V2194. ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF, w.Jacqueline Bonneau (Pf.): Songs by Schubert, Wolf & Strauss, Live Performance, 15 June, 1960, Strasbourg; Schwarzkopf, w.Bruno Walter Cond. Vienna Phil.: 3 Mahler Songs, Live Performance, 29 May, 1960. (Germany) Archipel 0522. Final copies! - 4035122405224
“The [last] years were not kind to soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, an all-but-universally-adored diva - a beautiful and enormously popular opera star, a revered interpreter of German art song, a central figure in some of the most celebrated recordings of the mid-20th century….her harshly imperious manner in the master classes she gave after retirement infuriated many of her gentler colleagues. She terrified the young Renée Fleming, among others.
Moreover, styles of classical singing had changed, and some listeners found themselves agreeing with the late critic B.H. Haggin, who once complained of Schwarzkopf's ‘excessively mannered and affected phrasing and expressive hamming, exaggerated pouting, archness, gasps and whispers’. The cliché about the forest and the trees could be adapted for Schwarzkopf: There were times when one could hardly hear the music for the interpretation.
Nevertheless, she was a very great artist, one who combined a lustrous and opulent voice, a thespian's gift for intimate characterization, a sharp, creative intelligence and an innate artistic dignity….with Schwarzkopf's death, an era seems well and truly at an end.
Nobody was better placed to benefit from [the new LP] activity than Schwarzkopf, who was married to the all-powerful Walter Legge, then artistic director of EMI Records. He guided and guarded her career with obsessive devotion, and we are the richer for their collaborations.
The best evaluation of Schwarzkopf remains that of the English critic J.B. Steane in his invaluable book THE GREAT TRADITION: ‘The thought and art are so marvelously exact that one wants to call them calculated, which immediately suggests something unfeeling and insincere; yet this is self-evidently absurd, for insincerity, like sentimentality, betrays itself by inexactness and distortion. What one has in Schwarzkopf is a high degree of awareness -- of colors and styles, and of the existence of choice’.
Schwarzkopf made two recordings of Richard Strauss's ‘Four Last Songs’ for soprano and large orchestra -- holy music by any standards I know, brimming with life, love, longing, gratitude and, finally, a serene acceptance of approaching death….She owned this music. In one of Terrence McNally's plays, one vocal aficionado challenges another: ‘Which 'Four Last Songs' do you like? Schwarzkopf or Schwarzkopf?’
The question still applies.”
- Tim Page, WASHINGTON POST, 4 Aug., 2006
"In part because of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's then unusual concentration on the song literature, she developed an early reputation as the thinking man’s singer. She teamed up early with Walter Legge, the producer, impresario, and later her husband, who coached his wife assiduously in her incredibly detailed if remarkably unspontaneous art….At all points she seems smarter than her material, giving a wink and a nudge to be sure the listener ‘gets it’."
- John Story, FANFARE, March/April, 2005