Search - George Frederick Handel, Johannes Brahms, Richard [Classical] Wagner :: A Legendary Voice: Maureen Forrester

A Legendary Voice: Maureen Forrester
George Frederick Handel, Johannes Brahms, Richard [Classical] Wagner
A Legendary Voice: Maureen Forrester
Genres: Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (15) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #2


Larger Image

CD Details


CD Reviews

A Great Voice, A Great Artist
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Maureen Forrester (b.1930) is certainly the best contralto I ever heard in live performance when she was a fixture at the Aspen Music Festival thirty-odd years ago. The voice was lustrous and expressive and her stage presence larger than life. This two-CD set confirms for me what a great artist she was.

CD 1 contains Handel arias compiled from several recordings. I'm not sure when they were made -- the booklet is silent on this point -- but the accompanying artists include the Vienna Radio Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera Orchestra (otherwise known as the Vienna Philharmonic), the English Chamber Orchestra and I solisti di Zagreb, each with a different conductor (Brian Priestman, Robert Zeller, Johannes Somary and Antonio Janigro). I think these arias were mainly taken from pioneering complete recordings of several of Handel's operas (Serse, Rodelinda, Ottone, Giulio Cesare) and oratorios (Jephtha, Theodora, Samson, Hercules) from the 1960s and 1970s. At any rate, they show that although Forrester is much remembered for the huge size of the voice she is capable of singing fioriture with a much lighter sound. Although she does not have a true trill, her vibrato somehow makes one think she does. That vibrato of hers is certainly one of the things that makes her voice so immediately identifiable. Her 'Ombra mai fu' from Serse is simply magnificent in its simplicity and grandeur. On the other hand, the coloratura fireworks of the same opera's 'Se bramate d'amor' is brilliant. And so on through fifteen selections.

CD2 contains, for me, great performances of Brahms's 'Vier Ernste Gesänge' and Wagner's 'Wesendonck Lieder'. The latter's 'Im Treibhaus' and 'Träume' brought me to tears. In these she is accompanied by her long-time pianist, John Newmark. They were recorded in 1968. The rest of the second CD contains a number of Brahms songs recorded live in concert in Toronto in 1981. Her accompanist at that recital was Thomas Muraco. The 'Zwei Gesänge' have viola obbligato supplied by Rivka Golani. If there is a weak link in this set is the eight 'Zigeunerlieder' of Brahms which, to my mind, calls for a lighter, younger voice capable of innocence or coyness. This is, of course, partly the fault of the songs themselves; their archness is too cutesy for my taste. CD2 was previously released by CBC as 'Grand Dame of Song'.

Unfortunately I have to give this set four stars, rather than five, because the booklet is skimpy on details and no texts and translations are included. Perhaps that is the rule these days, especially with budget re-releases, but still it is a major problem. Sound, on the other hand, is pretty good for its time. I am not particularly mechanically-minded and it took me several minutes to figure out how to get to the second CD in the set; it has an swinging gate arrangement I'd never seen before. Perhaps others won't be as stymied as I was.

This set can certainly be recommended to those who already know these songs and arias or who have access to their texts.

Scott Morrison"