MUSSORGSKY: Songs
Sergei Leiferkus, baritone/Semyon Skigin, piano
BRILLIANT CLASSICS ACD 94928 (4 disks) TT: 66:00 / 58:38 / 58:18 / 42:57
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FRITZ WUNDERLICH - The Early Recordings
JANACEK: Osud / Fate /Schicksal. STRAVINSKY: Pérsephone. HELM: Die Belagerung von Tottenberg (The Siege of Tottenberg). MOZART: Die Zauberflöe (excerpts)
GALA GL 100.679 (4 disks) TT: 75:29 / 75:33 / 67:25 / 76:23
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WAGNER: Lohengrin
Sándor Konya (Lohengrin). Leonie Rysanek (Elsa). Astrid Varnay (Ortrud). Ernest Blanc (Telramund). Kieth Enger (König Heinrich). Eberhard Waechter (Heerrufer. Chorus and Orchestra of Bareuth Festival/André Cluytens, cond.
WALHALL WLCD 0250 (3 disks) TT: 64:38 / 77:43 / 62:26
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VERDI: Don Carlo
Jon Vickers (Don Carlo). Gré Brouwenstijn (Elisabeth). Tito Gobbi (Rodrigo). Fedora Barbieri (Princess Eboli). Boris Christoff (Filippo II). Michael Langdon (Grand Inquisior). Ava June (Voice from Heaven). Chorus and Orchestra of Covent Garden/Carlo Maria Giulini, cond.
ANDROMEDA 9096 (2 disks)
TT::71:20 / 70:13 / 71:36
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Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus (b. 1946) has appeared in all leading opera houses and is known for his Scarpia in Tosca, Iago in Otello and many Russian roles, as well as Janacek and Schoenberg. All of these Mussorgsky songs were recorded 1993-1995 and have been issued on single full-price disks; now collectors can get the set at budget price—an incredible bargain. Magnificent performances equal to Boris Christoff's recordings made in the '50s, although Christoff had the advantage of orchestral accompaniments for the song cycles. Modest program notes, and of course no texts. A superb issue!

Fans of opera should rejoice with this new 3-CD set of little-known early recordings by the amazing tenor Fritz Wunderlich. Before his international career he was interested in contemporary opera of the time. Here we have a German radio broadcast October 26, 1958 of Janacek's opera . Osud, the first German production of this selfdom performed opera (there are only two other recoding's available). Wunderlich has a very small role, as does Anja Silja. Everett Helm (1913-1999) was an American composer who spent most of his time in Germany. The Berlin Philharmonic commissioned and performed his first piano concerto in 1951, and apparently it has not been played since. The only other recording of his music currently available is a short work for violin and piano, Comment on Two Spirituals. Die beleaguering von Rottener is a short comic radio opera about the madness of war. In it, Wunderlich has several charming songs he never recorded elsewhere. This broadcast is from Stuttgart November 1956. The German language Perséphone is is a Frankfurt broadcast of November 1960. The final disk offers Wunderlich in his specialty, excerpts from a 1958 Dutch radio presentation of The Magic Flute with Bernard Haitink, who had just been appointed music director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. All of these intriguing performances are heard in high quality, well-balanced sound. CD notes give basic information and track listings. A major issue for vocal collectors!!!

And here are two more treasures for opera lovers. A magnificent Lohengrin from Bayreuth 1958 with a top-notch cast. This was Hungarian tenor Sándor Konya's debut at Bayreuth and he was a sensation. Plus we have Leonie Rysanek and Astrid Varnay early in their careers, and master Wagnerian conductor André Cluytens on the podium. And the evening of December 5, 1958 in the Royal Opera House was special indeed, a performance of Don Carlo with a fantastic cast and Carlo Maria Giulini conducting. What a luxury it is to have Jon Vickers, Tito Gobbi and Boris Christoff, as well as the ladies, Gré Brouwenstijn and Fedora Barbieri! This performance was mentioned on this site in 2007 when it was issued on the Royal Opera House label, no longer available (REVIEW). This mono recording has been remastered and sounds better than ever. A great plus is includsion of a number of rare recordings by Christoff recorded 1954-1961, apparently radio broadcasts most of which are conducted by Alfredo Simonetto, a favorite collaborator at the time with major major opera singers. We have music from Fidelio, Don Giovanni, Barber of Seville, Macbeth, Mefistofele, La Bohème, Henry III (Saint-Saëns) and the role in which he is best known, Boris Godunov. No texts, and limited CD information, but essential. Reasonably priced, too!

R.E.B. (July 2014)


R