Notes and Editorial Reviews
Opera Arias and Duets by Mozart, Rossini, Heiling, Lortzing, Kreutzer, Nessler, Leoncavallo, Humperdinck, Korngold, and J. Strauss II
Hermann Prey (bar)
PREISER 93466 (74:40)
This is an unqualified rave. Hermann Prey (1929–98) possessed one of the most stunningly beautiful singing voices ever to grace this planet—a baritone of caressing, velvety tone that positively enfolded one’s ears in luxury, flawless in production and projection from top to bottom, with superb diction and breath control, and little deterioration even at the end of a career spanning more than 40 years. (I was blessed to hear him live once; Nicolai Gedda canceled a recital in Chicago to which I had a ticket, and Prey substituted on short notice with pianist Helmut Deutsch in an all-Brahms Lieder program. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.) Rarer still, as an interpreter he was (like Carlo Bergonzi and Fritz Wunderlich) utterly unaffected and simply incapable of making a false or misjudged musical move. Singing was as natural to him as breathing, yet he never descended to the merely routine. If he did not subtly probe his texts for nuances with the consummate skill of Fischer-Dieskau, neither did he ever fall into affected mannerisms as the latter occasionally did. Finally, there was an unfettered joy in his art that was utterly infectious in communication to his hearers.
This CD presents 16 selections—one from the Electrola catalog, the others from Columbia—recorded at the onset of Prey’s career, from 1954 to 1957. So far as I can tell, only one (an aria from
) is drawn from a complete opera recording, and only one other track (the Nedda–Silvio duet from
, sung in German as
) is otherwise currently in print. Better yet, most of the selections are arias from light operas and operettas seldom heard outside of Germany and unlikely to be in most vocal collections. The music is simply delightful and, with Prey rendering it, even ravishing, his artistry already fully formed. His delivery is so fluent that one scarcely notes that three excerpts from Italian-language works are sung in German; the vivacity and vocal accuracy of his
Ich bin das Factotum
simply put to shame almost any baritone since Riccardo Stracciari, and by itself is almost worth the price of the CD. The closest thing to a shortcoming here is that perhaps his Silvio is rather
nice for rotgut
As with all Preiser releases, the transfers are absolutely pristine, in excellent monaural sound with no surface noise. The original matrices are scrupulously documented, and the dual-language German-English notes are brief but trenchant. No lover of great singing can afford to be without this disc. Highest recommendation, and a likely 2010 Want List entry.
FANFARE: James A. Altena