OP3185. DIE MEISTERSINGER, Live Performance, 23 Aug., 1937, Salzburg, w.Toscanini Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Henk Noort, Hans Hermann Nissen, Herbert Alsen, Maria Reining, Kerstin Thorborg, Hermann Wiedemann, Viktor Madin, Eduard Fritsch, Georg Maikl, Hermann Gallos, Richard Sallaba, Erich Majkut, Hans Rosenberg, Josef Fruchter, etc.; DIE MEISTERSINGER - Scenes, Live Performance, 8 Aug., 1936, Salzburg, w.Toscanini Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Charles Kullman, Hans Hermann Nissen, Lotte Lehmann, Herbert Alsen, Richard Sallaba, etc.; DIE MEISTERSINGER: Act III Quintet, with Felix Weingartner Cond. Lehmann, Thorborg, Laholm, Werning & Hofmann - Live Performance, 20 Sept., 1935, Vienna. (Canada) 5-Immortal Performances IPCD 1069, w. Elaborate 58pp Booklet, w.Notes & Audio restoration by Richard Caniell. Specially priced at Five discs for the price of Four. - 019962528217
"In 2003, Ward Marston, on the now defunct Andante label, issued that which Caniell refers to as a generally ‘superb’ restoration, one which the late William Youngren included in his 2003 FANFARE ‘Want List’. Sadly, Andante did not endure and that set is no longer available, other than occasionally in the after-market. We are fortunate Caniell decided to take a set of tapes in his possession for half a century - given him by his one-time mentor and long-time friend, Richard Gardner - and do a new mastering for our benefit.
Despite my long familiarity with earlier reproductions, so striking are the results on these discs that I felt I was hearing the performance for the first time. Obviously we are not in the era of high fidelity, but no longer is the sound tiring to the ear. I listened to my earlier copies of the 1937 performance, the poor attempts and the much more successful Andante set. I also listened to the Preiser CDs of a few scenes from Schorr’s 1928 Berlin State Opera performance and Nissen’s 1938 recording of Act III. The new issue has the cleanest sound and the most presence, and has the benefit of great attention being paid to those pitch fluctuations which had so plagued prior attempts at restoration. It is surely the most consistent representation of this performance I have heard.
I said the experience of hearing the 1937 performance was akin to ‘the first time’. In the case of nearly an hour and a quarter from the 8 August, 1936 performance (four performances were given that summer), we have, quite literally, a first-time experience. It turns out the performance was recorded in its entirety (evidence differs as to by whom), and that Toscanini loved the results and expected to receive his own set. What happened is that his copies (of this and the 1937 recording) were never sent, and that most of the 1936 masters seem to have been destroyed in 1938. We have the Prelude and then the first two scenes of Act III and the final half of the Act III conclusion. Sallaba is once again a superb David, and his interaction with Nissen is splendid. The lyric tenor’s voice seems a bit differently focused than in 1937 – [due to] mike placement, I am sure.
In the American tenor Charles Kullman we find a measure of vocal beauty unique in recorded performances of Walther of which I am aware. I am a Kullman fan….The tenor is in fresh, open, easy voice, never forces, and his conductor never asks him to [do so]. We have a good deal of Act III here, and this Walther surely deserves his prize. Caniell notes that to complete a musical segment, he has spliced in the few notes from Nissen in 1937 and Kullman in 1939 [Met Opera performance]. You would have to know which notes and words of text to notice. Kullman broadcast Walther several times from the Met, most notably in the 1939 performance led by Leinsdorf and issued a few years back by Immortal Performances. The tenor’s voice, beautifully captured (not yet 36), still has great freshness and a limpid tonal quality.
Sadly, of Lehmann we have only her final expressive phrases in the last scene. Her timbre is unique, and, at 15 years Reining’s senior, this one small bit suggests a more ‘knowing’ Eva. The microphones, well-placed in this instance, pick up the moment amazingly well.
Further magic is presented by a lovely encore: a 1935 Act III Quintet with Lehmann, Thorborg, and bass-baritone Ludwig Hoffman as Sachs. Tenor Eyvind Laholm is Walther and Vienna comprimario William Wernigk is David. No less than Felix Weingartner conducted that performance. But what we have here, complete, is quite sufficient. At five discs for the price of four (in keeping with Immortal Performances’ frequent disc set practice), we have nearly five and a half hours of music brilliantly performed, and audible in sonics which will not jar the listener. Rather the opposite! Amazingly in both recordings of the third act, the massed sound comes through as well as any portions of the work. We also have several informative essays in a handsome booklet, including the best synopsis of the story and action I’ve ever read. An analysis by Robert Matthew-Walker places these performances in context. Two excerpts from the writings of Toscanini expert Harvey Sachs, and the MANCHESTER GUARDIAN review by Neville Cardus, enrich the experience. Finally, Richard Caniell writes at some length of his restoration work, and of the source material, and pays credit to an associate on this project, the young pianist and conductor John Sullivan, who labored to correct the numerous spots of incorrect pitch. The present remastering is, based on my listening, by far the most accurate in that regard. It honors Toscanini on the 150th anniversary of his birth, and also honors Wagner, the vocalists, VSO Chorus, and Vienna Philharmonic of the day. I am honored to recommend it whole-heartedly.”
- James Forrest, FANFARE, Nov./Dec., 2016
"[This is the] highly sought-after version of DIE MEISTERSINGER recorded live at the 1937 Salzburg Festival, with Arturo Toscanini conducting and a cast including Hans Hermann Nissen as Hans Sachs and Maria Reining as Eva. With the Nazi annexation of Austria to follow the next year, Toscanini, a dedicated anti-fascist, would never return to Salzburg."
- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE, May/June, 2003
"The [above] Toscanini performance...is just as lively as Kempe - in fact, in places livelier (particularly the magical Act 2) - and the virtually unknown Dutch tenor Henk Noort (he sang for decades but this was his only recording) is a splendid Walther."
- THE ART MUSIC LOUNGE, 11 March, 2016
“Hans-Hermann Nissen is the only bass-baritone comparable to Friedrich Schorr. Why did the recording companies almost neglect him? There might be two reasons - the first being that the singer himself valued a stage career more than a reputation as a recording artist, and secondly the important fact that at the time there were a lot of German baritones and the recording companies had already engaged their popular favorites. Contemporaries were Wilhelm Rode, Rudolf Bockelmann, Josef Herrmann, Hans Hotter, Paul Schöffler and Ferdinand Frantz! This is a proud gallery, but Nissen and Schorr outshined them all.
His is a warm voice of great beauty, superb musical phrasing and he sings with a perfect legato. His recordings are irreplaceable documents of an exemplary refined style in Wagner’s music. In my opinion, he is unsurpassed in Amfortas’ lament. He is a superb but underrated singer.
He studied in Berlin with Julius Raatz-Brockmann, and made his début at the Volksoper Berlin, as Kalif in DER BARBIER VON BAGDAD, in 1924. In 1925 he was engaged at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich where he remained a member of the ensemble for four decades! Especially during the Clemens Krauss era he was acclaimed in performances that have become part of operatic legend. Nissen’s most famous role was Hans Sachs, a role he sang in 1936 in Salzburg under Toscanini and in 1943 at the Bayreuth Festival. After World War II he continued to appear in various German cities. Nissen was an acclaimed lieder and oratorio singer. He was a favorite singer with the Munich Opera until his retirement in 1967.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile