Kathleen Ferrier sings Opera and Songs

Author: 
Alan Blyth

Kathleen Ferrier sings Opera and Songs

  • Kindertotenlieder
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Chiamo il mio ben così
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Deh! placetevi
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Che puro ciel!
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Che farò senza Euridice
  • Birthday Ode, 'Come ye sons of art away', Sound the trumpet
  • (The) Indian Queen
  • Ottone, Re di Germania, ~, La speranza è giunta in porto
  • Ottone, Re di Germania, ~, Vieni, o figlio
  • Praise the Lord, O my soul
  • O God of my righteousness
  • (6) Duets, Ich woll't meine Lieb (wds. Heine)
  • King Arthur, ~, Shepherd, shepherd, leave Decoying

Decca have already given us a couple of Ferrier CDs (and three more are on the way). Here we have a large proportion of her EMI recordings on a generously filled CD, though I would like room to have been found for that brief glimpse of her Gerontius Angel, made as a test disc. The Kindertotenlieder included here is the familiar recording made with Walter in 1949 at London's Kingsway Hall, when the Vienna Philharmonic were here giving concerts under his direction. In February I reviewed the first issue of her live 1952 account of the work under Klemperer (Decca 417 634-IDM—LP only), commenting that it was just that much more immediate and moving in expression than this one. After listening to the older performance again, my view remains the same, but it has to be said that, on this clear, warmly recorded CD transfer, the EMI sound is obviously much superior to the Decca, and that may be a clinching factor for those enthusiasts who can't run to both.
Even more startling is the improvement in sound worked on the extracts from the radio broadcast of the live Orfeo. Here, as is the case with the Mahler, Ferrier brought that extra and vital sense of urgency to her singing before an audience. Indeed, hers is one of the most compelling accounts of Orpheus's music on record in this form, rivalling that of Rita Gorr on that recent Chant du Monde/Harmonia Mundi CD also conducted by Bruck ((CD) LDC278 813, 2/88). The desperation of her appeal to the furies the calm of her solo in Elysium, the sorrow of her ''Che faro'' are arresting indeed and, now freed of much extraneous noise, are even more important as a document of what she could achieve in the theatre.
The Handel solos, in spite of their spurious Somervell texts, the endearing duets with Baillie and, earliest of all, the charming Greene solos (his name misspelt ''Green'' in the booklet) show Ferrier at the start of her career in lighter and easier voice, but already disclosing that serene, smilingly sincere manner of hers that was to win so many hearts. Greene's I will lay me down in peace, the phrasing so natural, the dynamic control remarkable, says everything. All leap more freshly out of the speakers than on any previous issue.
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