C1605. DAS LIED VON DER ERDE (Mahler), w. Rodzinski Cond. NYPO, KERSTIN THORBORG & CHARLES KULLMAN, Live Performance, 19 Nov., 1944, Carnegie Hall, w.broadcast commentary by Gene Hamilton.
BONUS: KERSTIN THORBORG: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (Mahler), Live Performance, 24 May, 1936; w.Bruno Walter Cond. Vienna Phil.; KERSTIN THORBORG: Lieder and Operatic Scenes: Die Allmacht; Horch, Horch (Schubert); Sapphische Ode (Brahms); Gesang Weylas; Kennst du das Land (Wolf) - Studio recordings, 1940; Wesendonck Lieder - Traume (Wagner), w.Grevillius Cond. Swedish Radio Orch., Broadcast Performance, 22 Jan., 1935; IL TROVATORE - Act II, Scene 1; Act III, Scene 1; Act IV, Scene 2: KERSTIN THORBORG, ARTHUR CARRON & FRANCESCO VALENTINO: Live Performance, Met Opera, 13 March, 1943; BORIS GODUNOV - Act III, Scene 1; Scene 2, abridged: KERSTIN THORBORG, CHARLES KULLMAN & LEONARD WARREN: Live Performance, Met Opera, 9 Dec., 1939.
CHARLES KULLMAN: Operatic Scenes and Operetta Arias: DIE MEISTERSINGER - Prize Song; IL TROVATORE - Act IV: CHARLES KULLMAN & CLOE ELMO; MADAMA BUTTERFLY - Act I duet 'Bimba, bimba dagli occhi: CHARLES KULLMAN & DOROTHY KIRSTEN, w.Merola Cond. - Broadcast Standard Hour Performance, 1948; CARMEN - Act I - Micaela - Don José Duet: CHARLES KULLMAN & ELEANOR STEBER, Act II La fleur que tu m'avais jetée; Act III Escamillo - Don José Duet and Act IV Final Scene: CHARLES KULLMAN, RISE STEVENS & MACK HARRELL, w.Merola Cond. - Broadcast Standard Hour Performance, 1945. MANON - Et je sais votre nom (Act I): CHARLES KULLMAN & BIDU SAYÃO, w.Fourestier Cond., Live Performance, Met Opera, 20 Dec., 1947. Das Zauberlied (Meyer-Helmund); Ich sing mein Lied; Mein Herz ruft immer (Stolz); DAS LIED DER LIEBE - Die eine Frau; Du bist mein Traum (Korngold); Die Sonne geht auf; Marie Luise (Meisel); DIE ZIRKUSPRINZESSIN - Zwei Marchenaugen (Kalman), Studio recordings, 1932. (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD-1090. Elaborate 34pp Booklet incl. Mahler texts, w.Program Notes by Dewey Faulkner & Ken Meltzer. Transfers by Richard Caniell. Specially priced at Three discs for the price of Two. - 019962793714
"This set serves as a wonderful showcase for two great singers from the middle third of the 20th century, Swedish mezzo Kerstin Thorborg and American tenor Charles Kullman. Both had long and successful careers at the Metropolitan, Kullman in particular singing 402 performances in that house between 1935 and 1960. Thorborg's name is remembered better today, even though both took part in the important first recording of Mahler's DAS LIED VON DER ERDE conducted by Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic (a 1936 live recording).
One might question the value of this recording of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, when one can get the same two singers in their younger years and under the baton of Mahler's colleague and the man who gave the work its world premiere, Bruno Walter. Indeed that 1936 VPO recording is essential to any serious Mahler collection, and one could not make that case for this. Taken on its own merits, however, this performance has much to recommend it. The real value of this set, however, is the solo material with Thorborg and Kullman that fills out the first disc plus two others. More about that later....
Artur Rodzinski was a very important conductor, who would have surely had a more important career were he not virtually impossible for managements to work with. As for the two singers, both so clearly knew and loved this score that they sing it with total command of the music's phrases and shape. Thorborg's voice had lost some of the remarkable richness it had in 1936, but was still a sound of great beauty. Kullman was still at the peak of his vocal powers in 1944. While I would never part with that 1936 Vienna recording, I would not be without this one either.
Then we get to the bonus material, and that is what makes this set irreplaceable. Starting with Thorborg, we get Mahler's great song 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen' taken live from the same concert as that first recording of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE, so you can actually hear the difference in her singing of Mahler from 1936 to 1944. That recording has long been considered a classic for a reason. The Lieder performances date from 1940, except for the Wesendonck song with orchestra from 1935. The TROVATORE and BORIS GODUNOV performances are from Met broadcasts, respectively from 1943 and 1939, and they amply demonstrate the versatility of this great artist. Her Azucena is thoroughly idiomatic, and she is ably partnered by Arthur Carron (Manrico) and Francesco Valentino (di Luna). During that period at the Met one might get either Thorborg or the phenomenal Bruna Castagna as Azucena - a true period of vocal riches. Thorborg had the lusher, more richly beautiful sound, but she also had the ability to put acid in the tone when the drama required it. The best discovery for me in the Thorborg material were the two scenes from BORIS GODUNOV, in particular the big duet between Marina and Dimitri, the latter sung by Kullman. This is rich, heroic singing in the grand tradition, thrilling in its intensity and vocal richness.
Even more important a discovery lies waiting in the Kullman material, if for no other reason that he never achieved the fame of Thorborg despite his lengthy career. His voice was a lovely lyric tenor, but it lacked the distinctive beauty of a Bjorling or Melchior, or the power of a Martinelli. Thus he was damned with words of praise like 'admired', 'respected', or even 'valuable. And what he did not have was a major recording career. Listening to the material here, one wishes we had a tenor like this today. He sails through the operetta excerpts, as well as the Korngold, with a quite remarkable sense of how that music goes (remarkable when one considers that he was an American and not an Austrian). The voice is lovely and he floats some gorgeous high pianissimi. It is then thrilling to hear him muster the needed power for Manrico in a riveting performance with Cloe Elmo, followed by a soaringly beautiful Love Duet from MADAMA BUTTERFLY, beginning at 'Bimba, bimba dagli'occhi', with Dorothy Kirsten. Both are from The Standard Hour in 1948. Three years earlier on The Standard Hour he sang all the important scenes for Don José from CARMEN, with Eleanor Steber as Micaela, Rise Stevens as Carmen, and Mack Harrell as Escamillo. (Whatever happened to commercial broadcasting and classical music)? And to close the third disc, there is a wonderful performance of the Act I duet from MANON with Bidu Sayao. What stays in the memory is the complete comfort that Kullman displays with the varying musical styles of Mahler, Puccini, Verdi, Massenet, and Stolz. He adds some uniquely beautiful moments of shading (particularly in the BUTTERFLY and MANON duets) that demonstrate true artistry. This should spark a reassessment of Kullman, whose ability to sing with remarkable sweetness, or to add appropriate metal to the tone when a more dramatic sound is called for, seems to me quite rare among tenors of that or any other period.
The usual extraordinary production standards of Immortal Performances apply. The sonic restoration work is as good as is possible today. The booklet contains a very informative essay on the Mahler by Dewey Faulkner, and then a second intelligent and perceptive article about Thorborg and Kullman from FANFARE's Ken Meltzer. Unusually, the full German texts and English translations are included, and there are some wonderful photos and artwork as well. The recording includes broadcast commentary, which I always enjoy as it brings back a long-gone era of radio. But it is all separately tracked, so if you prefer not to hear it you can easily skip it. Immortal Performances stands as an example of how to present historical recorded material in the best possible way. To make it even more attractive, Immortal Performances is selling the three-disc set for the price of two discs."
- Henry Fogel, FANFARE, Nov. /Dec., 2017