Erna Berger in Berlin, 1949
In war-torn, impoverished post-war Berlin, the regular recitals given by Berger in the Titaniapalast were eagerly awaited events. By then Berger, though almost 50, had just become an international star, welcomed at Covent Garden, the Metropolitan and the Salzburg Festival, but Berlin remained her home, literally and professionally, and she loved to return there to sing to her adoring public. Koch have already released a three-disc box of recitals given in 1950-51 (8/93); they now complement that with this single CD, taken from a 1949 recital.
Though the earlier issue has rather more interesting material, including some Purcell and Britten and an Egk aria written specifically for Berger to sing in Barbiere, this one is not without its moments. Berger had spent the prime of her career at the Dresden and Berlin State Operas. Here she recalls her repertory in both houses with enchanting accounts of Norina’s, Olympia’s, Gilda’s and Susanna’s arias, revealing why she was so admired as a personality and as a rarely accomplished singer whose fresh, pearly tone, masterly technique and innate musicality created vocal pleasure and interpretative insights whenever she sang. Everything she does in these pieces sounds so right and inevitable, even though, or perhaps because, she is singing in her own language rather than that of the work.
Berger’s choice of Lieder in the later recitals is more adventurous than here, but she brings her native, insouciant charm to bear on Mozart’s Der Zauberer and Das Veilchen, and Wolf’s Auch kleine Dinge among others, and she finds just the right elegiac, ethereal touch for Reger’s endearing Maria Wiegenlied. So there’s much here to please but the three-disc set reveals more surely why Berger’s reputation is so high. Weissenborn is a faithful partner. The recording has us sitting, as it were, in the circle with the voice somewhat distanced.'