IRMGARD SEEFRIED RECORDINGS 1944–67 • Irmgard Seefried (s); Leopold Ludwig1, Karl Böhm2, Herbert von Karajan3, Wilhelm Furtwängler4, Ferdinand Leitner5, Harry Blech6, Bruno Walter7, Ernest AnsermetRead more class="SUPER12">8, Heinz Geese9, cond; Erik Werba10 (pn); various singers • ORFEO 8771341, mono (4 CDs: 273:13) Live: 2/5/1944 through 4/1967
HAYDN 1Alessandro nell’Indie: Chi vive amante. 10She never told her love. 10Piercing Eyes. 10The Spirit’s Song. MOZART Die Zauberflöte. 2,4Ach, ich fühls (2 vers.). 2Du also bist mein Bräutigam?. Le nozze di Figaro: 3Voi che sapete. 3Deh vieni non tardar. 4O säume nicht. 5Il re pastore: L’amerò, sarò costante. 6Zaide: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben. 7Exsultate, jubilate. 2Così fan tutte: Come scoglio; Per pieta. 8Vado, ma dove? 5,8Non temer, amato bene (2 vers.). 10Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling. BEETHOVEN 2Fidelio: Jetzt Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein; Armer Jaquino….O wär’ ich schon mit dir vereint. WEBER 1Der Freischütz: Leise, leise. WAGNER 2Die Meistersinger: Gut’n Abend, Meister!; Hat man mit dem Schuhwerk. PUCCINI 1Suor Angelica: Ohne Mutter bist du Kind. R. STRAUSS 2Ariadne auf Naxos: Liebe Freund, verschaffen Sie mir die Geigen; Sein wir wieder gut. 10SCHUBERT Fischerweise. Im Frühling. Auf dem Wasser zu singen. Seligkeit. Ganymed. Ave Maria. Gretchen am Spinnrade. 10SCHUMANN Der arme Peter. Der Nussbaum. Widmung. 10BRAHMS Auf dem See. Dein blaues Auge. Ruhe, Süßliebchen. Unbewegte, laue Luft. Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht. Schwesterlein, Schwesterlein. In stiller Nacht. 10MUSSORGSKY The Nursery. 9ANONYMOUS Pierrot im Mondenschein. Trimouzet. 9RENARD Süßkirschenzeit. 9MILHAUD Der Apfel und die Schnecke. 9KOSMA Kinderlied im Winter. Lied des Vogelstellers. Die beiden Schnecken. Schöne Jahrezeit. Im Garten. Fabel
This lovely and at times transcendent collection of live performances by soprano Irmgard Seefried (1919–1988) is a bit deceiving in scope. Although accurately listed as being between 1944 and 1967, all but the last 10 selections on CD 4, from a single concert at the Gymnasium in Brühl in April 1967, date from 1944 through 1958, and only her performance of Mussorgsky’s song cycle The Nursery comes from the latter year. Otherwise we are given Seefried in her absolute prime, the 1940s—some of it, sadly, coming from the time when she was stuck singing for the Nazis—through 1957.
These appear to have been quite extraordinary, even magical years for Seefried. Indeed, the only disappointing performance is not due to her, but to the three boys who join her in “Du also bist mein Bräutigam?” from Zauberflöte, who are consistently flat. Of course, these were also years when Mozart was played far too slowly for our taste today, even by a great conductor like Karl Böhm (but if you think he’s slow, wait until you hear Furtwängler slog through it), and in that era Beethoven’s Fidelio also seems to have been dragged out too much. But no matter, for Seefried’s singing often transcends her accompaniments with its instrumentally pure tone and unusually heartfelt readings, thus even in the obscure aria from Haydn’s Alessandro nell’Indie she makes you feel something more than just the sensory pleasure of her voice. Thus one can believe the statement quoted in the booklet, that “she might be able to sing with only half a voice, but never less than with all her soul,” as well as her own statement that “only a person who gives all of himself on stage has the right to stand on that stage … and my wish was always just to be someone who gives of herself completely….I want to believe that there is a meaning to why I was allowed to stand on stage, to give fully of myself, because this moment of giving is the closest to the moment of Creation itself.” Thus one hears performances like the October 1944 Freischütz aria (conducted by Leopold Ludwig), where the tempos as such are not the problem but rather the lack of momentum. Seefried provides all the musical as well as dramatic impetus; Ludwig and the Vienna Symphony plod through the music as if they were asleep. One of the few wartime performances that sounds lively and spry is the Meistersinger with Paul Schöffler as a warm, friendly-sounding Hans Sachs and Böhm again conducting. How on earth these artists could focus on their singing and interpretations in the midst of such angst-ridden times speaks volumes for their steadfastness of purpose.
Other supreme highlights of this set: the long scene from Suor Angelica (in German), the arias from Mozart’s Il re pastore (with great hall acoustic), Zaïde, and Così fan tutte, as well as that composer’s concert arias (particularly those conducted by Ansermet with the Cologne Radio Symphony), including two different versions of “Non temer, amato bene” (K 505 and 490, accompanied in the latter by her husband, violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan), and Joseph Kosma’s chansons. Despite her livelier response to words in the concert hall as opposed to studio recordings, many of these Lieder performances suffer from the stodgy, disconnected pianism of Eric Werba, though she gives of herself in Haydn’s The Spirit’s Song and several of the Brahms and Schumann pieces (particularly Der arme Peter and the Brahms Volkslieder).
As the notes indicate, some of these recordings have never been available before and many others were only previously available in defective sound. That is the greatest value of this release, the restoration of a great voice and artist in her prime with corrected sonics. If you admire this artist, getting this set is a must.