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Subject: Re: Which Nilsson Isolde - Decided
From: Jon Alan Conrad <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Jon Alan Conrad <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 14 Jan 2006 12:43:29 -0500

text/plain (66 lines)

On Jan 14, 2006, at 11:37 AM, Steve Charitan wrote:

> What surprised me most were the reservations about the sound
> quality of the
> Solti, which I would have thought to have been impressive coming
> from the team
>  that was making the Decca Ring.

Decca went through a period in the early 1960s (the first wave of
stereo marketability) of experimenting with different voice/orchestra
perspectives in opera. This particular recording is one of the most
orchestra-dominated of all. It's certainly not technically inept --
they captured the Vienna Philharmonic well -- but their aesthetic
choices involved a small and distant perspective for the voices. It
certainly did Uhl no favors, and it denied Nilsson her true vocal
impact too.

> Does anyone know what became of Fritz Uhl?

He had a perfectly respectable second-rank career as a lyric-with-
spinto-possibilities tenor in German repertory. He sang Walther at
Covent Garden, eventually Florestan at Salzburg, and roles like Loge
and Erik at Bayreuth. The latter can be heard on the live DUTCHMAN on
Philips. He recorded the Drum Major in WOZZECK with Boulez.

> There must have been  something
> there that prompted Decca to sign him up for such a demanding role
> in  a high
> profile recording.

They were kind of stuck. They needed to sign up Nilsson long-term in
order to make the last 3 installments of their RING. But her
condition for signing was that she record TRISTAN with them,
immediately. They didn't really want to, because there didn't seem to
be a world-class Tristan around to match her, but they had no choice:
Isolde right now, or no Brunnhilde for them ever. So they agreed,
scheduled the TRISTAN sessions, and went Tristan-hunting. Their first
choice was Windgassen, but he had an agreement with DG right then
(and back then, they were entirely separate companies) and was
unavailable. They actually thought of young Jon Vickers, but he had
never sung the role, wasn't sure he ever would, and in any case was
not going to try it out in public like that. Others who were actually
doing the part on the world's stages apparently did not appeal to
them as viable options. So they had to start looking around in
unlikely quarters, among young German tenors who might consent to
learn the role in order to partner Nilsson and save the show, and
might (they hoped) at least have some vocal freshness and/or artistic
sincerity to offer. Fritz Uhl is the result of that dilemma.

Coincidentally, in the small role of Melot in that same TRISTAN
recording one can hear a voice with much more of the right quality,
Ernst Kozub. The Decca A&R people (John Culshaw, in particular) were
to remember him when they found themselves in need of a Siegfried a
couple of years later: he had the voice, and if he were to master the
part he might be magnificent opposite Nilsson. But, as has often been
told, he proved unable to learn it, and they had to go, hat in hand,
to Windgassen to bail them out.

Jon Alan Conrad
Department of Music
University of Delaware
[log in to unmask]

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