Gotterdammerung  (Furtwangler;  Leider, Melchior, Janssen, Weber)  (Immortal Performances IPCD 1022)
Item# OP2614
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Gotterdammerung  (Furtwangler;  Leider, Melchior, Janssen, Weber)  (Immortal Performances IPCD 1022)
OP2614. G�TTERD�MMERUNG - Act Two, Live Performance, 1938, w.Wilhelm Furtw�ngler Cond. Royal Opera House Ensemble; Frida Leider, Lauritz Melchior, Herbert Janssen, Ludwig Weber [with a brief alternate, Wilhelm Schirp], Alois Pernerstorfer & Maria Nezadal; Frida Leider Interview & Songs by Schumann � recorded 1941; Arias from Armide & Fidelio � recorded 1928. (Canada) Immortal Performances IPCD 1022. Restoration, re-creation & transfers by Richard Caniell. - 713757865722


�If you think those who talk about a greater age of Wagnerian singing than we have experienced in the postwar era are suffering from the �it was always better in the good old days� syndrome, this disc will cure you of that misconception. This is Wagner as I have never heard it in live performance anywhere, and I�ve heard Wagner in Bayreuth, at the Met, and in Vienna, Berlin, Z�rich, Tokyo, Chicago, and many other places over 50 years of listening. Would that it were the whole opera. Parts of the 1938 Covent Garden G�TTERD�MMERUNG have been issued before, but never in sound this good....This is as fine an example of treating historic material with respect and integrity as I�ve encountered, and frankly most listeners will be shocked at how good this sounds�.

It is hard to know where to start when discussing the performance. Perhaps with Leider, if only because recordings of her in major Wagnerian r�les are rare, and live recordings of her even rarer. This is magnificent singing, with a warm, full tone and a soaring majesty that leaves the listener agape. The top rings free, even at age 50, the tone is solid and even from top to bottom, and she sings with presence and intensity. There is a warmth to the voice, a glow, that is unique - neither Flagstad nor Nilsson could duplicate those qualities to this degree. Then you have certainly the greatest Heldentenor of the 20th century, Lauritz Melchior. He was often criticized for sloppiness, lax rhythms, inattention to detail, and lapses in concentration. We hear not an iota of that. What we hear is a golden voice, attentive to text and dramatic context, and able to produce both a beautiful legato and warmth of tone combined with a vocal weight, a heroic timbre, in a way that has never been duplicated.

The rest of the cast is excellent and little needs to be said about Furtw�ngler�s Wagner conducting, since it has all been said before. He is overpowering here, and the Royal Opera House Orchestra plays beautifully for him. This is not remarkably different from his RING performances in Italy in the 1950s, except perhaps just a touch lighter in texture and swifter in spots. But this was what John Steane, in his wonderful book THE GRAND TRADITION, calls �one of the best of opera nights�. Everyone is clearly inspiring everyone else.

Immortal Performances provides superb notes on the performance, on Leider in particular, and on the specifics of this recording. The booklet is so much better than what we usually get from labels like this...that the company deserves genuine praise for it. But mostly it deserves praise for the remarkable quality of its restoration work, and for bringing us this phenomenal example of Wagner performance.�

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2012

�Frida Leider was another revelation. She possessed a formidable voice which had great expressive beauty in soft or low passages as well as ringing power . . . . It was her intelligence that fused all of Madame Leider�s gifts, aptitudes and acquired knowledge into one expressive instrument, but it was her temperament which unleashed the whirlwind at Wagner�s command (example: the Swearing of the Oath at the end of Act II, G�TTERD�MMERUNG).�

- Vincent Sheen, FIRST AND LAST LOVE, pp.78-79

�Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannh�user. 1924 saw his first performances at Bayreuth (Siegmund, Parsifal), and at Covent Garden (Siegmund), two of the most important theaters of his career. Another crucial debut came in 1926: the Metropolitan Opera, portraying Tannh�user. The remainder of the 1920s passed by in a whirlwind of newness.

Although in the 1920s Melchior was planning to make Germany the center of his career, the unforeseen Nazification and Great Depression of the early 1930s in fact moved him away from that country's theaters, including �Hitler's Bayreuth�. After 1933, the majority of his opera season was spent at the Metropolitan. It was a Dionysiac time for Wagner performance. His only new operatic r�le in the 1930s was Florestan.

Melchior left the Met and the opera after a much publicized kafuffle with incoming General Manager Rudolf Bing, giving his last performance (Lohengrin) in February of 1950."

-Zillah D. Akron

“Herbert Janssen - with his plangent, fine-grained voice, keen intelligence, aristocratic musicianship, and (not incidentally) handsome appearance - was the leading German baritone in several major theatres during the 1920s and 1930s. After study with Oskar Daniel in Berlin he was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker’s DER SCHATZGRÄBER . He remained at the Berlin State Opera until 1937 singing both lyric and dramatic roles, many of them in the Italian repertory. He later appeared in important productions of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / ELEKTRA and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin’s PRINCE IGOR, for which he was highly praised.

Janssen was a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival from 1930 to 1937. His Wolfram in TANNHÄUSER set a standard not approached since, and, fortunately, it was recorded in a somewhat truncated 1930 production. During that decade, he established benchmarks for several Wagner roles, particularly Kurwenal, Telramund, Gunther, and - especially - Amfortas. His interpretation of the latter was an exquisitely sung realization of a soul in torment, achieving a remarkable unity of voice, movement, and makeup. His doggedly loyal Kurwenal is preserved on complete recordings of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE made live at Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937. His tortured Dutchman is also available in a live recording made at Covent Garden and featuring Kirsten Flagstad as Senta.

In addition to his stage work, Janssen acquired a reputation as a superior singer of Lieder. The exceptional beauty of his voice and his interpretive acuity made him a prime candidate for Walter Legge's Hugo Wolf Society venture of the 1930s. Among the finest singers Legge could pull together, Janssen was given the largest assignment and his subscription recordings made throughout the decade remain supreme, even in the face of the best achievements of post-war Lieder singers.

Janssen was very unpopular with the Nazi regime, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini’s assistance traveled immediately to Buenos Aires. After a season in Argentina, he came to the United States where he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1939, remaining at that theater until his stage retirement in 1952.

From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he remained in New York as a respected teacher.

Janssen’s performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical DREI MUSKETIERE at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Göta Ljungberg."

- Erik Eriksson,