Erna Berger - The Singer
Apart from Tebaldi and Price‚ who shared some repertory‚ these singers represent very different strands and types of soprano singing over a period of some 40 years‚ and so offer some fascinating contrasts. At the same time I have serious reservations about two of the discs – the Tebaldi and Price issues. For some inexplicable reason‚ most of the originals chosen date from very near the end of both the singers’ careers. That is most regrettable in the case of Price‚ whose Verdi (as I noticed back in 1982) is here a shadow of its former self. The remainder of the CD is made up of dross and/or unsuitable interpretations. To add insult to injury the late John Ardoin’s note is pure hagiography with nothing interesting to say about the recordings.
Tebaldi is a mite better served: a few of her earliest recordings are included‚ evincing her young voice as ideal in Puccini (few have sung a more idiomatic ‘In quelle trine morbide’)‚ but the recordings from the 1970s show a sad decline in her powers and include items – the Baroque material quite unsuited to her voice and the soupy arrangements of popular material – that should never have been considered for reissue. The duets with Corelli at least show two favourites of the 1950s and ’60s having a last musical fling together – and to quite vivid effect.
The Janowitz issue is more appropriate‚ including her wonderful Four Last Songs with Karajan‚ and some beautifully sung and projected‚ if rather bland‚ Weber and Wagner‚ but her superb Mozart is absent‚ so the chance to give a real representation of her art has been missed. Richard Wigmore’s note is a model of such things.
No: the gems here are the two CDs devoted to prewar singers. I never hoped to see Maggie Teyte’s few and precious 78s reissued by Decca itself even if – as ever with this company – the technical refurbishment of old material leaves something to be desired. The inimitable Dame Maggie is encountered in utterly delightful accounts of French‚ German and English songs‚ and provides the lightest touch in operetta material. One marvels anew at the sheer freshness of her tone‚ the élan of her readings and the impeccable diction. Surely her ‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes’ has seldom if ever been surpassed for its perfumed sensuousness‚ nor has the air from the Offenbach ever been so deliciously done.
Like Teyte‚ Berger had a faultless technique‚ and here the whole CD is devoted to recordings made in her prime when she was in her thirties in the 1930s‚ the exception being the Rigoletto duet‚ taken from a wartime broadcast in a rather echoey studio. Every track here enjoys delicate‚ winning and refined execution‚ the tone pure‚ even‚ the legato immaculate. Her range may not have been wide‚ as John Steane writes in his excellent note‚ but within its restrictions she is a paragon. ‘Addio del passato’‚ ‘Parigi o cara’ (with the highly individual Patzak) and the Reger songs are peculiarly eloquent in their simple sincerity. There is the bonus of hearing several of her noted contemporaries‚ among them Patzak (already mentioned) and Schlusnus at their persuasive best‚ even when singing Italian opera in German. This CD is really a must for anyone interested in singers of the past.