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Subject: Re: Late Flagstad recordings
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 2 Dec 2016 19:57:01 +0000
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Max: 
I have what I'd call "higher middle" quality of equipment. I acquired this equipment about ten years ago (I seem to remember paying over a thousand dollars for the two speakers (imported from the United Kingdom) at the time, and probably another thousand for the amp and about five hundred for the CD player itself. Of course there was more expensive stuff out there, but I was determined not to spend over a certain amount. 
I own virtually every London/Decca recording that Flagstad made during this period. There are several recitals with piano, Norwegian and Swedish songs with orchestra, Mahler with orchestra, Bach and Handel arias, Sacred Songs, Wagner arias and the W. Songs, and of course the Walkure Act I and III recordings, the Rhinegold, etc, and even the Alceste. When I hear any of these recordings, I find it amazing that this lady, already not in the best of health, managed to keep and preserve her great vocal instrument over so long of a period. Granted, the very few notes above the high A (we know that the high Cs were long gone) sometimes have a metallic quality, but every note up TO the high A is anchored, firmly placed, and formidable. I hear a richness and "autumnal" quality to her voice that I never heard on any of the immediate post World War II EMI recordings done between 1947 and 1952). You can't detect it on the 1958 Rhinegold Frika because of the way the role is written (the role is also relatively short too), but you hear it very plainly on all of the other Decca recordings. By that time, her voice had undergone a downward shift, and a new depth and weight had been gained in the lower and middle notes notes (one could sometimes mistake her for an accomplished mezzo). The quality of the Decca recordings, especially those in stereo, give Flagstad's voice ample room to reveal what could only be talked about in the 1930s, when the recording techniques were simply not advanced enough to reproduce her voice faithfully. 
I hear no "gray" sound (which Sutherland acquired from around 1980 and the gray and "faded" sound worsened as the years passed) Wear? Perhaps on a few isolated top As, but nothing more. The overall impression is one of great beauty. I think that these recordings form an essential part of the Flagstad recorded legacy and it would have been a real loss had she not been coaxed into doing them by John Culshaw. 
Bottom line: Sopranos (whatever their vocal category) half of Flagstad's age should sound so beautiful and have such richness. 

Les 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Max Paley" <[log in to unmask]> 
To: "OPERA-L" <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Friday, December 2, 2016 10:11:31 AM 
Subject: Re: Late Flagstad recordings 

John Culshaw had the Elgar "Sea Pictures" listed as potential recording material with her in the late 1950s. There were a lot of ideas they just didn't get around to, mostly because of her schedule. 

I wish I could remember the name of the person talking on a radio program who described going to a concert in which Flagstad sang a few songs in Norway in 1959. He went in not expecting much but was stunned by "a voice I could do chinups from." 

I find people divided on the sound of her voice in those Decca stereo recordings. Some find it splendid but others hear a worn, gray sound. I note a definite correlation between the caliber of audio equipment they have and the perception of her voice. The Decca engineers caught the full power of her sound which, even today, can be demanding to reproduce. What I find is the better the equipment, the better she sounds. 

Max Paley 

Sent from my iPad 

> On Dec 2, 2016, at 08:00, Scott Grunow <[log in to unmask]> wrote: 
> 
> O sleep, why dost thou leave me? 
> 
> 
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rT7YZ9kXgE 
> 
> 
> She can still deliver the goods. 
> 
> 
> I would have loved to her hear doing repertoire like Elgar's Sea Pictures as well at this point. Or the Angel in the Dream of Gerontius. 
> 
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