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Subject: Recommended late Flagstad
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 10 Nov 2018 23:41:13 -0800

text/plain (32 lines)

There was a thread a little bit ago touching on late career Flagstad and the “Tale of C” 

It occurs to me that some of you may not know what I consider to be one of her greatest recordings. This is the 2 CD set (or FLAC download) on the Audite label of the two (May 9 and 11, 1952) concerts she gave in Berlin at the Titania Palace (often used at the time for Berlin Philharmonic concerts) with the orchestra of the Berlin Municipal (Städtische) Opera conducted by Georges Sebastian about a month before she made the complete “Tristan” recording in London.

The concert is in exceptionally good sound because the Radio in the American Sector engineers had state of the art equipment and the German Radio throughout the country took recording and preservation of tapes of live performances very seriously. Audite was able to make their transfer from the original German Radio tapes and its a huge benefit.

Flagstad is in phenomenal voice and gives very animated, inspired performances of Wagner and Strauss. Her Act 1 Narrative from “Tristan” has at least as good breath, pitch and dynamic control as in the studio when she sings “er sah mir in die Augen” (so many Isoldes have a bitch of a time with the intonation there) and she gets off a couple of just roaring B naturals that clearly needed no “help.” But even more important is the dramatic excitement and engagement. Her Liebestod is exquisite.

The second evening (CD 2) has “Three Last Songs” (she apparently decided at the 1950 premiere she had taken on a bit much with “Frühling”). The long breathed phrasing of the others is dazzling in shape and finesse, the voice fluid and supple. The big news here is how infinitely better the sound is than on the world premiere acetates and the orchestra is good, even if we don’t have Dennis Brain’s horn solo.

Following is Elektra’s recognition of “Orest, Orest” and a revelation in richness and beauty. I’ve never heard it in such good sound.

The concert finishes with a terrific “Immolation Scene” which doesn’t have Furtwängler’s breadth and grandeur, but in which her voice sounds much more excited and imposing, particularly on top (likely at least partly due to the miking) than on the studio version tacked on to the “Tristan” sessions.

No high Cs here. The highest note in the Immolation is a C-flat. To hear her last known “unaided” high C on record, you need to hear the initially unpublished “Götterdämmerung” Prologue duet with Svanholm (caught sounding very labored) and Sebastian conducting the Philharmonia in Abbey Road Studio 1 in 1951. The note is a little thinner than the rest of her voice but it’s definitely there, clear and not at all bad. It’s on the EMI 5 CD Flagstad set that came out a few years ago and also the “Les Introuvables du Wagner” CD set.

Max Paley

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