Dear Bob and Listers,
I suppose quite a few of us didn't have the opportunity to see and hear
Björling live in recital or opera, an experience I would very much envy
to all Listers who did. For me, Jussi Björling turns to be an aural
experience of the very best kind. Although not knowing by far his full
recorded legacy, I consider some of his interpretations as "standards"
in the sense that I return frequently to them as sources of deep and
constant pleasure. I'm not in the least ashamed when sometimes I use
the Björling sound to establish comparisons with other outstanding
tenors singing similar repertoire, for I believe I am then employing the
very best tool of comparison. I am grateful when I "discover" an
interpretation on par or even surpassing the Swedish tenor.
Being myself one of the millions drawn by his voice, here are two of my
"standard" Björling moments: 1) the third-act ending of "Manon Lescaut"
(RCA complete opera), sung with white-hot passion galore; 2) the
"Nessun dorma" in the RCA complete "Turandot", a moving lesson in vocal
beauty that reveals an intimate moment of the prince-hero. As long as
I'm willing to keep good additional company with the likes of Gigli, di
Stefano, Wunderlich, Gedda, the early Carreras, Domingo, and, yes,
Pavarotti, I am also willing to assert that Björling indeed rules!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Most of what the Bobolink wrote Tuesday follows:
>There is a subculture on this list that does have problems with the
>Bjoerling mystique. And some, not on this list whom I know, find a
>certain all purpose homogenized quality that is fine for moments but
>doesn't have too much staying power. I am among that group, but,
>you go ballistic, understand that it isn't the voice that I find
>offputting. Far from it; at its best it is among the most glorious
>sounds that I've ever heard. The ease and ping at the very top is
>astounding and the general level of the singing (though sometimes
>is beyond reproach. But, it's almost always the same. There is very
>little color to the tone, the metronomic nature of the phrasing (not
>unlike Wunderlich, a very similar singer) is ultimately boring, and
>there is very little passion in most of what he does.
>It is interesting to me that his most famous recordings, or at least
>ones that are held in highest regard by *collectors* are generally the
>ones that have little competition among the most famous tenors of the
>century. Among them "Paris' entrance" from La Belle Helene, and "Cujus
>Animam". The standard Italian, French repertoire is always good, never
>I find the Swedish songs, though, to be among the most beautiful things
>ever recorded. We find him in these pieces in his elements both as a
>visionary and as a vocalist. They are rapturous and they are also very
>If you only know him from a few of the complete RCA recordings in the
>fifties, try to hear some of the early EMI stuff, and even some of the
>late recordings of the Swedish songs. I think you will be impressed.
>A friend once said to me "Bobby, can you think of one aria in which he
>set the standard". After some thought, we came up with "Donna, non vidi
>mai" from Manon Lescaut, with a maybe.
>Still, to have a voice like that is a rare gift, one to which millions
>have been drawn.
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