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Kathleen Ferrier - The Complete EMI Recordings

Ferrier,Kathleen
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 56284   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachJohannes BrahmsSir Edward ElgarChristoph W. Gluck,   ... 
Performer:  Kathleen FerrierElisabeth SchwarzkopfGerald MooreNel Duval,   ... 
Conductor:  Herbert von KarajanCharles BruckBruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony OrchestraNetherlands Opera OrchestraNetherlands Opera Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 3 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Kathleen Ferrier’s recording career with EMI was relatively brief in an already too brief career. Although he was delighted at having signed her up, Walter Legge’s dictatorial manner repelled her and she soon defected to Decca, for whom, by and large, she made the best of her recordings in terms of both quality and sound.
 
Nonetheless, there are gems here: not least her early microphone testing sessions for Legge, the invaluable Kindertotenlieder for her mentor Bruno Walter and a complete recording of her signature role, Gluck’s
Read more Orfeo, in Amsterdam in 1951. The latter is an egregious example of where an EMI version easily tops the Decca: the 1947 recording, made under the inflexible Stiedry before Ferrier had refined and deepened her interpretation on stage, is both abridged and inferior in almost every way to this one. Conversely, the Bach excerpts, recorded almost by accident during rehearsals with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf under Karajan, are nowhere near as satisfying as the studio recordings made for Decca with Sir Adrian Boult. Ardent collectors will want to own the complete sets from both houses.
 
There is a theory that part of Ferrier’s extraordinary quality of sound derives from the fact that she was in a sense a true original, never having been schooled to acquire a “conservatory sound”. However, to my ears, she is simply the natural successor in a line of traditional British contraltos now virtually extinct. The nearest we have heard post-war is another great British singer, Janet Baker. She would surely admit to possessing a somewhat lighter voice with a timbre and colouring more mezzo-soprano than true contralto. Even so, there is considerable overlap in the Fach, bearing in mind that Verdi expected his contraltos to have a top B, as indeed did the stentorian British contralto Dame Clara Butt. Both Baker and Ferrier excelled as Gluck’s Orfeo and in Brahms’Vier ernste Gesänge. Whereas Baker had more of an upper extension and was never going to attempt Fricka or Waltraute, it is possible to speculate that Ferrier could have gone on to sing some of the great Wagner roles had she lived beyond the age of 41.
 
Certainly the richness of her oboe sound, with its amplitude and unobtrusive, flickering vibrato, inspired an affection and emotional response in listeners which endure to this day. This despite the fact Ferrier had a professional career spanning little more than a decade.
 
The earliest items here are those tests made by Legge in 1944 which remained unissued until 1978. They comprise pieces by Gluck, Brahms and Elgar. Although beautifully sung, the English translation of Che farò has, understandably, given the time when and the conditions under which it was made, a rather placid, oratorio-like quality. The aria is utterly transformed by the time we come to the complete, live performance in 1951. Particularly valuable is the aria from The Dream of Gerontius, sung grandly to only piano accompaniment, as she never recorded a role which was surely ideal suited to her sonorous, plangent alto.
 
She signed a one year contract with Legge and her first commercial releases were the two stately arias by Maurice Greene, two sterling Handel solos and five delightful duets from Purcell and Mendelssohn with Isobel Baillie. She then left for Decca, returning to EMI to record Kindertotenlieder with Walter in 1949. The bonus tracks here are previously unreleased back-up takes. Interestingly, the notes tell us that these were “originally recorded on 12-inch waxes, with a tape machine running as safety back-up, as was EMI s practice in 1949. Masters from the waxes were used for most of the original 78-rpm sides, but for the release of the work on CD, the back-up tapes were used, and these reserve takes have also survived.”
 
Moving on to 1951, Ferrier’s Orfeo is a tour de force: the sinews of her Italian have by this stage of her career hardened and she is able to fine down her ample tone to enhance the pathos of her appeal to the Furies. The first cries of “Euridice” send the message that here is a voice of depth and tenderness. Her soft singing, command of portamento and affecting messa di voce all add greatly to the drama of Euridice’s second death and the subsequent celebrated lament. Sadly, no other singer on stage - neither the two other soloists, nor the enthusiastic and expressive chorus afflicted with the curse of the wobbly soprano - is remotely in her league. The Amore is nasal and tweety but adequate; Euridice is gusty and tremulous. The opening of the Elysian Fields scene is especially unpromising, with ill-tuned strings, the chorus slipping out of synch with the orchestra and Euridice twittering unsteadily. Things soon look up with a lovely, rapt, absolutely steady Che puro ciel! from Ferrier. Bruck skilfully brings out the delicate orchestration to heighten the serene mood. As further compensation, the sound derived from the painstakingly restored original tapes is very acceptable. The voices are very present. There are very few coughs and even though the orchestral sound is muddy, it is clear that Bruck conducts sensitively. He is always alive to Gluck’s colouring and paces proceedings aptly, unlike Stiedry’s undue haste. In particular, he gets the tempo just right for Che farò.
 
The version sung is a kind of back-formation of Berlioz’s orchestration sung in Italian, standard before an amalgam of the Vienna and Paris editions became the norm. A modern listener will find it somewhat truncated.
 
The other major item here is the Mahler song cycle with Walter. Many collectors will already be familiar with their famous Das Lied von der Erde. The conductor was a huge admirer of the singer and that respect was reciprocated. Again we notice how Ferrier’s linguistic command has matured under Walter’s tutelage and the interpretations themselves are mesmerising. Her dark voice and Walter’s authentic Mahlerian sensibility make a perfect marriage. The playing of the VPO is wonderfully warm and impassioned. This remains a classic account and every lover of these elegies should know it.
 
The two previously unreleased bonus tracks reveal the consistency of Ferrier’s instrument; perhaps one or two slight rhythmic slips and a desire to fill out her tone more fully at one or two climaxes and apply more emotional weight in places such as the opening of In diesem Wetter prompted the desire to re-take but any imperfections are hardly perceptible.
 
No texts are supplied but there is an informative essay by Warwick Thompson and three rare publicity photographs from the EMI vaults. These were made when Ferrier first signed a contract with HMV/Columbia.  

-- Ralph Moore, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Agnus Dei by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/15/1950 
Venue:  Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 5 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
2.
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Christe eleison by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano), Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/15/1950 
Venue:  Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
3.
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Qui sedes by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/15/1950 
Venue:  Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
4.
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Et in unum Dominum by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Soprano)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/15/1950 
Venue:  Great Hall, Musikverein, Vienna, Austria 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
5.
Songs (6), Op. 3: no 1, Liebestreu by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/30/1944 
6.
Deutsche Volkslieder (49), WoO 33: no 12, Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht barfuss gehn by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1894; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/30/1944 
7.
The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38: My work is done by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899-1900; England 
Date of Recording: 09/30/1944 
8.
Orfeo ed Euridice: Che farò senza Euridice? by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Charles Bruck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1951 
Venue:  Municipal Theater, Amsterdam 
Length: 6 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
9.
Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph W. Gluck
Performer:  Nel Duval (Soprano), Greet Koeman (Soprano), Kathleen Ferrier (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Charles Bruck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Opera Chorus,  Netherlands Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1762/1774; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/1951 
Venue:  Live  Municipal Theater, Amsterdam 
10.
O praise the Lord, ye that fear him by Maurice Greene
Performer:  Gerald Moore (Piano), Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Period: Baroque 
Written: England 
Date of Recording: 09/30/1944 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Language: English 
11.
O God of my righteousness "I will lay me down in peace" by Maurice Greene
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1743 
Date of Recording: 09/30/1944 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Language: English 
12.
Ottone, HWV 15: La speranza è giunta in porto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Gerald Moore (Piano), Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1723; London, England 
Date of Recording: 04/20/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 3 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Language: English 
13.
Ottone, HWV 15: Vieni, o figlio, e mi consola by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1723; London, England 
Date of Recording: 04/20/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: English 
14.
Kindertotenlieder by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/04/1949 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England 
Length: 23 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: German 
15.
Kindertotenlieder: Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/04/1949 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England  
Notes: Alternate take. 
16.
Kindertotenlieder: In diesem wetter, in diesem braus by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Conductor:  Bruno Walter
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1904; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/04/1949 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London, England  
Notes: Alternate take. 
17.
Duets (6), Op. 63: no 1, Ich wollt' meine Lieb' by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Isobel Baillie (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
Language: English 
18.
Duets (6), Op. 63: no 3, Gruss by Felix Mendelssohn
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Isobel Baillie (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844; Germany 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Language: English 
19.
Sound the trumpet, Z 335 by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Isobel Baillie (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano), Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1687; England 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 2 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: English 
20.
Indian Queen, Z 630: Let us wander not unseen by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Kathleen Ferrier (Alto), Isobel Baillie (Soprano), Gerald Moore (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1695; England 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: English 
21.
King Arthur, or The British Worthy, Z 628: Shepherd leave by Henry Purcell
Performer:  Gerald Moore (Piano), Isobel Baillie (Soprano), Kathleen Ferrier (Alto)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1691; England 
Date of Recording: 09/21/1945 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 3, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

Orfeo ed Euridice (1997 - Remaster): What is life to me without thee? (Che farò senza Euridice) (Act 3)
6 Lieder Op. 3 (1997 - Remaster): Constancy (Liebestreu) (Reinick)
49 Deutsche Volkslieder (1997 - Remaster): No. 12, Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht barfuss geh'n
The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 (1997 - Remaster): My work is done ... It is because
I will lay me down in peace (from anthem 'O God of my righteousness') (1997 - Remaster)
O praise the Lord (from anthem 'Praise the Lord, O my soul') (1997 - Remaster)
Spring is coming ('Ottone' - Haym) (1998 - Remaster)
Come to me, soothing sleep ('Ottone' - Haym) (1998 - Remaster)
Sound the trumpet ('Birthday Ode for Queen Mary') (1998 - Remaster)
Let us wander, not unseen ('The Indian Queen' - Dryden) (1998 - Remaster)
Shepperd, shepherd, leave decoying ('King Arthur' - Dryden) (1998 - Remaster)
I would that my love, Op.63 No. 1 (Heine) (1998 - Remaster)
Greeting, Op.63 No. 2 (Eichendorff) (1998 - Remaster)
Kindertotenlieder (Rückert) (1998 - Remaster): Nun will die Sonn' so hell aufgeh'n
Kindertotenlieder (Rückert) (1998 - Remaster): Nun seh' ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen
Kindertotenlieder (Rückert) (1998 - Remaster): Wenn dein Mütterlein, tritt zur Tür herein
Kindertotenlieder (Rückert) (1998 - Remaster): Oft denk' ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen!
Kindertotenlieder (Rückert) (1998 - Remaster): In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232: Duet: Christe eleison
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232: Contralto aria: Qui sedes
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232: Duet: Et in unum Dominum
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232: Contralto Aria: Agnus Dei
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Sinfonia (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Ah! Se intorno a quest'urna funesta (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Amici, quel lamento (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Ballet of Shepherds and Nymphy (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Ah! Se intorno a quest'urna funesta (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Chiamo il mio ben così (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Voi delle ombre oscura (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Amore assisterà l'infelice marito! (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Gli sguardi trattieni (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Che disse? Che ascoltai? (Act I) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Dance of the Furies – Chi mai dell'Erebo (Act II) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Deh! Placatevi con me (Act II) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Misero giovane! (Act II) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Mille pene, ombre sdegnose (Act II) (1998 - Remaster)
Orfeo ed Euridice (1998 – Remaster): Ah! Quale incognito (Act II) (1998 - Remaster)

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