Leo Slezak (1873-1946) - I
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 (
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.'