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on 18 December 2013
This is an interesting collection of opera and songs. A number are taken from performances. Der Fliegende Hollander excerpts are excellent as are some of the Ring Cycle. Die Meistersinger, Tristan and Parsifal are not so exciting. Many of these recordings are quite old, some of them date back to the mid-forties. The early recordings of songs are surprisingly clear and give some indication of the range of this fine voice and sensitive singing. Overall this is excellent value, ten CDs in all but there is no booklet. I am only giving it four stars as I think people who buy this need to be dedicated opera fans, who are familiar with many of the works performed on these discs.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 July 2015
A 10 CD box of the bass-baritone Hans Hotter, 1909-2003, singing familiar Wagnerian roles, a range of other opera characters [including Boris Godunov] and assorted, and less, familiar lieder.

The first three discs are devoted to extended excerpts from The Ring, followed by one each for The Flying Dutchman, Tristan and Parsifal, and Die Meistersinger. The next two include arias by Marschner, Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Pfitzner, Mussorgsky, Rossini, Bizet, Leoncavello and Verdi, all sung in German. The ninth CD is of Richard Strauss [Die Schweigsame Frau, Capriccio, Arabella, Salome and Elektra] and the final, Lieder rarities, contains songs by Nicolai, Weber, Loewe, Schubert, Wolf, Pfitzner, Schumann and Brahms with the pianist is Michael Raucheisen, 1889-1984.

The discs are very well filled, six being well over 75 minutes with the remainder 73’55, 73’06, 69’54 and 62’39 [Rossini, Bizet, Leoncavello and Verdi]. The sound is variable as the recordings are from live [including Bayreuth] and studio performances and cover 1939-60.

Hotter first sang Wotan in 1937 and it was his voice that I grew up with in the early 1950s and 1960s - so it carries especial memories. The Wagnerian excerpts are conducted by Knappertsbuch, Fritz Stiedry, Karajan, Keilberth, Clemens Krauss, Leopold Ludwig, Wilhelm Schüchter, Meinhard von Zallinger, Wolfgang Sawallisch and, a surprise, André Cluytens [the 1956 Bayreuth Die Meistersinger]. Elsewhere the baton is held by Karajan, Krauss, Artut Rother, Keilberth, George Weldon, Richard Kraus, Eugen Jochum, Heinrich Hollreiser, Stiedry, Hans Weisbach, Karl Böhm, Fritz Reiner, Sawallisch and Richard Strauss.

Artists singing with Hotter include Gré Brouwenstijn, Josef Greindl, Ludwig Suthaus, Gustav Neidlinger, Birgit Nilsson, Astrid Varnay, Martha Mödl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Viorica Ursuleac, Ramon Vinay, Set Svanholm, Gerhard Unger and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau . The operatic arias and scenes include Gottlob Frick, Rudolf Schock, Julius Patzak, Jerome Hines, Fritz Wunderlich, Hilde Güden, Maria Reining, Ljuba Welitsch and Varnay. A truly exceptional group.

Hotter’s voice is powerful but sensitive, and whilst not always completely steady, it had a range over contrasting and extreme emotions are vividly expressed. This is clearly demonstrated in these CDs.

Hotter’s Wagnerian recordings are well represented on LP and CD and it is true that his voice showed its age in his later years. However, his vocal artistry and declamation remained undimmed. As Wotan in Acts II and III of Die Walküre, his contrasting fatherly emotions are heartfelt and the same is true of his singing in the Flying Dutchman. His Hans Sachs reveals great introspection in the monologues whilst he is attentive, as he is throughout, to the demands of the score and the other singers.

In Wagner we know what to expect which is why the other discs are particularly revelatory. Even when singing in German his characterisation overcomes problems of language [most obvious in the scenes from Boris Godunov where so much depends on the Russian intonation and a deeper, darker Russian voice]. However, the two arias from The Barber of Seville are object lessons in Rossinian comedy, as the audience response to the live recording under Keilberth clearly shows. As might be expected his Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlo is chilling whilst the disc devoted to Strauss is particularly rewarding.

The final lieder disc demonstrates the artist’s intelligent response to words, his clarity of enunciation and ability to reveal the subtlest colours, shading and nuances. It is hard to believe that this is the same singer as bad farewell to the Brünnhildes of Nilsson and Mödl. The combined effect of Hotter’s singing, acting and sheer physique, he stood 6’4”, is clear in the audiences’ responses to his live performances.

It is truly disappointing not to be able to give this wonderful set a 5* rating – which it gets for the artistry and musicianship of the soloist. But sadly there is not a page of text describing the performances, the artist’s career, how the contemporary musical world and fellow artists regarded him, or the texts of the less familiar lieder. All there is are a few hundred words in German and English on the back cover. That is a disincentive for listeners who do not already appreciate Hotter’s artistry and intelligence.
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on 26 November 2013
Hans Hotter is undeniably one of the great voices of the last century and we are lucky his unique voice was caught when recording was maturing into its golden age. Some superb performances from the 40s and 50s, including a lot of Wotan (for me too much... heretically I do not think this was his greatest role and would have loved to hear him in more Verdi and Rossini). There is indeed some splendid Rossini and a truly fantastic Grand Inquisitor from Don Carlo (recorded live in New York in the 50s). These non Wagner roles were so good (as indeed were the lieder - pity there was not more - his greatest Schubert performance - Am Bach in Fruhling - is ommitted, Lord knows why) that one wished for more and more.

For anyone who has been bitterly disappointed by his Wotan on the famous (infamous?) Solti Ring Cycle, this is a suitably delightful corrective. Very little of the distressing tired wobble which seemed the best he could muster under Solti (was the man a brute??)but with that wondrous subtle characterisation and intelligent development of the inner life of whoever he portrayed. Left me salivating for Hotter as Phillip II, certainly more performances as the Grand Inquisitor, or Germont or maybe even some Puccini (would have made a heartflet Timur).

So yes a marvellous celebration of a great voice and a terrific bargain in this fantastically price box, but how I long to hear him in so many non Wagnerian roles....
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on 9 October 2013
Persons likely to buy the 10 disc set will be familiar with many of Wagner excerpts. Although entitled Wotan of the Century it also includes his other roles as well as Hunding which he sang once at the Met to indulge a whim of Rudolf Bing. With the exception (a thousand pities) of the 1956 Meistersinger excerpts the sound is acceptable and in some cases better than we have heard hitherto. The bonus is in the four discs of other roles, albeit in German, that Hotter sang. Thus we have Mozart, Rossini, R.Strauss, Verdi and good excerpts from Boris Godunov. The collection is rounded off by lieder some of which are quite rare. All in all I found this did justice to a singing actor well known for the qualities of my title. Whether Wotan of the century I wouldn't like to say but I would rate him equally with Bailey and Tomlinson.
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on 11 September 2015
Great singer, this collection confirms that.
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