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Subject: Re: Late Flagstad recordings
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 2 Dec 2016 19:15:32 -0800

text/plain (58 lines)

Glad to find out about the Harmonia Mundi release of the Champs Elysée concert.  Didn’t know about that.

Many sopranos lose higher notes when they age (some don’t) but I don’t think very many take on the incredible depth and fullness of sound that Flagstad did in her lower and middle voice.  She liked singing in that range after WWII, but not many could do it as convincingly as she could.

Of those Decca recordings, I particularly like the Wesendonck songs with Knappertsbusch from Vienna and the Sibelius Songs with Fjeldstad done with lovely London Symphony playing and beautiful Kingsway Hall sound.  In the striking  “Höstkväll” she doesn’t take the high C option, but she lets out a rock solid and huge B-flat.

I also adore Barbara Cook.  In around 1959, when I was 6, my parents bought their first “console” stereo and a few stereo records to play on it.  One was the original cast “The Music Man” and even as a young kid I loved her voice and singing.  I also instinctively grasped the piquant contrast of her perfect singing vs. Robert Preston’s rougher Sprechstimme as something similar to what we heard with Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison in “My Fair Lady” (another record my parents had).

Max Paley

> On Dec 2, 2016, at 2:45 PM, Stephen Charitan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 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
> <>
> Steve

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