Frida Leider - A Vocal portrait

Still thrilling after all these years, the singer who had Covent Garden at her feet

Author: 
John Steane

Frida Leider - A Vocal portrait

  • Oberon, Ozean, du Ungeheuer!
  • Rienzi, Gerechter Gott...In seiner Blüthe
  • (Der) Fliegende Holländer, '(The) Flying Dutchman', Bleib, Senta!
  • Tannhäuser, Dich teure Halle (Elisabeth's Greeting)
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 2, '(Die) Walküre', War es so schmählich
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 3, 'Siegfried', Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich
  • Parsifal, Ich sah das Kind (Herzeleide)
  • Wesendonck Lieder, Der Engel
  • Wesendonck Lieder, Im Treibhaus
  • Wesendonck Lieder, Schmerzen
  • Wesendonck Lieder, Traüme
  • (Il) trovatore, ~, Tace la notte!
  • (Il) trovatore, ~, D'amor sull'ali rosee
  • Aida, ~, Ritorna vincitor!
  • Aida, ~, O patria mia
  • Don Carlo, ~, O don fatale
  • Ariadne auf Naxos, Es Gibt ein reich
  • Don Giovanni, ~, Or sai chi l'onore
  • Armide, Ah! Si la liberté me doit être ravie
  • Fidelio, ~, Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?
  • Erlkönig
  • Auf dem Wasser zu singen
  • Myrthen, No. 1, Widmung (wds. Rückert)
  • Lieder-Album für die Jugend, Marienwürmchen (Des Knaben Wunderhorn)
  • (6) Gedichte und Requiem, No. 2, Meine Rose
  • Tristan und Isolde, Wie lachend sie (Isolde's Narrative and Curse)
  • Tristan und Isolde, ~, Isolde! Geliebte! Tristan! geliebter
  • Tristan und Isolde, ~, O sink hernieder
  • Tristan und Isolde, ~, Lausch Geliebter!
  • Tristan und Isolde, Mild und leise (Liebestod)
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 4, 'Götterdämmerung', Schweigt eures Jammers
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 4, 'Götterdämmerung', Starke Scheite (Brünnhildes's Immolation)
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 4, 'Götterdämmerung', Mein Erbe nun nehm' ich zu eigen
  • (Der) Ring des Nibelungen: Part 4, 'Götterdämmerung', Fliegt heim, ihr Raben!

During the inter-war years Frida Leider commanded a devotion, particularly among audiences at Covent Garden, matched only by their appreciation of Lotte Lehmann and, in the few seasons of her appearances there, Rosa Ponselle. Even when Flagstad arrived in 1936 and two years later Leider sang in the house for the last time, her public remained loyal; some even found that they could hardly bear to hear Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung without her. It was a combination of voice and presence: both intensified and concentrated the experience. And all agree that everything about her – the thrill and intelligence of her singing, her face, her hands – was intensely expressive.

The recurrent word, as you see, is ‘intense’ (or some variant). A newcomer listening to the records may, and I should think would, be immediately impressed and soon come to love them as I do; yet a question may still remain. Just where do you locate the ‘intensity’? It isn’t to any special degree in the words; still less in any expressive mobility of ‘face’ (as ‘seen’ through the singing). In fact, if there is a limitation I would say it lies in a certain fixity of seriousness. Yet there is a wonderfully dramatic quality about her recorded performances – and it lies, surely, in the voice itself, its command of vibrancy played off against the straightest, firmest line of sound ever ruled; and also in the warmly human tones of the middle register, which in turn will cede to an authority of tone that is essentially patrician.

The two discs here (another Naxos bargain) represent her well. In just over half the tracks she is heard singing Wagner, the whole recital culminating in Brünnhilde’s immolation scene where one really does feel the presence as they did on those great nights at Covent Garden. The rest rounds out the ‘portrait’ which the discs claim to offer. Famous recordings from Armide, Don Giovanni and Fidelio come to life, like well-lit paintings, with startling vividness in Ward Marston’s transfers. Rarer items, including some superb Verdi, may even steal the exhibition from its Wagnerian centrepieces. The Lieder probably won’t do that, but at least one of them, Schumann’s Meine Rose, has a way of recurring in the memory with Leider’s voice attached. It is one of those voices which, once ‘learnt’, become a permanent possession.

Gramophone Subscriptions

From£67/year

Gramophone Print

Gramophone Print

no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Reviews

Gramophone Reviews

no Print Edition
no Digital Edition
no Digital Archive
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe
From£67/year

Gramophone Digital Edition

Gramophone Digital Edition

no Print Edition
no Reviews Database
no Events & Offers
From£67/year
Subscribe

If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.

© MA Business and Leisure Ltd. 2019