Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Nicolai GEDDA
Johann Sebastian BACH*

Cantata no. 55: Erbarme dich, Cantata no. 96: Ach, ziehe die Seele
Lied des Florio D.857, Der Schiffer D.536, Du bist die Ruh D.776, Wandrers Nachtlied D.768, Die Allmacht D.852
Gabriel FAURÉ
Nell op.18/1, Ici-bas op.8/3
Air grave, Air champêtre, A sa guitare, Voyage à Paris
Epitaph für einen Dichter
Liebeshymnus op.32/3, Die Nacht op.10/3, Freundliche Vision op.48/1

Nicolai Gedda (tenor), Aurèle Nicolet (flute)*, Hermann Reutter (pianoforte)
Live recording, NDR Hannover, 19.03.1964
ORFEO C 508 011 B [66.45]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

Over a long career Nicolai Gedda maintained a high reputation for the range of his repertoire, both in the theatre and in the concert hall. A perfect Mozart tenor, he could extend himself to Lenski in Eugène Onegin and to at least some of the Italian verismo roles (he sang alongside Callas in the Karajan Butterfly). Heldentenor he was not, nor was he a typical ringing Italian tenor. Those who flock to "Picnic with Pavarotti" would not have been attracted by "Grub-up with Gedda" for even at his most dramatic he excelled where a vein of elegance, even aloofness, was most appropriate. Hear his opening Bach items and you will hear how his firm, bright, even tones carry him through two lengthy and extremely taxing pieces (for most singers, starting baroque means "singing in" with an innocuous aria antica or two).

That said, there are a couple of pieces here where he seems over-parted, as if he is trying to be a heldentenor after all. Not Du bist die Ruh where the cruel vocal line in the second part (it starts high and just goes up and up) is triumphantly managed in spite of a phenomenally slow tempo (almost a minute longer than Fischer-Dieskau). But Die Allmacht is best left to those with a voice large enough to encompass it effortlessly and so is Liebeshymnus. It sounds like hard work (the other two Strauss songs are exquisitely done).

Perhaps as a result of having just performed Die Allmacht the two Fauré pieces are sung surprisingly strongly (more so than one would have expected from the honeyed tenor of so many famous operetta recordings); this rather dramatic manner is well-suited to the Poulenc group. I find it difficult to comment on the Reutter for this is where I have to point out (not for the first time nor, I fear, for the last) that the lack of texts is a real stumbling-block to a proper appreciation of a disc of this kind, and most particularly in a work whose post-Bergian expressionist style seems intended more as a vehicle for the words than an independent musical discourse. So if we don't have the words/translations and one doesn't know more than a word of German here and there, then we're in for a weary ten minutes. I also find it most reprehensible that the jewel-case (which shop browsers will presumably see factory-sealed) says "English text enclosed" (also French and German) when what they mean is there are notes (not particularly useful) in the three languages.

All in all, this is not one of Orfeo's more essential issues. It will certainly be desired by the wider collector who will readily accept the less successful tracks alongside those which add to our knowledge of a much appreciated singer.

Christopher Howell

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: