Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Come again! Sweet love doth now invite (1)
Johann Sebastian BACH
Jagdkantate BWW 208: Schafe können sicher weiden (2)
George Frideric HANDEL
L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato: First and chief - Sweet bird (3)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Der Zauberer, K.523 (4)
Die Vögel, D.961, Liebhaber in allen Gestalten, D.558 (5)
Aufträge, op.77/5 (6)
Mausfallensprüchlein (7)
Der Rosenkavalier: Herrgott im Himmel (8)
Hänsel und Gretel: Suse, liebe Suse - Brüderchen, komm tanz mit mir; Der kleine Sandmann bin ich - Abends, will ich schlafen gehn (9)
Turandot: Tu, che di gel sei cinta (10)
Gianni Schicchi: O mio babbino caro (11)
Madama Butterfly: Un bel dì vedremo (12)
Georges BIZET
Carmen: Je dis, que rien ne m'épouvante (13)
Carl Maria von WEBER
Der Freischütz: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer - Leise, leise, fromme Weise! (14)
Richard WAGNER
Lohengrin: Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen; Elsa! - Wer ruft? - Entweihte Götter! Ortrud, wo bist du? Wie kann ich solche Huld dir lohnen (15)
Giuseppe VERDI
Otello: Emilia, te ne prego - Piangea cantando; Ave Maria, piena di grazia (16)
La Bohème: Sì, mi chiamano Mimì (17)
Der Rosenkavalier: Marie There'! - Hab' mir's gelobt (18)
The Bartered Bride (in German): Wie fremd und tot ist alles (19)
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (soprano), Irmgard Seefried (soprano) (8, 9), Theresa Stitch-Randall (18), Margaret Elkins (mezzo-soprano (16), Christa Ludwig (mezzo-soprano) (15, 18), Niedermayer (flute) (2, 3), Reznicek (flute (2), Maurer (violoncello), (2), Ahlgrim (harpsichord) (2), Karl Hudez (pianoforte) (1), Gerald Moore (pianoforte) (4, 5, 6, 7), Philharmonia Orchestra (9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (3, 8, 10, 11)/Karl Böhm (10), Alceo Galliera (12, 13), Herbert von Karajan (8, 11), Josef Krips (3, 9), Nicola Rescigno (16, 17), Heinrich Schmidt (19), Walter Süsskind (14), Heinz Wallberg (15)
Recorded in 1946 (1, 2, 3, 5), 1947 (8, 9), 1948 (11), 1949 (10), 1950 (12, 13), 1954 (4, 6, 7), 1956 (14, 18, 19), 1958 (15), 1959 (16, 17)

EMI CMS 5 67634 2 [2 CDs, 63' 50", 57' 38"]
Crotchet   £9.99 AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Take a string of semi-rejects and bits of repertoire Schwarzkopf was not noted for and call them "Great Moments"? Well, yes, there's no other word for them and it makes you wonder if Schwarzkopf ever had a minor moment in her career. The Dowland may sound odd today with its piano accompaniment and slightly heavy English but the purity of emission and the fascination of her timbre hold you from the start. The up-tempo Bach (English listeners know the piece as "Sheep may safely graze") compares well with what we do today and is gorgeous as sheer singing, and you'd have to go back to Galli-Curci for better duetting with a flute than you get in Sweet bird, un-Handelian though it may sound. The lieder with Gerald Moore have a wonderful vivacity, the words crystal clear and not a trace of the archness which was to come later.

The Strauss is an essential supplement for those who have her Marschallin on the classic Karajan set, for here she is Sophie. The unforced sweetness of the voice in its early prime as she soars effortlessly over Strauss's sumptuous orchestra is unforgettable. The Humperdinck offers an early glimpse of roles which she and Seefried were to record in another classic Karajan set while great interest is aroused by the Puccini arias of 1948-1950 (I'll come to the Bohème item in a minute). As in the Rosenkavalier extract, the sheer beauty of the voice is memorable. In O mio babbino caro she and Karajan connive in what must be the slowest version ever, but it is so well sustained that it comes off. The impression is that Schwarzkopf could very well have made much more of a career in this repertoire than she did and one wonders if her husband Walter Legge's strong opposition to her undertaking Madama Butterfly did not really stem from his professional need to balance various artistic egos, for another major EMI artist was Maria Callas. What if Callas had been contracted to another company and Legge had set in motion a series of Schwarzkopf-Karajan recordings of Puccini as a rival to the Callas ones? The results could have been a rewriting of the history of Puccini interpretation, for the alternative hinted at here, based on musical rather than histrionic values, could have prevailed in the right hands.

Moving on from here, the Micaëla aria doesn't say much, well-sung though it is, but we get tantalising glimpses of her Agathe, Elsa and Desdemona. The comparison of the 1959 Sì, mi chiamano Mimì with the other Puccini arias gives some broad hints as to the direction her career took. The voice, as such, is still beautiful if without that miraculous pristine quality of ten years before. Her Italian has improved greatly but there is a hint of condescension, of over-interpretation, as if for her this stuff is more on a level with operetta than real opera. She has gained in maturity yet lost a little in naturalness.

The extract from the Rosenkavalier trio is from a slightly earlier mono version rather than the stereo version. The Smetana aria, recorded during an interval of the Rosenkavalier sessions, is a further demonstration of her versatility, albeit an incomplete one since it is in German rather than Czech.

To sum up, this package is an essential purchase for all those who care about singing in the last 50 years or so. But with EMI one always finishes pressing the same point. These are VOCAL works and they have WORDS and failure to print these WORDS in the booklet may not reduce sales of this particular record but will keep at arms length those who would potentially buy further records of similar repertoire.

Christopher Howell

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