A Portrait of Joseph Schmidt
As some readers and critics have pointed out, CD CD hasn't been all gain over LP in the field of historic reissues. EMI Electrola and EMI Pathe Marconi appear unmoved by requests that CD compilations of singers should extend to two CDs so as to include all the material (and more) contained on the original two-LP issues. A case in point is this CD of Schmidt, who died at the early age of 38. ''The Art Of Joseph Schmidt'' on LP (reviewed in 7/87) had quite a number of interesting items that are excluded here, although—to the chagrin of collectors—some of the items on the CD are not on the LP set! The LPs also have a much more exhaustive note on the composers (by Alan Bilgora) than the inadequate one offered here.
Michael Oliver reviewed the LP issue and expressed very much my feelings about Schmidt's singing. In opera, for all his stylishness, he sometimes misses the elan exhibited by less scrupulous artists. Even so, it is such a pleasure to hear ''Nessun dorma'' sung as Puccini wanted it, with a quiet, dreamy beginning, and the item from Le Cid done with the thoughtfulness which eludes heavier voices so that one is willing to sacrifice some of the customary tenor machismo. Oliver regretted that Schmidt had never been asked to record Bellini or Donizetti. Well, here he is singing ''Una furtiva lagrima'' sweetly but not with much character. That's one of the few items included here that didn't appear on the LP issue. It really is a pity that enthusiasts for the singer will have to possess both sets with the many overlaps simply because of what appears to be a lack of liaison within EMI. Nor is it clear whether ''O paradis'', sung in German, was recorded in 1929, as the LP sleeve celebrates, or in 1933 as we have it on the CD insert—or did he record it twice? Again, one cannot tell as Electrola don't vouchsafe matrix numbers for their Compact Disc.
I share MEO's enthusiasm for Schmidt's singing of the lighter items. Here he rivals his even more famous contemporary, Richard Tauber. It would be hard to resist his magical account of La paloma, almost as seductive as Schipa's (incidentally, this was omitted from the LP set). The CD ends with ''Ein Lied geht um die Welt'' (also excluded from the LPs) from one of Schmidt's films, a song so popular that he later made an English version. The transfers are all neatly accomplished with Schmidt's heady tone finely caught, but sometimes too much echo has been added.'