V2551. MAUREEN FORRESTER, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, John Stewart & Donald Gramm, w.Robert Shaw Cond. Philadelphia Orch.: ELIAS (Abridged, as performed) (Mendelssohn). (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-499, Live Performance, 16 Aug., 1979, Saratoga. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Maureen Forrester, the Canadian contralto, was revered for her opulent voice and musical elegance and especially acclaimed for her performances of Mahler; she 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 debut 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."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 17 June, 2010
"Robert Shaw, the renowned choral conductor and the elder statesman and great spirit of American musical performance, was music director of the Atlanta Symphony for 21 years [but] was always most respected for his work with choruses. His lasting monuments include the Atlanta Symphony choruses and the Collegiate Chorale in New York.
For Mr. Shaw, music was always more than a luxury or entertainment. As a form of communication, it was spirit itself, a moral force. In 1945 Mr. Shaw prepared choruses for performances by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, including famous accounts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In 1948, he founded the Robert Shaw Chorale, a professional group of 40, which toured and recorded and made his name synonymous with excellent choral performance. Mr. Shaw conducted the San Diego Symphony from 1953 to 1958. He left the Collegiate Chorale in 1954 and became associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell from 1956 to 1967. He raised the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus to new heights. In 1967, Mr. Shaw disbanded his chorale and moved to Atlanta, where he served as music director of the Atlanta Symphony until 1988. He oversaw the orchestra's transition from a part-time group of 60 players to a full-time, year-round ensemble of 93. He conducted the Atlanta Symphony in its Carnegie Hall debut, in 1971, and at the inauguration of President Carter in Washington, in 1977. He led its first European tour, in 1988.
In 1967, Mr. Shaw founded the Atlanta Symphony Chamber Chorus, and three years later he added the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. He retained close ties to both until his death.
Already in 1943, the National Association of Composers and Conductors named Mr. Shaw 'America's greatest choral conductor. That reputation grew and was certified in 1990, when Carnegie Hall established an annual series of professional workshops under his direction. Mr. Shaw's rehearsal techniques, isolating rhythm, pitch or enunciation, were calculated for maximum effect and efficiency, and could seem mechanistic at times. He carried a similar pragmatism into his treatment of scores. He might reseat singers, mixing voices to achieve a homogeneous overall sound, or shift voices to another line if it suited his concept of the desired sonority or the way that sonority was best projected.
It was possible to admire Mr. Shaw's craftsmanship and respect his achievement without invariably swooning at the results. Often enough, all those spiritual elements that went into the making of a performance shone through nobly, but at times a performance could seem merely 'perfect' - meticulous, wondrously refined, even powerful - without piercing to the heart. Still, his achievement is likely to remain the standard for many decades, largely in the hands of the disciples he cultivated. As for Mr. Shaw himself, he is undoubtedly already appraising the heavenly choirs with a critical ear, wondering how best to go about shaping them up. He will probably not be diplomatic about the need to do so."
- James R. Oestreich, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Jan., 1999
"The American soprano Phyllis Bryn-Julson is known for her perfect pitch, vocal accuracy at fast tempos and extraordinary three-octave range, qualities that have made her an easy choice by composers of difficult modern repertory. At the behest of Gunther Schuller she turned to vocal studies, first at Tanglewood, then at Syracuse University, where she studied with Helen Boatwright. She made her debut in 1966 in Berg's LULU Suite, with Erich Leinsdorf (an early mentor) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Thereafter she performed widely with major orchestras in America and Europe, though her first appearance on the operatic stage did not come until 1976 in Boston, when she sang Malinche in the world premiere of Sessions' MONTEZUMA. She made her highly successful debut at the proms in London the following year, again in a modern work, this time Henze's THE RAFT OF MEDUSA.
In 1995 Bryn-Julson won a Gramophone Award for her performance of Schonberg's ERWARTUNG. She received Grammy nominations in 1997 and 1998 for two acclaimed recordings, the first, Dallapicolla's IL PRIGIONIERO, and the latter, Schumann's FRAUENLIEBE UND LEBEN."
- Robert Cummings, allmusic.com
"John Stewart has mastered leading roles in a repertoire ranging from Monteverdi's ORFEO to Alban Berg's LULU. In addition to the New York City Opera and the Santa Fe Opera, he has appeared in this country with the opera companies of Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston, San Antonio, and San Diego and abroad with the opera companies of Amsterdam, Geneva and Wexford, Ireland, as well as singing the lead role in Britten's ALBERT HERRING by at the New York City Opera."
- Bach Cantatas Website
"Donald Gramm, a distinguished, aristocratic American bass-baritone, was unusual for an American singer because [his career] was concentrated almost entirely in this country. His work was divided between opera and concert appearances. He sang with the Metropolitan and New York City Operas, as well with opera companies, symphony orchestras and chamber series all over the country.
His voice ranged from the lowest bass notes into the upper baritone reaches. He had an unusually rich, noble tone, and although its volume may not have been large, it penetrated even the biggest theaters easily. Technically, he could handle bel-canto ornamentation fluently. But his real strengths lay in his aristocratic musicianship (impeccable phrasing that he polished by accompanying himself at the piano, and an easy command of five languages) and his instinctive acting.
Mr. Gramm's reviews were a litany of raves. In 1974, Harold C. Schonberg said in The New York Times that Mr. Gramm 'could not be faulted' as Sancho Panza in a Boston staging of Massenet's DON QUICHOTTE, and added that 'he never gives a bad performance'. In 1977, Donal Henahan of The Times called Mr. Gramm 'the premiere American male singer of art songs, an important artist at his peak'.
Following his New York City Opera debut as Colline in Puccini's LA BOHEME in 1952, Mr. Gramm sang with the City Opera nearly every season for more than 30 years. He made his debut at the Met on 10 Jan., 1964, as Truffaldino in Richard Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS....His principal bases for major roles became Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston and John Crosby's Santa Fe Opera, where he often sang unusual or contemporary repertory. Eventually, he assumed major parts at the Met as well, including the Doctor in Berg's WOZZECK, Papageno and Leporello in Mozart's DON GIOVANNI, Alfonso in COSI and Waldner in Richard Strauss' ARABELLA. In Europe, he sang at festivals in Spoleto, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne.
Miss Caldwell remained his most stalwart champion. 'Donald's high level of musicianship and intelligence and his beautiful voice are attributes which make him the logical choice of a conductor', she told The Times in 1975. 'His remarkable ability for physical characterization and his deep interest in its development make him the logical choice of a stage director. This fusion of musical and dramatic abilities sets him apart as one of the most extraordinary singing actors of our time'."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 1983