Hilde Gueden (soprano): The Early Years rec. 1949-1954
Extensive biography by Tully Potter but no sung texts DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 0262 [78:21]
In his utterly informative notes, Tully Potter writes: ‘Hilde Gueden belonged to a generation of artists who lost some of their best years to World War II.’ Her colleagues at the Vienna State Opera, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried and Lisa Della Casa, also belonged to that generation. When the war was over and their careers could get started they were all around thirty and thus rather mature singers. Consequently what we hear on this disc is a singer who is fully developed and artistically fully fledged.
A couple of the recordings were originally issued as 78s – at least the four Puccini arias with Josef Krips (tr. 16 – 19) – but the operetta arias and duets (tr. 1 – 8) were issued on LP in March 1952, the Verdi and Puccini recital recorded in Rome (tr. 11 – 15) was issued in April 1955 and the Arabella duet (tr. 20) was issued in March 1954.
Hilde Gueden (1917–1988) was a splendid operetta singer and Decca recorded her Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus twice – with Clemens Krauss in the early 1950s and a decade later with Karajan. She sang the czardas with Hungarian gusto – and no wonder, her mother was Hungarian. Her Hanna Glawari in Die lustige Witwe with veteran Robert Stolz conducting is also in the top league. For EMI she recorded Der Zigeunerbaron and she set down a number of separate operetta songs. The eight arias and duets that open this disc are ample proof of her deep familiarity with the genre. The lovely melody from Die Dubarry is sung with typical Viennese lilt and throughout the programme she is marvellous. She made her professional debut in 1937 in a Benatzky operetta, and almost twenty years later, when she recorded these numbers she knew how to turn a phrase seductively. Just listen to Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss, where she challenges even Schwarzkopf. In two Lehár duets she is partnered by tenor Karl Friedrich (1905 – 1981) a long-standing favourite at the Vienna State Opera, who even recorded Giuditta and Paganini under Lehár for Austrian Radio. He is steady and accurate and in Wer hat die Liebe uns ins Herz geschenkt (tr. 3) he shows a great deal of warmth with some sensitive pianissimos. The three medleys from Gräfin Mariza, Die Csárdàsfürstin and Paganini are excellent with the Vienna State Opera Chorus making important contributions.
The operatic arias are no less enticing. Her Gilda – the cover photo shows her in the role - young and innocent and with a secure trill, is truly in love in Caro nome. In Tutte le feste she is remorseful and crushed with shame. She recorded the role complete some years later with Del Monaco and Protti. The five arias recorded in Rome in 1954 find her even more artistically mature but still in mint condition vocally. Her Violetta is superb with effortless coloratura and deep insight into the heroine’s predicament. In the 1960s she recorded highlights from the opera opposite Fritz Wunderlich and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for DG, sung in German. It is well worth seeking out. Nanetta’s aria from Falstaff has rarely been so lovingly executed and O mio babbino caro so full of warmth. Liù’s two arias from Turandot are also heart-warming.
More Puccini follows, recorded in the late 1940s in London. Mimi’s arias are deeply felt and most beautifully sung. Musetta’s seductive waltz-song comes from her very first recording session in 1947, when O mio babbino caro was also recorded. Maybe she was even deeper into the character when she re-recorded it in Rome seven years later but here too she gives a rounded portrait of Lauretta.
On the final track we move over to German repertoire and possibly her favourite composer, Richard Strauss. The extremely beautiful duet between the sisters Arabella and Zdenka with Lisa Della Casa as Arabella is Strauss singing at its very best. The two voices entwine so magically in this goose-pimple music. The two sopranos came together about five years later and recorded the opera complete under Georg Solti – a version that is now in the historical category, but technically and musically is still supremely satisfying.
This is a very well-filled disc and it is a pity that there wasn’t room for anything by another favourite composer: Mozart. In 1955 she took part in three complete Mozart recordings for Decca, still among the top contenders in a very crowded field: Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte. Earlier than that she made at least one 78 rpm record with two favourite Mozart arias: Vedrai carino from Don Giovanni and Non so più from Le nozze di Figaro (Decca K1861). I hope this can find its way onto another issue in this Eloquence series. It is interesting for Cherubino’s aria, which was her first opera role back in 1939 and one that she sang for many years, even though she is best remembered as Susanna. In the 1960s she advanced to the role of the Countess, televised from Salzburg more than fifty years ago.
The present disc is a must for Hilde Gueden fans and for all lovers of lyric soprano singing.
Track listing & Performance details Carl MILLÖCKER (1842 – 1899)
1. Ich schenk’ mein Herz [3:30] Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
2. Schön wie die blaue Sommernacht [3:54]
Das Land des Lächelns:
3. Wer hat diwe Liebe uns ins Herz geschenkt [4:50]
4. Ich möchte wieder einmal die Heimat seh’n [3:12]
5. Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss [4:34] Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
6. Medley [5:01]
7. Medley [3:47] Franz LEHÁR
8. Medley [4:05] Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
9. Caro nome [4:39]
10. Tutte le feste ... Ah, solo per me [3:04]
11. È strano ... Ah, fors è lui [6:47]
12. Sul fil d’un soffio etesio [3:33] Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
13. O mio babbino caro [1:57]
14. Signore ascolta! [2:15]
15. Tu che di gel sei cinta [2:45]
16. Si, mi chiamano Mimi! [4:32]
17. Quando m’en vo’ [2:25]
18. Donde lieta [3:04]
19. O mio babbino caro [2:14] Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
20. Er ist der Richtige nicht für mich … Aber der Richtige [7:02]
Lisa Della Casa (soprano)
(20), Karl Friedrich (tenor) (2, 3);
Wiener Staatsopernchor, Wiener Staatsopernorchester/Wilhelm Loibner (1 – 8), Wiener Philharmoniker/Clemens Krauss (9, 10), Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Roma/Alberto Erede (11 – 15), London Symphony Orchestra/Josef Krips (16 – 19), Wiener Philharmoniker/Rudolf Moralt (20)
rec. Grosser Saal, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 29 May 1951 (1, 4 – 8), May 1951 (2, 3), September 1951 (9, 10), 20 May 1952 (20), Santa Cecilia, Rome, Italy, July 1954 (11 – 15), Kingsway Hall, London, UK, 14 October 1947 (17, 19), London, UK, 5 April 1949 (16, 18)