiful, flexible voice, with brilliant top register, excellent enunciation and nuanced readings. His elegant diminuendo is a characteristic as well as his ability to expand at powerful moments with true spinto tones. The four Puccini arias that open the recital are excellent examples. E lucevan le stelle from Tosca is possibly the finest, where he caresses O! Dolci baci, o languide carezze in an exquisite pianissimo. He also keeps within the bounds of moderation in Nessun dorma, an aria where too many tenors try to break the sound barrier.

The four Grieg songs are also nuanced. Jeg elsker dig is youthfully impassioned and En svane soft and inward. The tender infatuation that through the unfaithfulness of her beloved changes to deep sorrow is well depicted in Sibelius’ Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte, expressively and sensitively. Similar qualities can be heard in Demanten på marssnön. Nordqvist’s Till havs was probably inevitable but I could have done without the interpolated top note at the end. Sjöberg’s Tonerna is sung with beautiful restraint. In the reprise he makes a too brutal crescendo towards the end but compensates with a beautiful diminuendo. Throughout Håvard Gimse is a pliable partner in the song section.

Back in the world of opera he sings Lensky’s aria from Eugene Onegin with strong feeling, followed by a virile Amor ti vieta. Arrivederci Roma is neither opera nor Björling repertoire and the overblown arrangement with sweeping harps and Mantovani strings nearly steps over the good taste borderline. The Flower Song from Carmen, on the other hand would be a treat in any of the Nordic opera houses. The finale is O Holy Night in Swedish. No one has ever surpassed Jussi Björling in that song but Bror Magnus Tødenes delivers a fine reading and fires off an effortless high note at the end. The song may seem to be an odd guest in this company but the disc was released in Norway just before Christmas.

Since last autumn Bror Magnus Tødenes is studying bel canto singing in Italy and will no doubt be able to refine his readings further. This is however is an excellent debut disc from a very talented young singer. It is only to be hoped that he won’t overreach himself in too heavy roles at this early stage of his career.

Göran Forsling

Track listing
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
La bohème:
1. Che gelida manina [4:34]
2. E lucevan le stelle [3:01]
Madama Butterfly:
3. Addio fiorito asil [1:54]
4. Nessun dorma [3:01]
Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
5. En drøm [2:04]
6. Jeg elsker dig [2:35]
7. En svane [2:20]
8. Stambogsrim [1:52]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957)
9. Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte [2:53]
10. Demanten på marssnön [2:37]
Gustaf NORDQVIST (1886 – 1949)
11. Till havs [2:23]
Carl Leopold SJÖBERG (1861 – 1900)
12. Tonerna [2:32]
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Eugene Onegin:
13. Kuda, kuda (Lensky’s aria) [6:08]
Umberto GIORDANO (1867 – 1948)
14. Amor ti vieta [1:52]
Renato RASCEL (1912 – 1991)
15. Arrivederci Roma [3:11]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
16. La fleur que tu m’avais jeté [3:54]
Adolphe ADAM (1803 – 1856)
17. O helga natt (O Holy Night) [4:18]


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