Notes and Editorial Reviews
Constantly illuminating … these Strauss arias can be compared with the best.
Born in Stara Zagora in Bulgaria in 1941 Anna Tomowa-Sintow made her operatic debut in her home town in 1965 as Tatiana in Eugene Onegin. As the daughter of a member of the opera chorus she early became familiar with Verdi’s operas. Arabella was one of her first major roles when she came to Leipzig, where she was a member of the company from 1967 to 1972, when she moved to Berlin. There Herbert von Karajan heard her and engaged her for the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1973. This was her springboard to stardom.
The present disc, recorded in 1974, mirrors some important roles in her early repertoire, some of which she later recorded complete. Her recording of Ariadne auf Naxos for Deutsche Grammophon with James Levine was awarded a Grammy in 1988. On an Orfeo recital, issued in 1984 she also recorded Es gibt ein Reich from Ariadne as well as the final scene from Daphne, and among her many recordings with Karajan there is a competitive reading of Vier letzte Lieder. In other words: she had an affinity for Richard Strauss and on the present disc she is at her very best in the Strauss excerpts. The legendary Strauss-interpreter Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is quoted on her homepage saying: ‘Anna Tomowa-Sintow is to me the greatest talent that I have encountered over the past years …’. Among her best assumptions on record is the title role in Korngold’s Strauss-influenced Das Wunder der Heliane, which was reissued not so long ago (see review).
She was 33 when this recital disc was made, and fresh of voice. She retained her ability to float an ethereal pianissimo throughout her distinguished career. Comparing recordings made almost twenty years apart it isn’t easy to decide what is early and what is late. She achieved an impressive consistency. Her Tatiana from Eugene Onegin is eager, vulnerable and nervous, something that is enhanced by the slightly fluttery vibrato, which makes her sound at times uncannily like another noted Tatiana, Elisabeth Söderström - high praise. Another vulnerable character, whose dread emanates from a premonition of death, is Desdemona in Otello. Her long scene from the last act is sung with restraint and inwardness, more to herself than to Emilia, who isn’t present on the recording anyway. But she shows her dramatic ability with a powerful outbreak on the phrase Taci … Chi batte quella porta. She hasn’t quite the creamy tones of Renata Tebaldi, a longstanding favourite in this role. She is very much inside the character and gives a truly musical reading. The more outward aria from La forza del destino, another aria where Tebaldi is the touchstone, is sung with great intensity and some angelic pianissimo notes but the vibrato is at times a bit disturbing. This was less noticeable in the Otello scene, which made me believe that the flutter in the Tchaikovsky scene wasn’t intentional but recorded at a session where she wasn’t quite on top form.
The Strauss arias, on the other hand, are all delivered with such steady and beautiful tone, such superb heavenly pianissimo singing and such luminous top notes that I can recall few recordings worthy to stand by her side. The disc is worth acquiring for the reading of Es gibt ein Reich alone.
She is excellently supported by the Gewandhausorchester, whose famous strings are unsurpassed in Strauss. The overall sonority of the orchestra can be admired throughout the recital, not least in the bouncy waltz sequence that rounds off Arabella’s monologue. Kurt Masur’s conducting is vital and responsive, which is a further incentive to acquire the disc. The sound is everything one might expect from a 35-year-old analogue recording. It was originally issued, I believe, on the East German label Eterna.
Constantly illuminating readings and the singing of the three Strauss arias can be compared with the best.
-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International