Jussi Björling - Arias, Lieder and Songs
Bjorling collections on CD are hardly in short supply, but, on the principle that if you're going to have too much it might as well be of a good thing, here we are with two more, and no great harm done. 'They draw very largely on the same source, the HMV series by which most of us over here first heard this most exciting and satisfying tenor voice of its time. The overlap (14 items in common) is inevitably large, and few enthusiasts will rush out to buy both (or if they do feel such an impulse it would be as well to look into what else is available). On the whole, the Conifer is the clear choice here. It has three of the best of all, not included on the other disc: Beethoven's Adelaide and the two Strauss songs, Morgen and Cacilie, no other CD being detailed in The Classical Catalogue as having both. The Pickwick contains the magnificent ''Che gelida manina'', Conifer the equally admirable ''Cielo e mar''. In total, Conifer have 22 items, Pickwick 20; more decisively, Conifer can claim the better transfers.
As to the excellence of the singing, there can be no doubt. On the other hand, the romance from Martha, which opens the Conifer selection, led me to want a comparison, and that nearly always means something is missing. Caruso, 1906, provides the answer. Leaving aside the question of timbre, it is more a matter of musical humanity. A little rubato, a little portamento (and it is only a little) so humanize Caruso's performance, while the phrasing broadens and warms it further. In clarity of tone and evenness of line, Bjorling is, of course, himself a supreme examplar; and in its fine control of volume and expression, that early ''M'appari'' recording also recalls the saying of Victoria de los Angeles that among her most enduring memories of Bjorling was a feeling for the intense emotional involvement he had in the very act of singing.'