Jussi Björling, Vol.2
These are both 'Bjorling, Vol. 2' for their respective companies. There is naturally a good deal of over-lapping (EMI's Vol. 1, for example—10/88—has six items that are on Nimbus Vol. 2, which in turn duplicates five on EMI Vol. 2). More tantalizingly, both volumes of both companies have in them at least one or two items not to be found, as yet, in the rival collection. A dilemma of choice may be settled by a marked preference for the transfer methods of one company over those of the other; yet suppose the preference is for EMI, then it would mean foregoing some fine and rare Swedish recordings from the early and middle 1930s in Nimbus Vol. 1 ((CD) NI7835) and the highly desirable American song recordings of 1940 in Vol. 2. ''No problem! Buy the lot'' is the happy solution that will, however, not commend itself to everyone.
On the subject of transfers, and confining myself now to those under present review, a first observation is that each needs something of the other. The Nimbus sound is gentle, the EMI bright; Nimbus loses consonants, EMI loses the warmer beauty of voice. I find the EMI sound affects the ears too aggressively, not only with the voice but the orchestra too. For example, in the Flower song from Carmen, common to both records, an initial feeling that EMI's clarity makes the instruments more identifiable is almost immediately countered by the observation that it also makes them more unpleasant: sour and grating. There is a notable swish on the surface at the start, and when the voice enters it does so with an assertive overbrightness. Back with the Nimbus, one finds that this is not so: the surface is smooth, the instruments are no longer sour, the voice takes its place naturally.
In repertoire, EMI have some of the gems: the ''Ingemisco'' from Verdi's Requiem and ''Cielo e mar'' (La Gioconda) are inspired performances and there is a lovely example of the young Bjorling in the Prince Igor aria (though all of these are in Nimbus Vol. 1). It also contains a few that barely deserve their place, such as the ''Je crois entendre encore'' from Les pecheurs de perles, loud and unaffectionate, and the 1949 ''O soave fanciulla'' (La boheme) which plays a semitone high. The Rachmaninov songs, in English, look more attractive than they sound, but Strauss's