V0517. ALEXANDER KIPNIS: Songs by Moussorgsky, Rachmaninoff, Gretchaninoff, Malashkin & Stravinsky; Arias from Boris Godounov, Rusalka (Dargomyzhsky), Prince Igor, Sadko & Eugen Onégin. (Austria) Preiser 89946, recorded 1939-46, RCA. - 717281899468
“Alexander Kipnis entered the Warsaw Conservatory at age 19. In 1912 he traveled to Berlin, where he began studying voice with Ernst Grenzebach, who was also the teacher of Lauritz Melchior, Max Lorenz, and Meta Seinemeyer. While in Berlin, Kipnis, a Russian, was interned. Freed in 1915, he made his stage début in Hamburg, singing three Strauss songs as a ‘guest’ in the second act party scene of DIE FLEDERMAUS. In 1922 Kipnis joined the Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin; from 1923–1932 he was on the roster of the Chicago Civic Opera; in 1927 he sang in PARSIFAL under Karl Muck at the Bayreuth Festival; and in 1938 he settled permanently in the United States. By the time of his Metropolitan Opera début in 1940 as Gurnemanz, he had sung at virtually every major opera house and festival, including the Colón, where he appeared in 1926, 1928, 1931, 1934–1936, and 1941. Following his retirement from the Metropolitan in 1946 (his last concert appearances were in 1951), he began teaching, first at the New York College of Music and then in 1966 at the Juilliard School. Alexander Kipnis’ voice was large and beautiful, admired particularly in the Russian repertory, and his acting talent, versatility, and skill as a lieder singer are also well-known.”
- Lia Frey-Rabine, Program Notes
“Kipnis is not only an exceptional bass and singer but also a great musician. I do not know another bass who equals him in refinement, expressivity, flexibility, dignity and sonority. A special characteristic is the apparently limitless range of colours in a powerful voice capable of sustained dramatic statements. In addition to this came a guttural handling of words, a characteristic of his mother tongue, but it never distracted, indeed rather hightened the attractiveness of his extraordinary voice. You will notice a frequent use of portamento, and aspirations in his later years. What attracts me most is his personal warmth and intensity. He is capable of achieving deep-minded expression and profound insight into every rôle or song.
Listen to the arias of Cornelius’ DER BARBIER VON BAGDAD. He sings them with the right sense of humour and charm. Go to the incomparable and deeply moving interpretations of Brahms’ VIER ERNSTE GESÄNGE, Wolf’s MICHELANGELO-LIEDER or the Schubert lieder. Hear him as Gurnemanz, one of the most beautiful Wagner recordings ever made. He is simply overwhelming in Fiesco’s ‘Il lacerato spirito’ from SIMON BOCCANEGRA.
Alexander Kipnis studied conducting at the Warsaw Conservatory and went to Berlin where he received vocal tuition by Ernst Grenzebach (other students were Lauritz Melchior and Max Lorenz). He appeared at Hamburg in 1916 and at Wiesbaden from 1917 to 1922 and became the leading bass at the Berlin Städtische Oper (1919 - 1929). Thereafter he joined the Vienna State Opera and the Berlin State Opera and was engaged at the Bayreuth Festival. He was admired as an outstanding Wagner and Mozart singer as well as a great interpreter of Italian and Russian rôles. He soon became an accomplished lieder singer. By 1937 he was a familiar artist in most of the world’s leading opera houses, especially in America. He became an American citizien in 1931 and was a regular member of the Chicaco Opera from 1923 to 1932, making a late début at the Met as Gurnemanz in 1940. There he also appeared as King Marke, Arkel, Hermann, Hagen, Hunding, Ochs von Lerchenau, Sarastro, Nicalantha in Délibes’ LAKMÉ and Boris Godunov. He stayed at the Met until 1952. He appeared in extensive and tremendously successful concert tours throughout America. After his retirement he became a renowned vocal coach at the Manhattan School of Music, in New York.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile