Lauritz Melchior's 1946-7 MGM Recordings

Mark Obert-Thorn’s exemplary transfers do full justice to these delightful recordings of Melchior in popular vein

Author: 
Alan Blyth

Lauritz Melchior's 1946-7 MGM Recordings

  • (Der) Lenz
  • Great Day, Without a song
  • For you alone
  • (Das) Land des Lächelns, 'Land of Smiles', Dein ist mein ganzes Herz! (You are my heart's delight)
  • I det frie
  • Agnus Dei
  • Born to Dance, Easy to Love
  • Stille Nacht, 'Silent Night'
  • Cantique de Noël
  • (The) Rosary
  • Ave Maria
  • (Der) Opernball, 'Opera Ball', The Kiss in Your Eyes
  • Spring Came Back to Vienna
  • Kaiser
  • Torna a Surriento
  • Music in the Air, The Song is You
  • Summer Moon
  • Mattinata, '(L')aurora di bianco vestita'
  • An Silvia
  • Robin Hood, O Promise Me
  • I Love You Truly
  • All mein Gedanken
  • Tosca, Recondita armonia
  • Tosca, E lucevan le stelle
  • Pagliacci, 'Players', ~, Vesti la giubba
  • Pagliacci, 'Players', ~, No, Pagliaccio non son
  • Helan går

In the years just after the war, two of the 20th-century’s greatest singers, Pinza and Melchior, moved from the opera house into a world of more popular music. They were castigated for their pains because it was considered they were lowering the standards of their art. Today we take a much more tolerant attitude to these things, indeed it is – as we know – frequently encouraged, especially by record companies. Melchior’s move into films and the like was successful with the general public, and MGM signed him up for a series of recordings, made in 1946-47, when he was 56. They are presented here in their entirety.
The legendary Danish Heldentenor, still at the time singing Wagner at the Metropolitan, tackles a good deal of dross but turns more or less everything into gold by dint of his dignified artistry. A few of the songs are beyond even him to save, but he sings Schubert’s Who is Sylvia?, Italian songs (in the original), Viennese operetta (in English) and Christmas songs – Bizet’s Cantique de Noel a particular success – with total conviction. In a Danish children’s song (this item comes from a film soundtrack) and a Swedish drinking song, both introduced by his own speech, his disarming honesty of approach is its own justification. The latter is an absolutely delightful and jovial end to the whole project, with a cry of ‘Skol’ to round it off!
That his voice had lost virtually nothing of its operatic opulence is proved in Cavaradossi’s two arias, not wholly idiomatic in style, and Canio’s two jealous outbursts, all recorded at the final session on December 26, 1947, by which time he was 57. As Canio, his impassioned utterance is full of the requisite pathos and power, yet avoiding the extravagant effects of some Italian tenors, a fitting end to his distinguished career in the studio recording the heavier tenor repertory. The transfers, by Mark Obert-Thorn, are exemplary.'

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