V2352. FRIDA LEIDER, w.Melchior, Schlusnus, Günther, Soot, Helgers & Martin Abendroth: Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Verdi, Strauss, Puccini & Wagner. (Austria) 3-Preiser 89301, recorded 1921-26. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 717281893015
“Year after year the Covent Garden public came back to see and hear Leider do very much the same thing in her great roles of Isolde and Brünnhilde. As the inflexions of her voice, the expressions of her face and the movements of her hands grew familiar so they became increasingly loved, and, from 1924 when she first appeared, unknown and unheralded, till the time of her final appearances in 1938, she came to personify those Wagner nights which in the interwar seasons would every so often fill the house with a sense of glory and send the audience away to catch their tube or taxi home in a state suspiciously akin to intoxication.
Now comes this complete edition of her pre-electricals, all of them rarities in this country, so that it needs only the few songs recorded in the later years of her career for us to have on CD the essential legacy of this great soprano, one of the supreme artists of her time. In several instances—the ‘Abscheulicher’, for instance, the Liebestod and ‘Ich sah das Kind’—the electrical recordings are likely to be found preferable, though these earlier versions have attractions of their own. What makes the three discs so interesting is the repertoire outside Wagner. Among her roles at Covent Garden was Leonora in IL TROVATORE; the opera was then widely considered to be irredeemably old-fashioned, and the Italians in the cast fitted this view of the work all too well, but, as Ernest Newman remarked, nobody laughed when Frida Leider sang. The two arias recorded in 1925 show a command of technique impressive in a singer of any kind but astonishing in a soprano specializing in the heaviest of the Wagnerian roles. The cabaletta following ‘Tacea la notte’ sparkles with its finely pointed staccatos and fluent scalework; ‘D'amor sull'ali rosee’ has its trills in place and observes the score's directions for lightened high notes, all to delicious effect. In the AÏDA solos the beauty of the middle register shows up particularly well in the prayer, ‘Numi, pieta’, and ‘O patria mia’ has its high C taken quietly as written. These are all sung in German, but it is good to have Eboli's solo from DON CARLOS in the original language and with a thrill in the voice that makes one yearn to hear Elisabeth de Valois' aria too. But then how very galling to realize that UN BALLO IN MASCHERA was in her repertoire, so that we might have had recordings of Amelia's arias to rival those by Elisabeth Rethberg; the conspirators' mocking laughter in the strange little snippet vouchsafed instead takes on a particularly sardonic tone in the circumstances.
For the rest, we have enough to glimpse the dignity and restrained pathos of her Countess, the intensity of her Donna Anna, the tender, often exquisite style of her Tosca. In the duets we could wish her a better partner than the provincial Carl Gunther, while Fritz Soot, her Tristan and Siegfried here, suffers from a plentiful lack of voice, accomplished musician as he was. Schlusnus makes amends for the others, and the WALKÜRE duet with Melchior has some of the most glorious Wagnerian singing ever recorded . Rarer gems are the RIENZI aria and ‘Im Treibhaus’, sung with the special feeling for it we might expect of a great Isolde.
Transfers are fine, and though the copy of the 1926 ‘Dich, teure Halle’is flawed, that will be readily forgiven, as the item (along with the TRISTAN duets) has only recently come to light, not having been included in the five records devoted to Leider in Preiser's LP catalogue.”
- GRAMOPHONE, May, 1991
“I suspect one would have to go back to Lilli Lehmann to find another soprano who has delivered the music with such perfection of phrasing and shading, so sure a sense of design, such subtlety and such nobility of expression, and so firm a control of her vocal resources.”
- Pitts Sanborn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 23 Feb., 1934
"The intensity of [Leider's] singing is unmistakeable at the great moments….a singer with presence, and one is aware of it, majestic and human throughout. Leider was an adored singer….”
- J. B. Steane, THE GRAND TRADITION, pp.240-41
“Lauritz Melchior trained with retired Danish tenor Vilhelm Herold. In 1918, now singing as a tenor, Melchior gave his first performance as Tannhäuser. 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 Tannhäuser. 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 rôle 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