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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Full track-listing at end of review
Elisabeth Grümmer (soprano)
Hans Altmann (piano)
Waldemar Kmentt (tenor)
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/Kurt Eichhorn, Horst Stein
rec. 1956-62
Booklet notes in German and English
BR KLASSIK 900308 [61:41]

My admiration for the German lyric soprano Elisabeth Grümmer stretches back several years to when I heard her in the 1955 recording of the Brahms German Requiem conducted by Rudolf Kempe, a classic recording which has stood the test of time and is still highly regarded by music lovers. Two years previously, she had sung the role of Anna in a magnificent performance of Don Giovanni, starring with such stellar singers as Cesare Siepi, Anton Dermota and Lisa Della Casa and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, a performance now available on DVD.
 
Elisabeth Grümmer (1911-1986) made her operatic debut as a Flower Maiden in a 1940 production of Parsifal in Aachen under Karajan. The maestro was very taken by her and gave her considerable encouragement. A promising career beckoned. As well as her many operatic roles, specializing mainly in Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss, she was highly regarded as a lieder singer. Yet it has to be said that her recorded legacy contains few lieder, despite the fact that she gave many song recitals throughout her illustrious career. In fact, in comparison to the other German lyric soprano Elisabeth, who had the good fortune to be Mrs Legge, her recorded discography is not very prolific. This is remedied, to some extent, with the release of unpublished live material.
 
Here we have a selection of lieder and operatic arias by Mozart, a composer Grümmer excelled in. The CD was previously released as part of a six-CD box set entitled ‘Great Singers Live’, celebrating sixty years of the Munich Radio Orchestra, so this single disc is very welcome. The recordings are taken from the archives of Bavarian Radio, dating from between 1956 and 1962. Grümmer was now well into her forties, but her voice was still radiant, fresh and technically secure. By 1964, many noticed some vocal deterioration; it had, by this time, lost much of its bloom and quality in the upper register, and some noted a certain hardening of the timbre. None of this is present here.
 
The first seven tracks are devoted to lieder, very sensitively accompanied by Hans Altmann. The highlight for me is Abendempfindung KV523. It is exquisitely sung, with warmth and purity of tone. I much preferred it to the Schwarzkopf version with Walter Gieseking, for its spontaneity and naturalness. The other lieder fare extremely well and I wholeheartedly concur with the Grove Book of Opera, which emphasizes her ’beautiful voice, clarity of diction and innate musicianship’. Un moto di gioia KV 579 is extremely well-characterized. My only criticism of the lieder group would be Der Sylphe des Friedens (Ridente la calma) KV 152/210 which seems to suffer from a certain strain and harshness of tone in high tessitura. All the songs are sung in German except for KV 579.
 
The remainder of the CD consists of arias from the four main operas. Apart from two arias from Cosi fan tutte, which are sung in Italian, Grümmer sings in German. The two arias from Le nozze di Figaro, in which Grümmer sings the role of the Countess, are distinguished by warmth, tenderness and sensitivity. Beauty of tone and exquisite phrasing are a hallmark throughout. In the two arias from Cosi, I did not feel that Grümmer was as comfortable singing in Italian and some of the diction sounded astringent. In the duet, Waldemar Kmentt in the role of Ferrando, is splendid. Pamina’s aria from Die Zauberflöte is sensitively sculpted with Grümmer achieving a purity of tone and graceful simplicity. It is a captivating performance.
 
This is a valuable collection of Mozart lieder and arias, sung by a soprano who, despite not being as well known as the likes of Schwarzkopf, Janowitz and Della Casa, deserves a wider audience. Considering the age of the BR recordings, the sound is excellent. Thomas Voigt has provided illuminating liner-notes. However, I was disappointed that texts and translations of the works were not supplied.
 
Stephen Greenbank

Full Track-Listing 
Warnung (‘Manner suchen stets zu naschen’) KV 433 rec. 8.12. 19561
Der Zauberer (‘Ihr Madchen, flieht Damoten ja!’) KV 472 rec. 8.12.19561
Der Sylphe dse Friedens (‘Ridente la calma’) KV 152/210a rec. 8.12.19561
Das Veilchen KV 476 rec. 1.4.19601
Die Verschweigung KV 518 rec. 1.4.19601
Abendempfindung KV 523 rec. 1.4.19601
Un moto di gioia KV 579 rec. 1.4.1960
Le nozze di Figaro
Und Susanna kommt nicht - Wohin flohin die Wonnestunden?
(Rezitativ und Arie der Grafin) rec. 3.7.19623
Hor mein Fleh’n, o Gott der Liebe
(Kavatine der Grafin) rec. 14.1.1962
Don Giovanni
Ich grausam? O nein, Geliebter
(Rezitativ und Arie der Donna Anna) rec. 14.1.19624  
Cosi fan tutte
Temerari! Sortite fuori - Come scoglio immoto resta
(Rezitativ und Arie der Fiordiligi) rec. 3.7.19623
Ei parte,senti, ah no! - Perpieta, ben mio, perdona
(Rezitativ und Rondo der Fiordiligi) rec. 3.7.19623
Seinen Armen eil’ ich entgegen
(Duett Fiordiligi - Ferrando) rec. 14.1.196224 
Die Zauberflöte
Ach, ich fuhl, es ist entschwunden
(Arie der Pamina) rec. 3.7.1962



Hans Altmann 1 (piano)
Waldemar Kmentt 2 (tenor)
Munchner Rundfunkorchester/Kurt Eichhorn3, Horst Stein4

Recording details
Munich, Seidlhaus, 8 Dec 1956 (Tracks 1-3), Munich Lothstrasse 1 April 1960 (Tracks 5-7), Munich, Haus des Sports 3 July 1962 (Tracks 8,11,12,14), Munich, Kongressaal des Deutschen Museums 14 Jan 1962 (Tracks 9,10,13)


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