OP0029. DER ROSENKAVALIER - Excerpts, recorded 1964, w.Varviso Cond. Vienna Phil., w.Régine Crespin, Elisabeth Söderström, Hilde Güden. London 452 730. Long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028945273020
"To be sure, one of the remarkable assets of Crespin's singing was the power and size of the voice. She could compete on even grounds with Nilsson when they sang together in DIE WALKURE, and with Corelli in WERTHER.
But there was much, much more to Crespin than sheer visceral impact. She sang with subtlety, a variety of colors depending on the demands of the music and the dramatic moment, and always with real involvement. Her singing was filled with nuance, with a wide range of dynamic shading, and was always founded on a beautiful glowing tone."
- Henry Fogel, Program Notes, Immortal Performances Set [V2547]
"Régine Crespin, the French operatic soprano and later mezzo-soprano, one of the most important vocal artists to emerge from France in the decades after World War II was widely admired for the elegance, warmth and subtlety of her singing, especially in the French and German operatic repertories. Early on, the natural carrying power of her voice seemed to point to a career as a dramatic soprano. Indeed, she made her 1950 debut at the regional company in Mulhouse, France, singing Elsa in Wagner's LOHENGRIN. Yet Ms Crespin's singing was imbued with nuanced phrasing, telling attention to text, creamy lyricism and lovely high pianissimos. While she had an enveloping voice, she always seemed to keep something in reserve, leading some listeners to sense a touch too much French restraint. But most opera buffs valued Ms Crespin for the effortless richness, lyrical nobility and subtle colorings of her singing. She was also a sophisticated actress whose Junoesque presence commanded attention. Ms Crespin's Metropolitan Opera debut came in 1962 as the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER, directed by the soprano Lotte Lehmann, who had been the most renowned interpreter of the role. Reviewing Ms Crespin's portrayal, the NEW YORK TIMES critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote that she gave 'a simply beautiful performance' [enriched with]'all kinds of delicate shading'. But when she let out her full voice, he added, it 'soared over the orchestra and all over the house - big, confident and beautiful'. In 1967 she sang Sieglinde to Birgit Nilsson's Brünnhilde at the Met, with Herbert von Karajan conducting a production that he also directed. Reviewing that performance for THE TIMES of London, the critic Conrad L. Osborne wrote that 'Nilsson and Crespin spurring each other on make for the sort of thing one remembers with a chill for years'. In later life Ms Crespin won wide recognition as a voice teacher. During some 1995 master classes at the Mannes College of Music in New York, the students were enraptured not only by her insightful critiques, but by her insider tales about opera stars."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 July, 2007
"Elisabeth Söderström, the Swedish soprano acclaimed for the plangent richness and intelligence of her singing and for her wide-ranging repertory, including influential portrayals of leading roles in the operas of Janácek, was admired by opera lovers around the world, notably in Sweden and England, where she performed most often, within the field she was revered. With her radiant, creamy voice, thorough musicianship and keen dramatic instincts, she was a model for singers. In roles like the Countess in Mozart’s NOZZE DI FIGARO the Marschallin in Strauss’ DER ROSENKAVALIER, Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s EUGEN ONÉGIN and more, she combined insightful acting with nuanced singing and a lovely stage presence to create alluring and memorable performances. An element of Scandinavian reserve in her dramatic and vocal artistry enhanced her work, lending an elusive quality to her portrayals. Reviewing a song recital that Ms Söderström gave at the Frick Collection in New York in 1975, the NEW YORKER critic Andrew Porter perceptively summed up her artistry. Her ‘quick musical intelligence, her vivid and engaging temperament, and a protean voice not exceptionally powerful but well able to compass soubrette mirth and tragic passion have brought her triumphs in a wide variety of roles’.
Anna Elisabeth Söderström made her début as Mozart’s Bastienne when she was just 20 at the Drottningholm Court Theater, on the outskirts of the city, a company she would direct in the mid-1990s. Shortly after her début, she joined the Swedish Royal Opera. She remained a member of that company until her retirement. In her early years she focused on soubrette roles, including Mozart heroines. Soon she was branching out dramatically. Her début at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival in England came in 1957 as the Composer in Strauss’ ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, and for years she remained a favorite with the festival. Among Strauss singers, she was one of the few to have sung all three lead rôles in DER ROSENKAVALIER: the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie. A milestone in her career came in the 1969-70 season with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, when she sang Mélisande in an acclaimed production of Debussy’s PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE conducted by Pierre Boulez, subsequently recorded. That Sony Classical recording, with George Shirley as Pelléas, is considered by many to be definitive.
Another series of landmark performances and recordings involved the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, an informed champion of the Janácek operas. Ms Söderström became Mr Mackerras’ soprano of choice for his Decca label recordings of complete Janácek operas, including JENUFA and KATYA KABANOVA, with Ms Söderström singing the title roles, and THE MAKROPULOS CASE, a mysterious, haunting work in which Ms Söderström portrayed, unforgettably, the 300-year-old Emilia Marty.
Among the many contemporary roles she sang were Elisabeth Zimmer in Hans Werner Henze’s ELEGY FOR YOUNG LOVERS and Juliana Bordereau in Dominick Argento’s ASPERN PAPERS for the premiere production in Dallas in 1988. She was also an active song recitalist.
Ms Söderström made her Metropolitan Opera début in 1959 as Susanna in Mozart’s NOZZE DI FIGARO. For the next five years, she made regular appearances at the Met, but then drifted mostly to Europe, returning in the 1980s for performances as the Marschallin in DER ROSENKAVALIER and the Countess in NOZZE DI FIGARO. For her last Met performances, she came out of retirement, essentially, to sing the Countess in Tchaikovsky’s PIQUE DAME, a dramatically complex and crucial role with scant vocal demands. She received an enormous ovation."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 Nov., 2009
“Hilde Güden was among the extraordinary young Mozart/Strauss singers who emerged from Vienna immediately after WWII and who dominated Mozart performance well into the 1960s. Güden's considerable ease in the top register destined her to sing the lighter roles of Richard Strauss and she made a mark in operetta as well, achieving celebrity in the works of Johann Strauss, Lehár, and others. She was a trim, sparkling personality on stage; as a Decca artist, she left numerous recordings of her best roles.
With the Anschluss, Güden escaped to Switzerland where she auditioned for the Zürich Opera. Engaged on the spot, Güden made her début in 1939 as Cherubino in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. Numerous other roles came in the aftermath of her success and she remained in Zürich for two years. Family matters called her back to Vienna in 1941 and, finding herself unable to leave her home country, she accepted an engagement in Munich where she appeared first with conductor Clemens Krauss as Zerlina in DON GIOVANNI. Composer Richard Strauss attended a performance of COSÌ FAN TUTTE and, struck by the beauty and splendid vocal resources of the young singer, urged Güden to study the role of Sophie in his DER ROSENKAVALIER. After taking his advice, Güden made her Italian début as Sophie at the Rome Opera in December 1942. Given her intense dislike for the Nazi regimes in both Austria and Germany, Gueden elected to remain in Italy. When the Nazis occupied that country, she simply withdrew from performing for the duration of the war, seeking shelter first in Venice, then in a rural town near Milan.
Following the conclusion of hostilities, Güden returned to Austria and was invited to the Salzburg Festival in 1946 where she débuted in the signature role of Zerlina. That same year, she was engaged by the Vienna Staatsoper where she remained a treasured artist until 1973. In 1947, she sang at Covent Garden for the first time and, in 1951, she began a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera which lasted for nine seasons and embraced more than 100 performances in 13 roles. For the Metropolitan, she created the role of Anne Truelove in Stravinsky's THE RAKE'S PROGRESS in a production coming shortly after the work's Venice premiere. Among other roles in New York, Güden sang both Musetta and Mimì in LA BOHÈME, Zerlina, Susanna, Sophie, Zdenka, and Rosalinde.
At Salzburg, Gueden offered a saucy performance of the title role in Strauss' DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU in 1959, and, in Vienna, a radiant Daphne in 1964, both productions captured on disc. Her cherishable Sophie was preserved on commercial recording under Erich Kleiber.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com