Leo Slezak (1873-1946) - I

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Leo Slezak (1873-1946) - I

  • Euryanthe
  • (La) Muette de Portici (Masaniello), Du pauvre seul ami fidèle!
  • Guillaume Tell, ~, Ah! Mathilde, idole de mon âme (Ah! Matilde, io t'amo)
  • (La) Juive, Dieu! que ma voix tremblante
  • (La) Juive
  • (Les) Huguenots, ~, Plus blanche que la blanche hermine
  • (Les) Huguenots, ~, O ciel! Où courez vous
  • (Les) Huguenots, ~, Tu l'as dit
  • (Le) Prophète, Pour Berthe moi je soupire
  • (Le) Prophète, Roi du ciel et des anges
  • Lohengrin, ~, Höchstes Vertraun
  • Lohengrin, Nun sei bedankt
  • Ernani, ~, Come rugiada al cespite
  • Rigoletto, ~, Questa o quella
  • Rigoletto, La donna è mobile
  • (Il) trovatore, ~, Ah! sì, ben mio
  • (Un) ballo in maschera, '(A) masked ball', ~, La rivedrà nell'estasi
  • (Un) ballo in maschera, '(A) masked ball', ~, Di' tu se fedele
  • Roméo et Juliette, 'Romeo and Juliet', ~, Ah! lève-toi, soleil
  • (Die) Königin von Saba, ~, Da plätschert eine Silberquelle
  • (Die) Königin von Saba, ~, Du Ew'ger, der mein Aug' gelichtet (Assad)

There are many things to be said in favour of Slezak and I'm prepared to say them all as long as I don't have to listen to him. At least, I can't do with it for long. His mezza voce was, and on records is, most beautiful (hear the Auber solo). His high notes ring out freely (as in Guillaume Tell or Les huguenots). He will caress a phrase with tenderness (Euryanthe, Il trovatore). He sings a broad legato line with unspoiled evenness (Les huguenots again and Die Konigin von Saba). On stage he had tremendous presence; ''prodigious physical height and lofty artistic stature'' (W. J. Henderson on his Otello). He was powerful, he was gentle, he was totally individual. But oh dear, how little I like the sound of his records.
Or, as I say, ''for long''. Often in the present collection the first phrases of an aria will be newly lovely. ''What an artist!'' one thinks of the start of, say, Lohengrin's farewell to the swan or ''Di tu se fedele''. Yet before long the tight Germanic production, with its somewhat anomalous slow beat on certain notes, its lack of Italianate vibrancy, its mildly explosive tendency occasionally at the release of notes, all acquire a graceless quality.
Best, I would say, are the Konigin von Saba solos and the first Les huguenots and Le prophete arias. Most of the performances have the mark of a special and important singer at some point or other – Romeo's ''Ah! leve-toi, soleil'' for instance, inordinately slow but often tender and beautiful as is the Trovatore aria. The Preiser transfers include some beauties; clean, natural reproductions of mostly fine copies. But I don't enjoy them; and it is interesting to hear the earliest of them, recorded in 1905, and note how soon afterwards the voice began to separate into distinct areas. The pleasant sound and frequently the poetic use of the middle register is one thing; the notes above, particularly at a forte, are quite another. Impressive maybe, attractive not.'

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