Flagstad made these recordings near the end of her life, and it does show. The tone is mostly of one color, limiting her expressive possibilities, and she slides around a bit. That said, she still had the finest voice of the 20th century and knew how to use it. Much of her art consisted in welding the words to the notes; this gave her singing point and weight. "Autumn Evening" is impersonal and remote - a very powerful reading which reflects the text well. In "Was it a Dream?" only Birgit Nilsson can match her shaping of the long phrases. Possibly the most arresting is "The First Kiss". Flagstad spins out a gorgeous arching line to start the second half of the song; when death weeps in the next phrases, low in the voice, the contrast is perfectly realized. She also distinguishes beautifully the narrator, the maiden, and the mother in "The Maiden Returned from her Tryst".
I have spoken only of the Sibelius songs, which I pretty much wore out on LP, but the other Scandinavian songs are also very fine. We tend to downgrade "stand and deliver" performers nowadays, but I expect there are sopranos who would give a great deal to have this much power and interpretive skill. If you have ever wondered what the phrase "the grand manner" means, here it is, beautifully recorded and splendidly supported by the orchestra. Everyone who loves singing should have this set.