“I can think of no soprano whose records have given me more enduring pleasure over many years.” Our founding Editor was greatly moved by the death of Alma Gluck: “There was an almost celestial purity of sound from her high notes, the kind of quality you get in the best boys’ voices”. He also ended his Editorial on a fighting note. Recalling that she and her husband, the violinist Efrem Zimbalist, were Jews, he wrote that those two alone had done work of “greater value than all the forces of anti-Semitism”. I remember quoting that remark when the War was over to a friend who said, “Well, that doesn’t say anything, does it?” (meaning that it was a truism); but it meant something in December 1938.
That “celestial purity” is the first characteristic that impresses itself in this lovely selection of her recordings, and it does so immediately with the very first phrase of Handel’s “Come, my beloved” (“Care selve”), a version to put side by side with John McCormack’s. In “O sleep, why does thou leave me?”, which follows, she hasn’t his breadth of phrasing, yet the long run, divided into three, is gracefully done, and it is good to find, as in “Angels ever bright and fair”, that she sings her Handel cleanly but with warmth, without rigidity of tempo yet neither wilful nor indulgent. Her “Rossignols amoureux” was a prize rarity in its day (not much Rameau to be found in the catalogues of 1911), and the song Have you seen but a whyte lillie grow was a special favourite of Sir Compton’s. He also singled out her recording of Micaela’s aria and the duet “Mira, o Norma” with Louise Homer: the first (a beauty) is included, the second (rightly, I think) not. Other duets with Homer are present, one of them, bearing the ominous title
The Marston label is new, though of course the name itself is familiar. Ward Marston, who has been responsible for many of the best transfers in recent years, is here credited with ‘Audio Conservation’, the producer and supplier of original copies being Lawrence F. Holdridge. We are deeply indebted to both of them. '