LAURITZ MELCHIOR  "The Complete MGM Recordings (1946-47)"
HILDACH:  Der Lenz. YOUMANS:  Without a Song. GEEHL:  For You Alone.  LEHAR: "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from The Land of Smiles.  ANDERSEN:  I det frie. BIZET:  Agnus Dei.  PORTER:  Easy to Love.  GRUBER:  Silent Night.  BIZET:  Cantique de Noël.  NEVIN:  The Rosary.  BACH-GOUNOD:  Ave Maria.  HEUBERGER:  "The Kiss in Your Eyes" from Der Opernball.  ROTTER:  Spring Came Back to Vienna.  J. STRAUSS, JR.:  Kaiserwalzer. DE CURTIS:  Torna a Surriento.  KERN:  The Song is You.  STRAVINSKY:  Summer Moon.  LEONCAVALLO:  Mattinata.  SCHUBERT:  Who is Sylvia?  DE KOVEN:  O Promise Me from Robin Hood.  BOND:  I Love You Truly.  TRAD:  All mein Gedanken.  PUCCINI:  "Recondita armonia" and "E lucevan le stella" from Tosca. LEONCAVALLO:  "Vesti la giubba" and "No, Pagliaccio non son!" from Pagliacci.  Swedish Drinking Song:  Helan går.
Lauritz Melchior, tenor/MGM Studio Orch/Georgie Stoll and Giocomo Spadoni, cond.

ROMOPHONE 82019 (F) (ADD)  TT:  78' 

(ROMOPHONE IS NOW OUT OF BUSINESS; LOOK FOR THIS CD IN CUT-OUT BINS) 

Lauritz Melchior singing Stravinsky?  Well, sort of.  This compilation of the famed Danish tenor's MGM recordings includes "Summer Moon," an arrangement by Klenner of the "Berceuse" from The Firebird.  Other more serious works are  two arias each from Tosca and Pagliacci; needless to say Melchior is more appropriate for the latter than the former.  Otherwise we have a collection totaling 27 tracks primarily of light music of the type Melchior sang in his five movies for MGM, with only two -- "Spring Came Back to Vienna" and the Swedish drinking song -- taken from a film soundtrack (Luxury Liner).  One of the most intriguing vignettes from Melchior films is not included, this from Two Sisters From Boston, a scene in which he was making an acoustic recording of Wagner and the producer kept moving the microphone away whenever a loud, high note was sung -- a fascinating glimpse into what it was like when acoustic recordings were made.  Almost all of the  short audience-pleasers on this CD are sung in English with the distinctive Melchior sound -- assured, always on-pitch...and always sounding the same.  In these performance it is obvious that English isn't his native language.  Although he had a considerable radio career in comedy with Fred Allen, mimicked Frank Sinatra and sang in nightclubs, he sounds a bit out of place in the more popular American songs. His singing of Ave Maria is perfunctory at best.  All recordings were made in five sessions during 1946 and 1947, with an undersized orchestra and  the singer up close.  This is a side of the tenor many of his admirers might  wish to investigate, and here is their opportunity  to do so in these superb transfers by Mark Obert-Thorne.

Listening recently to broadcasts of Wagner from Bayreuth and the Met makes one realize the dearth of qualified Wagnerian singers today -- and how lucky audiences in the past were to be able to hear Melchior who, during his four decade career, sang 223 Tristans, 183 Siegmunds, 144 Tannh”users, 128 Siegfrieds, 106 Lohengrins, 81 Parsifals, plus, at closest count, 2,100 concerts.  Incredible, to say the least!  For a complete listing of all performances of all roles, and a discography, investigate Shirlee Emmons' authorized biography, Tristanissimo ("the most Tristan of Tristans"), the name given to Melchior by Toscanini, published by Schirmer Books.  For a review of the tenor's live 1936 Tristan from Covent Garden, click here.

R.E.B. (Nov. 2000)