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The Very Best of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber
The Very Best of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Genres: Pop, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #2

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was certainly one of the greatest singers of her own, or indeed any other time. An obsessive perfectionist, her flawless technique and intonation over a huge range, vocal flexibility, breath control, ...  more »

      
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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was certainly one of the greatest singers of her own, or indeed any other time. An obsessive perfectionist, her flawless technique and intonation over a huge range, vocal flexibility, breath control, phrasing, stylistic versatility, and above all her focused, radiantly beautiful sound were matchless and incomparable. All these are on full display on this generous 2-CD set, which features over a dozen arias, songs by Schubert, Wolf and Richard Strauss, and some lighter fare. The recordings were made between 1950 and 1967, and the singing becomes better and better, the voice richer and more varied, the expression deeper and more immediate. Not surprisingly, the peaks come in the arias from her signature roles in Mozart's Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte; Richard Strauss' Ariadne, Rosenkavalier, and Arabella, which rise to real ecstasy; and arias from Weber's Freischütz and Smetana's Bartered Bride, which are wonderfully intimate and touching. She is less convincing in roles she never sang on stage, and the "childish" voice she cultivated especially for Hänsel and Gretel is unnatural and contrived. The same is true of the last two "popular" numbers, which sound condescending and artificial. The songs, however, have all her customary finesse and inwardness; the Wolf group, perhaps chosen for its gentle humor, is charming, while Strauss' "Four Last Songs" (represented by two) shimmer and soar. Schwarzkopf's singing had instantly recognizable characteristics: a tendency to hold back both vocally and emotionally, giving a sense of noble restraint, but also of cool detachment; excessive use of color and nuance, creating a fussy, calculated and somewhat artificial air. Only rarely does she "let go" with full voice and spontaneous feeling. However, as these recordings show, she invariably inspires admiration and captures ear and heart through the inimitable, glorious beauty of her voice. --Edith Eisler

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