OP0088. COSÌ FAN TUTTE, Broadcast Performance, 1953, w.Schmidt-Isserstedt Cond. NDR Ensemble; Suzanne Danco, Ira Malaniuk, Edith Oravez, Rudolf Schock, Horst Günther, Benno Küsche, etc. (E.U.) 2-Walhall 0033. Long out-of-print; Final copy! - 4033122650334
“Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt is one of those conductors whose work was renowned far more among the ranks of his peers (and of very serious listeners) than among the general classical audiences of his era. A believer in strict rhythmic precision, transparent orchestral textures, and the avoidance of excessive mannerisms, Schmidt-Isserstedt and his work were loved by fellow musicians and listeners committed enough to seek it out, eclipsed as it often was by his more flamboyant and well-known rivals. It is a measure of his place in the pantheon of early and middle twentieth century conductors that, while only two or three of his recordings are represented on CDs from major labels, dozens of his performances appear on private collectors labels.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was born in Berlin in 1900 and studied music in Berlin at the university. Although his interest in music extended into modern and contemporary works, his first love was Mozart and he authored a dissertation on the Italian influences in Mozart's early operas. He conducted in different theaters and also composed music during the earlier part of his career, including several orchestral works, Lieder, chamber pieces, and one opera (HASSAN GEWINNT), which was performed for the first time in 1928. During the 1930s, he began recording regularly, most notably in a series of concerti with the legendary violin virtuoso Georg Kulenkampff, in which he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic. Schmidt-Isserstedt remained in Germany during the period of the Nazi regime, and in 1935 was appointed principal Kappelmeister at the Hamburg State Opera. He became the opera director at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in 1943 and the company's general music director in 1944.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was among the less-controversial musicians working in Germany during the war, and his work and career continued virtually uninterrupted by the Allied victory and the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945. He founded the North German Radio (or NDR) Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg during 1945, which he directed until his retirement in 1971. Schmidt-Isserstedt successfully took the NDR Symphony Orchestra on tour in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States during the 1950s. He also began recording regularly for the British Decca/London label with several different orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic. From 1955 until 1964, he was also the principal conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic and made appearances as a guest conductor with more than 100 orchestras around the world, in all of the world's major cities, and with the Glyndebourne Opera (THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, 1958) and Covent Garden (TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, 1962). During this period, he was also a fervent advocate for the music of Bartók, Stravinsky, and Hindemith.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was popular throughout Europe and his recordings were usually more easily available there than in the United States, where he was most familiar to a cadre of serious listeners. His Beethoven symphonic cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic (which featured some of the most consistently fine and inspired playing in the V.P.O.'s history), however, was readily available in the American catalog for many years and is still highly regarded. His recording of the 9th Symphony, in particular, is still singled out for critical praise. For many years, it was considered one of the two or three finest available on LP (back in the 1970s, if you found this record in someone's collection, you could be certain that they really knew their music and cared about it). His recordings of the Mozart operas, most notably IDOMENEO (his last, released in 1972) and LA FINTA GIARDINIERA (recorded in the then-extant German translation, as DIE GARTNERIN AUS LIEBE) remain among the choicest performances of these works."
“The Belgian soprano Suzanne Danco was the epitome of the well-schooled, clear voiced soprano in the French tradition. She sang her wide repertory with impeccable taste, an unerring sense of the requisite style for the music, and was especially admired for her Mozart, which she sang internationally in the 1950s, her readings both thoughtful and well-groomed.
Danco was Flemish, born and brought up in Brussels. Although her family discouraged her from a career as a musician, she was helped to become a singer at the Brussels Music Academy by the Queen of the Belgians. On the advice of the eminent conductor Erich Kleiber, she went to Prague to study with the famous teacher Fernando Carpi, before making her stage début in Italy in 1941 at the Genoa Opera, as Fiordiligi in COSI FAN TUTTI, a role that was a favourite with her and with audiences.
After the second world war, she appeared at La Scala as Jocasta in Stravinsky's OEDIPUS REX and Ellen Orford in Britten's PETER GRIMES (first performances in Italy of both operas), and at the San Carlo, Naples she sang Marie in the first Italian performance of Berg's WOZZECK. These roles demonstrated her eclectic taste. She once remarked that she didn't mind what she sang and enjoyed tackling all kinds of music.
Danco's first stage appearance in Britain was at Glyndebourne in 1951, where she was Donna Elvira, a role fitted to her talents, in DON GIOVANNI. That year she made her only appearance at Covent Garden, as Mimi in LA BOHÈME. Danco was prominent in the early years of the Aix-en-Provence Festival in her Mozart roles, encouraged by the festival's presiding conductor, Hans Rosbaud, who always chose his casts with discernment.
The Swiss conductor, Ernest Ansermet, was also taken with her talents, and thought her ideal for the French repertory he had just begun recording for Decca with his Suisse Romande Orchestra; she took part in many classic performances on disc with him in the 1950s, including the much admired earlier (and better) of Ansermet's two sets of Debussy's PELLÈAS ET MÉLISANDE. Danco's Mélisande strikes just the right balance between knowingness and innocence, a paradox at the heart of that equivocal role. Another recording triumph with Ansermet was as the sexy, scheming Concepcion in L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE and as the Princess in L'ENFANT ET LES SORTILÈGES, on a Ravel double-bill.
She caught to perfection the etheral tone of the soprano solo in Fauré's REQUIEM; produced a feted recording of Ravel's SHÉHÉRAZADE; and in Berlioz's LES NUITS D'ÉTÉ, her slightly cool, subtly inflected reading, notable for the intelligent treatment of the text, has stood the test of time.
She gave a distinguished account on disc of Schumann's LIEDERKREIS and of songs by Mozart, Schubert and Brahms, all still worth looking for. Even more memorable are her idiomatic readings of the mélodies of Fauré and Debussy. Of her concert roles, her Marguerite in Charles Munch's fine recording of Berlioz's LA DAMNATION DE FAUST is a worthy souvenir. She catches the ache of the betrayed heroine's romance.
From 1960, Danco's operatic appearances were few and far between, but she continued her concert career until her final appearance, in Mahler's Fourth Symphony in 1970. After her retirement she first taught at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and latterly was a frequent visitor to the Britten-Pears School at Snape, where she dispensed good advice in a strict but kind manner. Her joint courses with the Swiss tenor Hugues Cuénod were entertaining events and wonderful examples of the impeccable style of which both singers had been such important advocates.
She named her villa at Fieseole ‘Amarilli’, probably to recall her 1949 recording of Caccini's song of that name. It caused a sensation among connoisseurs of fine singing and has seldom, if ever, been surpassed.”
- Alan Blyth, THE GUARDIAN, 3 Sept., 2000