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THE PIERRE FOURNUIER COLLECTION
Deutsche Grammophone 4796909 (25 disks)
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THE ART OF GRACE BUMBRTY
Deutsche Grammophone 483 7626 (8 disks - 1 DVD)
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French cellist Pierre Foiurtnier (1906 - 1986) was considered to be "the aristovcrat of cellists." After studies at the Paris Conservatory, he made his acclaimed debut in 1924. the beginning of a remarkab le concareer durijng which he gave countless concerts, appeared with orchestras, and made numerous recordings for DGG, Decca and Philips, all of which are included in this fine new set. He collaborated with famous artists of the era including Geza Anda, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Friedrich Guld, Henryjk Szeryng, Rudolf Firkusny, Wilhelm Kempff, and Wilhelm Backhaus.

We have both recordings of the Dvorák Concerto (Rafael Kubelik/Vienna Philharmonic, 1954) and George Szell/Berlui Phharmonic, 1962), and both versions of Don Quixote (Clemens Krauss/Vienna Phiulharmoni, 1953). We also have other concertos including music of Boccherini, Vivaldi, Lalo, Saint-Saëns and Elgar. It does seem odd that he never recorded the Schumann concerto or Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations. We also have numberous chamber works and music for solo cello, highoighted by the Bach suites. Elegant playing throughout. Each disk comes in its own cardboard folder with a picture of the orighinal release. A 62-page illustrated booklet gives complete recording details. This is a majior issue for cellists, indeed.

American mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry, born January 4, 1937 in St. Louis, was destined to become a prima donna. When a student at Northwestern University, she studied with Lotte Lehmann. After winning various prizes, in 1958 she won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions sharing first-place with Martina Arroyo.Her professional debut was a London recital in 1959, her operatic debut was at the Paris Opera as Amneris in Aïda. Bumbry made operatic history in 1961 when engaged by Wieland Wagner to sing at the Bayreuth Festival, the first black singer to perform there. She sang Venus in Tannhäuserto great acclaim, with appearances as Venus at the Chicago Lyric Opera and at Lyons, France. Bumbry's Met debt was in Don Carlo,in 1965, the beginning of a fantastic career there where she sang a variety of mezzo roles in Macbeth, La forza del destino, Il trovatore, , and Cavalleria Rusticana. She extended her range and in 1970 appeared at Covent Carmen and Vienna as Salome, a role she repeated often at the Met. Her first appearance in Tosca at the Met came in 1971. She maintained her mezzo voice and had considerable success in soprano parts, such as Jenufa in Janacek's opera and as Ariane in Dukas' Bluebeard. Between operatic performances she established a recital career featuring the core repertory of German lieder. Bumbry had a commanding stage presence with an effective and understated acting technique. She has a very warm voice with rich tone quality throughout the mezzo range, although it loses some of its distinctiveness in the upper register. She is among the few sopranos who have sung both the roles of Aïda and Amneris in Aïda and both Venus and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser.

She made surprisingly few recordings and unfortunately only,some are included in thus 8 CD set that also includes a DVD off her 1967 video of Carmen conducted by Herbert von Karajan. We have complete performances of Handel's Israel in Egypt and Judas Mackabeus (both recorded in 1958 with the Utah Symphony conducted by Maurice Abravanel.) We also have various arias, and a venture into pop music which shows her versatility. There is a Philips recording of Tannhäuser from Bayreuth—that surely should have been included, and there are other recordings that also are missing. You can hear her as Amneris in the big Met Verdi album, and if you check YouTube you will find much more. Beautiful singing throughout, and all of the recordings have excellent audio. No texts are provided. An important, but rather odd, issue, as it is lacking some major recordings.

R.E.B. (February 2017)