OP1981. DIE MEISTERSINGER, Live Performance, 2 Dec., 1939, w.Leinsdorf Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Friedrich Schorr, Charles Kullman, Emanuel List, Karl Laufkoetter, Walter Olitzki, Irene Jessner, Karin Branzell, etc.; Friedrich Schorr, w.Barbirolli Cond. London S.O.: Elijah - Herr Gott Abrahams (Mendelssohn), recorded 1931. (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1001. Restoration & transfers by Richard Caniell. - 625989614620
"Schorr's Sachs is expressed to perfection in his rendition of the Fliedermonolog. His rapport with nature, his turmoil regarding the 'new poetry', and his embrace of the progressive are all faultlessly projected by Schorr's radiant assumption of the role. Charles Kullman as Walther certainly gives the impression of impulsive youth.... 'Morgendlich leuchtend' is as eloquent as they come.
The recording is wonderfully reconstructed. The passages prior to Beckmesser's Act III entrance, so often congested, are heard in miraculous transparency. Orchestral detail is faithfully rendered - the choral work in the final act is nothing short of magnificent. Leinsdorf's way with the Act I Prelude includes grandeur, but can also be immensely playful, with scurrying, scherzando staccati.
The booklet essays are astonishingly well informed and detailed (the all-English booklet is 50 pages long)."
- Colin Clarke, FANFARE, Sept./Oct., 2009
"This performance emerges, notwithstanding some local difficulties, as an ensemble of deep humanity and vitality. At its apex stands Schorr, whose nobility, dignity, humour and multi-faceted impersonation is as complete as anyone's on record. His is a performance of artistry, theatrical power, and subtlety - of phrasing, of timbral weight, of timing. There are, to my ears, simply no serious intimations that he was nearing the end of his career. And when he mines the deep expressive potential of the reflective Act II 'Was duftet doch der Flieder' we have the sensation of, if it's not too fanciful, hearing something like the wisdom of the ages.
Charles Kullman is pure pleasure throughout: lithe, masculine, ardent, vocally exceptional throughout his compass, and theatrically utterly convincing.
So this realisation is a tremendously impressive. The booklet has synopses, analytical and biographical material and photographs; altogether a classy product, with notes really worth reading and digesting. This often inspiring 1939 performance comes in truly first class sound."
- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb-International, Oct., 2009
"Friedrich Schorr was universally acknowledged as the greatest Wagnerian baritone of at least the first half of the last century, arguably of the entire century - this 1939 performance does nothing to undermine my initial and long-held impressions. There is simply a 'rightness' to Schorr's interpretation, which embodies warmth, honesty, kindness, humor, wisdom and sagacity, and allies those sterling qualities to just about the most perfect natural instrument imaginable for expressing them in vocal terms....we hear beautiful, burnished and concentrated tone, and great smoothness of delivery. Even when booming forth, Schorr rem s the master of vocal and interpretive understatement. At this stage of his career, Charles Kullman is just about an ideal Stolzing -an ardent and impetuous one.
Other than the cast and conducting, the selling point of this particular restoration is the sound reproduction which is simply incredible. Whatever the broadcast people did with microphone placements and the like, there is perfect balance between the singers and the orchestra; in passages like the Eva-Sachs duet and the monologues the voices are often so close you'd think they had been recorded in a studio; the orchestral reproduction is as full as almost anything issued commercially at that time - and, miracle of miracles, the surfaces of the transcription discs used here are just about noiseless.
So, there it is. A particularly fine performance of DIE MEISTERSINGER from the Met's Golden Age of Wagner, in almost miraculously good sound for the time."
- Joe Pearce, OPERA QUARTERLY
"The cast is a legendary one. Friedrich Schorr is, without a doubt, the greatest proponent of Hans Sachs to have been recorded, live or in studio. It was as if Wagner had written the role for him. His characterization is a very human as well as humane and noble one. Here is an older man speaking with care, concern and wisdom, which shows in every well-sculpted phrase. Schorr's voice is a firm, richly produced instrument at its peak - partnering Schorr is the outstanding Walther of the American tenor Charles Kullman. Kullman is the personification of a young, confident knight with a clear, ringing and youthful tone. The sound is as full-bodied as the recording technology [of the period] allowed."
- Bill Russell, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2009
"Charles Kullman was one of the first American singers to establish a career in Europe before returning to his home country in triumph. His successes in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg and London, and his work with such conductors as Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter and Arturo Toscanini made it possible for him to join the Metropolitan, where he sang a remarkably varied repertory in 402 performances - 283 in New York, 119 on tour - between 1935 and 1960. Although never one of the greatest opera stars - in part because his international career was hindered in its prime by World War II - Mr. Kullman was a deeply respected artist.
In the late '20s there was hardly any domestic circuit for young American singers. Mr. Kullman did tour for a season with Vladimir Rosing's pioneering, English-language American Opera Company, but realized that his best hope for success was to establish a European career. Mr. Kullman auditioned in Berlin for Klemperer, who at that time was director of the Kroll Opera, the experimental wing of the Berlin State Opera. He made his debut with the Kroll as Pinkerton in Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY on 24 Feb., 1931. The Kroll Opera shut down at the end of that season, but Mr. Kullman was taken on by the State Opera proper, where he sang until 1936. His tenure in Berlin was cut short by his defiance of a Nazi ban on German-based singers appearing at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, where Toscanini and Walter were attempting to establish an anti-Fascist counterweight to the German summer festivals. Mr. Kullman, who was now singing regularly in Vienna, as well, performed often with those conductors, including Walter's first recording of Mahler's DAS LIED VON DER ERDE and Toscanini's famous productions of Beethoven's FIDELIO and Verdi's FALSTAFF at Salzburg. Mr. Kullman's Met debut took place on 20 Dec., 1935, in the title role of Gounod's FAUST.
At the Met, Mr. Kullman's repertory included 33 parts, ranging from Mozart, to mainstream Italian tenor roles, to French operas, to the lighter Wagner. His most frequently sung role was Eisenstein in DIE FLEDERMAUS, which he performed 30 times. In 1956 he accepted a teaching position at Indiana University in Bloomington, but continued to sing at the Met."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Feb., 1983
"Erich Leinsdorf, a conductor whose abrasive intelligence and deep musical learning served as a conscience for two generations of conductors, had a utilitarian stage manner and his disdain of dramatic effects for their own sake stood out as a not-so-silent rebuke to his colleagues in this most glamorous of all musical jobs. In addition, Mr. Leinsdorf - in rehearsal, in the press and in his valuable book on conducting, THE COMPOSER'S ADVOCATE - never tired of pointing out gaps in culture among musicians, faulty editing among music publishers and errors in judgment or acts of ignorance among his fellow conductors. He rarely named his victims, but his messages and their targets were often clear. Moreover, he usually had the solid grasp of facts to support his contentions.
Mr. Leinsdorf moved to this country from Vienna in 1937. Helped by the recommendation of Arturo Toscanini, whom he had been assisting at the Salzburg Festival, Mr. Leinsdorf made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera a year later with DIE WALKURE. He was 25 years old at the time . A year later he was made overseer of the Met's German repertory, and his contentious style - in particular an insistence on textual accuracy and more rehearsal - won him no friends among singers like Lauritz Melchior and Kirsten Flagstad. Backed by management, he remained at the Met until 1943. At the New York City Opera, where he became music director in 1956, Mr. Leinsdorf's demanding policies in matters of repertory and preparation made him further enemies, and he left a year later. His searches for permanent employment turned mostly to orchestras. After the briefest of tenures at the Cleveland Orchestra during World War II, Mr. Leinsdorf took over the Rochester Philharmonic and stayed for nine years.
Mr. Leinsdorf's last and most prestigious music directorship was at the Boston Symphony, where he replaced Charles Munch in 1962. No contrast in style could have been sharper: Munch had viewed conducting mystically, as a kind of priesthood; Mr. Leinsdorf's policy was to make performances work in the clearest and most rational way. Observers both in and out of the orchestra could not deny the benefits of Mr. Leinsdorf's discipline, but there were some who were hostile to what they perceived as an objectivity that could hardly be called heartwarming.
One American orchestra manager a few years ago responded to musicians' grumblings over Mr. Leinsdorf's rehearsal manner by saying that he was 'good for my orchestra'. And so he probably was."
- Bernard Holland, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 12 Sept., 1993