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La Nilsson - Wagner, Beethoven, Weber, Sacred Songs

Nilsson,Birgit
Release Date: 08/25/2008 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4800901   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard WagnerCarl Maria von WeberLudwig van BeethovenAdolphe Adam,   ... 
Performer:  Birgit NilssonĹke Levén
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Highly recommendable bargain price compilation of the great soprano’s work.

Nearly all the items on this compilation have been released before in various incarnations - except Ah, perfido! which here receives its first issue on CD - but this is the first time they have been joined together as one recital.  It’s very satisfying and showcases Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) in her strongest repertoire with some things you would expect, and a fair few that you wouldn’t.
 
This is Nilsson’s home territory, the German Romantics, but unusually most of the heroines represented in the arias are innocent girls, no warrior maidens or ice princesses.  Her Elisabeth in Dich, teure Halle is
Read more commanding and imperious, not young and naïve, while Nilsson makes a somewhat detached – some might say matronly – Sieglinde.  Elsa’s vision from Lohengrin is suitably other-worldly, though you get the impression she is about to eat her accusers alive!  So there’s little in the way of characterisation in these Wagner numbers, but as a sheer display of great singing it’s all pretty marvellous, and I’d have jumped at the chance to hear her live in any of these roles.  Ozean begins imperiously and rises to a mighty climax, while Agathe’s aria transports us into her own passion and anticipation: the conclusion to Leise, leise is truly ecstatic.  Nilsson gives a truly dramatic Abscheulicher, which then melts into a Komm Hoffnung of grand conviction, and she inhabits both the drama and tenderness of Ah, perfido! very convincingly.  Downes and the orchestra serve this music beautifully, with well-judged pacing and playing, but they know they’re not the stars and retreat so as to let Nilsson take centre-stage.  She is also supported by Decca’s characteristically excellent sound of the 1960s: over many years engineer Kenneth Wilkinson built up a close working relationship with Nilsson, not least in the Solti Ring, and she clearly saw him as a trusted colleague.
 
After the arias the sacred songs are rather less convincing.  Nilsson had an edge of steel to her voice which made her Isolde and Turandot so thrilling but really doesn’t work for O Holy Night.  Still, this is a highly recommendable compilation for anyone who wants a sampler of the great soprano’s work, especially at bargain price.  The booklet note contains some entertaining information about Nilsson’s life but very little about the music and no texts or translations.
 
By the way, La Nilsson is also the title of Birgit Nilsson’s autobiography: Sweden (1995) and Germany (1997). Northeastern University Press published the English language version in 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1555536701).
 
-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International 
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Works on This Recording

1. Tannhäuser: Dich, teure Halle by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1845/1861; Germany 
2. Oberon, J 306: Ozean! du Ungeheuer by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1825-1826; Dresden, Germany 
3. Der Freischütz, J 277: Leise, leise fromme Weise by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817-1821; Dresden, Germany 
4. Lohengrin: Einsam in trüben Tagen "Elsa's dream" by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
5. Die Walküre: Du bist der Lenz by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
6. Die Walküre: Der Männer Sippe sass hier im Saal by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
7. Fidelio, Op. 72: Abscheulicher!...Komm, Hoffnung by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: Vienna, Austria 
8. Ah, Perfido!, Op. 65 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Edward Downes
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1795-1796; Vienna, Austria 
9. Minuit, Chrétiens "O holy night" by Adolphe Adam
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Ĺke Levén (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
10. Ave Maria by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Ĺke Levén (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
11. Panis angelicus by César Franck
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Ĺke Levén (Organ)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; France 
12. Silent Night by Franz Xaver Gruber
Performer:  Birgit Nilsson (Soprano), Ĺke Levén (Organ)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1818; Austria 

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