Magazine article Gramophone

REGINE CRESPIN: Tim Ashley Delights in a Celebratory Box of the French Soprano's Most Important Opera and Song Recitals, Mostly from the 1950s and '60S

Magazine article Gramophone

REGINE CRESPIN: Tim Ashley Delights in a Celebratory Box of the French Soprano's Most Important Opera and Song Recitals, Mostly from the 1950s and '60S

Article excerpt

'Regine Crespin--A Tribute' Includes music by Berlioz, Bizet, Boito, Boiling, Canteloube, Debussy, Duparc, Faure, Gluck, Gounod, Halevy, Lifermann, Mascagni, Massenet, Offenbach, Ponchielli, Poulenc, Puccini, Rancurel, Ravel, Reyer, Rossini, Roussel, Sauguet, Schumann, Verdi, Wagner and Wolf Regine Crespin sop Erato (S) (10) 9029 58867-1 (9h 3' * ADD) Recorded 195876

To mark the 10th anniversary of Regine Crespin's death, Warner Classics has gathered together her principal operatic and song recitals, recorded for EMI, Decca and Vega between 1958 and 1967, along with substantial extracts from a selection of her complete opera recordings, some of them less readily available nowadays than others. The set includes her benchmark 1963 performances of Sheherazade and Les nuits d'ete--Crespin's favourite among her own recordings--though there's nothing from her Decca Rosenkavalier and Walkure with Sold, or her DG Walkure with Karajan. She can, however, be heard in an extract from Claude Boiling's soundtrack for the 1974 film Dites-le avec des fleurs, and there are a couple of undated 'private recordings' of her in cabaret. It's a marvellous survey of a great career, though her discography is not without its controversies.

Crespin's own comments that she was frequently uneasy in the studio may surprise many, given the consistent quality of her singing on disc. More pertinent here, perhaps, is the fact that her voice was initially deemed difficult to record. British engineers nicknamed her 'the French cannon' on account of the sheer immensity of sound she could produce at full volume, and the first of her recitals, 'Airs d'operas', in mono, for EMI in 1958, conveys the beauty of her singing but little of its power. Pierre Dervaux's famous performance of Dialogues des Carmelites, again in mono and released the same year, was the first recording to successfully capture the splendour of her voice, but it was only, perhaps, with her 1961 Wagner recital, again for EMI but now in stereo, that the subtlety of her singing and her remarkable way with dynamics over a vast range could be fully appreciated, above all in a performance of the Wesendonck-Lieder that still ranks among the finest on disc.

She also recorded at a time when there were elements of conservatism in regard to choice of repertory. Despite her preeminence in Berlioz, EMI was unwilling to let her tackle Les Troyens complete, opting instead for a 1965 two-disc set of 'great scenes', in which she plays both Cassandre and Didon, the former uncharacteristically detached, the latter wonderfully restrained and noble. …

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