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Limelight and Limestone - A Singing Journey
Margareta Dellefors (soprano)
Texts with English translations enclosed for the Rangström, Wagner and Hallström excerpts STERLING CDA1693-2 [79:15]
International readers will possibly recall the name of Margareta Dellefors (b. 1926) as the instigator of the huge outdoor arena Dalhalla in the province of Dalarna in central Sweden. In the deep forests north of Lake Siljan she found a closed down limestone quarry with marvellous acoustics and managed to raise funds to make this one of the world’s foremost opera and concert arenas, on a par with the Arena di Verona. Unfortunately she was later manoeuvered out from the enterprise but her name is still held in high esteem by opera lovers around the world.
But this was in the 1990s, when she was already retired. Before that she had a career as a primary school teacher, but parallel with that she studied singing and got opportunities to sing in operas and operettas in Sweden, Finland and Norway and soon sang leading roles during the late 1950s and 60s. Her signature role was Tosca, and on this disc we can hear Vissi d’arte in a live recording from 1967. From the early 1970s she worked as presenter at the music channel of Swedish Radio, including being producer for three concerts with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge made for the radio.
The present disc contains live recordings made between 1963 and 1972 and finds her in glorious voice. The Rangström songs are from a lyrical scene for soprano solo and orchestra, composed in the late 1930s to poems by Hjalmar Gullberg, Den utvalda (The Chosen One). It consists of nine songs, but only five are included here. It has been recorded complete by Camilla Nylund for CPO (review), but I haven’t heard it. They are highly attractive songs and I believe readers who hear Margareta Dellefors’ recording will want the complete set as well. Better known are Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder. There are many ways of approaching them and I have recordings with singers as far apart as Régine Crespin and Kirsten Flagstad. Ms Dellefors sings Im Treibhaus inwardly with lyrical beauty and delivers a glorious Schmerzen while in Träume she radiates almost Flagstadian majesty.
Three Italian opera arias are highly successful. La mamma morta from Andrea Chenier is touching and at the same time monumental. Pace, pace from La forza del destino is impressive in every way and even if I didn’t know that Tosca was her favourite role, I would be convinced when hearing her Vissi d’arte. Ivar Hallström is hardly known outside Sweden, but he was by some distance the best Nordic opera composer during the 19th century. His music is truly dramatic, he was an expert orchestrator and the vocal parts are grateful for the singers. The two excerpts from Den Bergtagna, based on a medieval ballad, are from a complete radio performance, and besides Margareta Dellefors’s dramatic Mountain Queen we also hear Jan-Erik Olsson as a good Kark. Ariadne’s big scene from Ariadne auf Naxos was Margareta Dellefors’s last official concert in June 1972 and it clearly demonstrates that she discontinued her career while still at the top. The ovations were well-deserved.
Torsten Sörenson’s Canticum Annae for soprano and large organ was recorded at the premiere in January 1969 at Gustavi Dome in Gothenburg with the composer at the organ. The tonal language is decidedly modernist but the vocal part is very cantabile and grateful for a big dramatic voice. Part of the work is melodrama with spoken lines over the organ. This is an impressive finale to a very enjoyable retrospect disc. The recorded sound varies a bit from source to source but is generally very good.
A very attractive disc.
Track listing Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884 – 1947)
Five songs from The chosen one (Hjalmar Gullberg, 1938) [10:35]
I. Festive preparation [1:25]
II. The sleep of five senses [2:55]
III. About gifts of sacrifice [1:55]
IV. Rower’s song [2:25]
V. Sunrise [1:50]
Göteborg Symphony Orchestra/Sixten Eckerberg rec 1967 Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
Wesendoncklieder (Mathilde Wesendonck) [20:15]
I. Der Engel [3:10]
II. Stehe still [3:45]
III. Im Treibhaus [6:05]
IV. Schmerzen [2:30]
V. Träume [4:35]
Göteborg Symphony Orchestra/Styrbjörn Lindedal rec. 1965 Umberto GIORDANO (1867 – 1948) Andrea Chenier: La Mamma morta [5:35] Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901) La forza del destino: Pace, pace, mio Dio! [5:45]
Dutch Radio Symphony Orchestra/Fulvio Vernizzi
Live rec 10 January 1963 Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924) Tosca: Vissi d’arte [3:15]
Stora Teatern’s Orchestra, Göteborg/Gunnar Staern rec 1967 Ivar HALLSTRÖM (1826 – 1901) The Bride of the Mountain King:
I. The choir of the dwarves and the Mountain Queen’s aria, act III, sc 1 [6:55]
II. Duetta between the Mountain Queen and Kark, act III, sc 2 [4:00]
Margareta Dellefors (soprano) – The Mountain Queen; Jan-Erik Olsson (baritone) – Kark; Göteborg Symphony Orchestra and Göteborg Radio Choir/Lennart Hedwall rec 1968 Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949) Ariadne auf Naxos: Ein schönes war hiess Theseus Ariadne [12:40]
Stora Teatern’s Orchestra, Göteborg/Gunnar Staern rec 1972 Torsten SÖRENSON (1908 – 1992) Canticum Annae for soprano and large organ (First book of Samuel, 2:1-10) (1968) [10:15]
Torsten Sörenson (organ)
Rec live at Gustavi Cathedral, Göteborg on 26 January 1969