B0054. HERMAN KLEIN. Great Women-Singers of my Time. New York, Dutton, 1931. 244pp. Index; Photos. Chapters incl. Lilli Lehmann, Nordica, Brandt, Ternina, Patti, Albani, Calvé, Melba, Sembrich, etc.
“Mr. Klein is of the opinion that on the whole the singers of to-day are not the equals of those of thirty to seventy years ago. It is easy to turn that off with a smile and a quotation of laudator temporis acti; but we would do well to reflect that Mr Klein has more right to his opinion than we have to the contrary one, for while he has heard all our crack singers, the majority of us have heard very few of his. It is not everyone's memory that can go back in music for something over sixty years; not every one who can recall, for instance, having heard Tietjens in 1866. While Mr Klein has taken all music for his province as befitted the one-time critic of the Sunday Times he has always been particularly interested in singing; and I know of no other living writer who is so equipped to tell us of the vocal glories of the past and to compare them with those of to-day. That the story is worth telling, no one who has read these pages can doubt. As Mr Klein says, it is a pity the gramophone was not invented a few generations earlier than it was. We might then be able to hear the great singers of the past for ourselves, and to get some faint idea of what the Fidelio of Schröder-Devrient was like, or Nilsson's Donna Elvira, or Tietjens' Donna Anna, or Materna's Brünnhilde, or di Murska's Queen of Night, or Malten's Kundry, or to know what Patti sounded like in her best days. It stands to reason that our fathers and grandfathers would not have raved as they did over these and other singers unless they were something quite out of the common; and to be out of the common, one suspects, meant more in the sing ing world of that time than it does in ours, for the standard was higher. It was an age when singing, qua singing, counted for relatively more in opera than it does now, and that for two reasons. In the first place, the singing itself, we can hardly doubt, was technically better than ours; and in the second place, the singer himself counted for relatively more in the total effect, and the work for relatively less, than is the case now. In these days we may admire our singers, but we do not worship them.”
- H. P. Casavant