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Subject: Re: Is the Callas Tosca recording the "best" opera recording ever made?
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 3 Jan 2018 11:30:48 -0800
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It does get silly, but a point that emerges for me is how great some of the recordings made at the dawn of the LP era (and before, speaking of the superb Desormière “Pelleas”) were and how well some of them have stood up over the years.

Another that I think was “more than the sum of its parts” was the 1954 Karajan “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

Max Paley

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jan 3, 2018, at 11:20, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> It’s been interesting reading the various posts in this thread.  I, however, am one of those 
> who lacks the gene to feel it necessary to deem anything “the greatest” or “best ever” 
> feeling it a futile category spurred by with subjectivity, regardless of the feats of 
> engineering, casting or other musical matters. 
> 
> The EMI “Tosca” with Callas, et al, at the center of all of this, happens to be one of my very 
> favorite recordings and has been since boyhood, but THE greatest of all time?  Nope.  
> Great?  Oh, yes.  Can't we just be satisfied by that alone?
> 
> Some of the other recordings mentioned are also among my favorites.
> 
> Other favorite recordings of operas are not, perhaps, as popular as those others would 
> choose.  While I bow to no one in my love of all things Nilsson, and her "Salome" is 
> something out-of-this world, my favorite studio Salome is not hers but rather Behrens, van 
> Dam, Balsta under von Karajan.  Everything comes together, and Behrens, still near the 
> beginning of her career, shows why she was a dream for so many conductors; the voice of 
> such silvery beauty, the vibrato perfectly under control with an evenness, clear, precise high 
> notes attacked and landed on effortlessly (or so they sound) and a girlishness to the voice 
> that makes the role as appealing as it can be. I’d never want to be without my other Salome 
> recordings, but this is the one I come to with the most frequency whenever I need a fix of 
> Strauss’ ultimate bad girl.  
> 
> There is, for me, also the matter of performance over sonics.  The 1941 “Pelleas et 
> Melisande” under Roger Désormière may not be a marvel of engineering, but the youthful 
> performances of Jacques Jansen and Irene Joachim, have, to my ear, never quite been 
> duplicated to the same degree of almost impetuous spontaneity, even though I have loved 
> and raved over many other performers in these roles.  
> 
> The Mercury “Medea” of Cherubini with Callas, Mirto Picchi under Serafin is one of the most 
> exciting performances of any opera I know, the duet concluding Act 1 burning like the 
> proverbial “house on fire.”  I’d call it one of the best recordings of all time, but is it really?  
> I’m happy just to call it a favorite and leave it at that.
> 
> p.
> 
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