Magazine article Gramophone

Seefried Gems: Australian Eloquence Presents the Artistry of the Great German Soprano in Thematically Arranged Single Discs at a Bargain Price

Magazine article Gramophone

Seefried Gems: Australian Eloquence Presents the Artistry of the Great German Soprano in Thematically Arranged Single Discs at a Bargain Price

Article excerpt

Of the German soprano Irmgard Seefried, a much-loved stalwart at the Vienna State Opera from the early 1940s through to the mid-1970s, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf famously observed: 'All of us envied her, because what we had to achieve laboriously worked for her so naturally and as a matter of course, because she knew how to sing from the heart.' However, listening through to this often revealing set of 11 Seefried CDs on DG Eloquence reveals a significant curve of artistic development, where 'singing from the heart' often, but not always, becomes more apparent with the passing of time. Two Schubert Lieder, both with Erik Werba at the piano (the principal accompanist throughout the series), are significant cases in point. The first, 'Ave Maria' (1952; in Vol 4, an all-Lieder recital) is a seraphic performance, innocent and memorably pure in tone. But turn to the stereo remake of the same song (1958; Vol 5, all Schubert), and note the candid attack on the first note, the varieties of articulation and vibrato, and the uncanny sense that the words are fully understood. The first version is beautiful, the second less youthful, admittedly, but more profoundly meaningful. An even better comparison is between the early and later recordings of 'Der Konig in Thule', who on the death of his fair one received a golden goblet, which was never out of his sight. Listen how in the first version (sung at a higher pitch and at a slower tempo overall) Seefried unfolds the narrative in the simplest terms. In 1958, the singing is so much more subtle and expressive, the significantly broadened last stanza overwhelming in its impact.

The highlights of Vol 1 are by Mozart (excerpts from Figaro and Don Giovanni under Fricsay, and from II repastore and the concert aria Non temer, amato bene, both featuring Seefried's husband, violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan, under Leitner). It's great to have Respighi's gorgeous Il tramonto as a bonus. More arias fill Vol 2, more Mozart too, staring with 'Prendero quell brunettino' {Cosi fan turn) under Jochum. Superb Weber, Thomas and Lortzing are followed by a generous Rosenkavalier sequence with Kurt Bohme, Marianne Schech, Rita Streich and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the conductor Karl Bohm (the same recording of the complete opera is also out on Eloquence 480 7202). Mozart Lieder feature on the Vol 3, most memorably 'Das Veilchen', 'An Chloe' and 'Abendempfindung'. Mussorgsky's 'The Nursery' and Bartok's Village Scenes (both sung in German) are chock-full of character. Peter Cornelius's Weihnachtslieder and the Schubert sequence referred to above are among the most notable items on Vol 4.

The later Schubert recordings fill Vol 5 (including die wonderful Lieder der Mignon, D877). …

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