One would feel from all the releases of late of old performers from the dawn of recording that there were few interesting singers of today to listen to. Well, we have many wonderful singers today, and some of them even far better musicians than many in the past. However, what strikes me, especially about compilations like this, is the incredible variety of singers there were. Each and every one of them has a very unique and personal stamp on what they sing. Unlike today, where every singer sounds the same, and interprets the music the same, and basically seems so lacking in any personality, these singers all had personality, not just vocal skill. Chaliapin's interpretation of the closing and death scene from Massenet's Don Quichotte is incredible. The singers was known as a wonderful singer and an incredible actor. One sees why that reputation was well earned.
I found it refreshing to hear Korngold's "Gluck das mir verblieb" from Die Tote Stadt sung in the duet form it occurs in the opera. We usually are only treated to it as a solo with the tenor part taken up by a soprano (as Leontyne Price recorded it). The piece is extremely beautiful even performed as a soprano solo, but return it to its duet form, and well, we are truly given a wonderful opportunity to experience what the composer felt and was trying to share. Our singers here were Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber, both excellent in the German wing of opera. AND, I must add, Lehmann doesn't fudge on her higher notes as she often did in performance.
Of course, I was really blown away with the Parsifal duet with Flagstad and Melchior. Now that is wonderful Wagner I doubt we will ever hear in this century, especially now we have such a durth of large voices, and those large ones we do have are not well suited to the German wing of opera.
What struck me also was the non-operatic numbers, and there were a few of them. Kathleen Ferrier sings Mahler sublimely, even though that particular piece is not very interesting to me personally. Jennie Tourel is wondrous in the Mussorgsky serenade. And of course, we have Maggie Teyte. Though she sang opera, and well, she was really noted for her wonderful concerts of French music, particularly Debussy, who often accompanied her himself. Sadly, Debussy doesn't accompany her here. Still, the renditions are priceless, and no matter what all the "modern conductors and musicalogists" of today think, she learned what she learned and how to do it from the composers themselves. I would take her performances of this music as the "final say of what should be" before I would trust any more intellectual study of the music.
This set of CD's is well worth its price (even if it were many times more costly), and the music is wondrous. I had never heard of the opera "Chopin" or of the composer Orefice. It was incredibly beautiful. Is it great music like written by the superstars of composition? Probably not, but it is well worth the effort to perform, and Pia Tassinari is breathtaking.
There are truly gems in this collection that are worth adding to any collection of music. The transfers are also extremely good resulting in very excellent sound quality.