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Subject: Re: Late Flagstad recordings
From: Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:45:21 -0500
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Late Flagstad is like Late Rembrandt - an essential and aesthetically
fulfilling summation of a remarkable continuum. The unique beauty of
timbre and the grounding of her technique was as evident in her 1914
recordings as it was those last Decca's   As Les notes there was the
inevitable downward shift, but the voice as well as her expert navigation
of its natural wonders remained true to itself through her later years.  As
difficult as it might have been to capture that "Niagara" of sound when it
was heard live, I think the Harmonia Mundi release of her '53 concert at
the Theatre des Champs Elysees does what all the EMI / Decca engineers
hoped to recreate.

The only singer I can think of to match Flagstad's ability to satisfy and
inspire over a comparable span of time is Barbara Cook.   In fact, Barbara
Cook into her late '70s simply shakes her fist at the passage of time and
like Flagstad produces deeply satisfying interpretations that are not only
musically gorgeous but remain true to a remarkable talent in its prime.  If
you compare Ms. Cook's "Mostly Sondheim" from 2001 with "Flahooley" her
1951 recording debut (? - if there is anything earlier, I want it...) like
Flagstad, the "young" voice and the "mature" voice remain in perfect
harmony, but the colors have gotten richer and deeper.

Nothing sums up these remarkable ladies better than the following from
Sondheim's "Merrily we roll along:"

But it only gets better and stronger
And deeper and nearer
And simpler and freer
And richer and clearer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqVUbv8McMU

Steve


On Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 2:57 PM, Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> 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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