V2485. MAUREEN FORRESTER, w.Hertha Klust, Michael Raucheisen & Felix Schröder (Pfs.): Songs by Bach, Haydn, Franck, Loewe, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, Britten, Barber & Poulenc. (Germany) 3-Audite 21.437, recorded 1955-63, Berlin, partially Live Performances. Specially priced. - 4022143214379
Maureen Forrester was one of the few renowned alto singers during the period after 1945. In her singing, fullness and euphony of sound was combined with an extraordinary beauty of line and expression of the very greatest refinement.
Encouraged and supported by Bruno Walter, she became one of the most important Mahler interpreters of her time, performing with all the great conductors from Fritz Reiner to Lorin Maazel and from George Szell to Zubin Mehta.
These recordings, released here for the first time, document her activities in the area of Lieder with piano accompaniment to an extent unparalleled elsewhere and include her collaboration with the legendary accompanist Michael Raucheisen. The repertoire ranges from the pre-Bach era and central contributions to the genre - by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner and Mahler - to Britten and Poulenc."
“Maureen Forrester, the Canadian contralto was revered for her opulent voice and musical elegance and especially acclaimed for her performances of Mahler, sang the broader mezzo-soprano repertory, rightly considered herself a contralto, the lowest and rarest female voice. In her prime she was a classic contralto with a plummy, deep-set sound. Yet she had a full-bodied upper voice and could sing passagework in Handel arias with agility. She sang Mahler and German lieder with impeccable diction.
Ms. Forrester was little known in the United States when she made her New York recital début at Town Hall in November 1956 with the pianist John Newmark, who became her longtime accompanist. She won rave reviews. ‘Miss Forrester has a superb voice of generous compass and volume’, Edward Downes wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES. ‘Its color ranges from a darkly resonant chest register to a brilliantly focused top with a middle register that she makes velvet soft or reedy according to her expressive intent’. At the time, the conductor Bruno Walter, who had been a close associate of Mahler’s, was looking for a contralto to sing in a performance and a recording of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony with the New York Philharmonic. He invited Ms. Forrester, then 27, to sing for him, and hired her. The recording is now considered a classic. Ms. Forrester went on to record Mahler’s DAS LIED VON DER ERDE with Walter and soon became an acknowledged exponent of Mahler. She was best known for her recital work and performances with orchestras and appeared with many leading conductors, including Eugene Ormandy, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein.
Though not initially drawn to opera, she went on to sing numerous roles, including Gluck’s Orfeo, Verdi’s Ulrica, the Stepmother in Massenet’s CENDRILLON and the title role in Menotti’s MEDIUM. She made her New York City Opera début on opening night in 1966 in the historic production of Handel’s GIULIO CESARE, singing Cornelia to Beverly Sills’s Cleopatra. She gave only 14 performances at the Metropolitan Opera, all in 1975, singing Wagner’s Erda in DAS RHEINGOLD (her début) and SIEGFRIED, part of a RING cycle, and Ulrica in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA.
Maureen Forrester was born on 25 July, 1930, in a predominantly French-speaking section of Montréal, the youngest of four children of a cabinetmaker and his wife, he of Scottish heritage and she of Irish. She began singing with church and radio choirs but dropped out of school at 13 - partly out of boredom, she said in her 1986 autobiography - and took on odd jobs. She earned the nickname 'Big Mo' playing basketball in the neighborhood. In her late teens she began studying voice seriously, eventually making strides with the Dutch baritone Bernard Diamant. Her début with the Montréal Symphony came in 1953, followed by her début with the Toronto Symphony in 1954 and a Paris début the next year.
At the peak of her career Ms. Forrester sang some 120 performances a year. Still, she made time to teach, becoming the chairwoman of the voice department at the Philadelphia Music Academy in 1966, a position she held for five years.
As a performer, teacher and, during the 1980s, the chairwoman of the Canada Council for the Arts, Ms. Forrester championed Canadian composers. ‘I have a real feeling about modern composers’, she said in the Globe interview. ‘I go around preaching to young people that the performer is the mouth of the composer. You must see that the composers in your country get a hearing. When I travel and do recitals, I always program a big piece of Canadian music’. For a recital at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in the mid-1980s, she performed one standard repertory work, Schumann’s ‘Liederkreis’ song cycle, and devoted the rest of the program to the Canadian composers Michael Conway Baker, Srul Irving Glick and Malcolm Forsyth.
Before her [health] decline, however, Ms. Forrester appeared in musical theater productions, especially enjoying a run as Bloody Mary in a production of SOUTH PACIFIC in Edmonton. She made some 130 recordings during her career, including one that documents the City Opera production of GIULIO CESARE.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 June, 2010