A magnificent contralto. A fine recording. Not a revelation
Anton Zimmerling | Moscow, Russia | 01/23/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"People, who will turn this page and see that it contains live performances of the Alto Rhapsody, 'The Song of the Earth' and a portrait of the conductor, Paul Kletzki, may be puzzled by the fact that amazon.com recognizes only one soloist here - the Swedish tenor Set Svanholm. Relax: Svanholm is not usurping the alto part in Mahler and does not take over the solo part in Brahms's Rhapsody, Op. 53. All this is sung by the mexican contralto Oralia Dominguez.
I bought this CD because of these previously unissued Dominguez records, not because of the conductor, Paul Kletzki. His fine studio version with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (that is the real usurper of the alto bread!)and tenor Murray Dickie is available on EMI. Buying this Orfeo CD, you get a live Kletzki version with Dominguez as the main star: it was recorded in Wien on November 24, 1954. The style and accents made by Kletzki in 'Das Lied von der Erde' that evening are very different from his studio EMI version, which is not strange, since vocal resources and temperament of Dominguez and Svanholm differed completely from Fi-Di's and Dickie's.
Oralia Dominguez (dramatic contralto capable of singing the roles of operatic mezzos) had a big voice and a stormy temperament, which suited perfectly to Mahler's and Brahms music she is singing on this CD. Her art is best captured in two great live performances of the 1950-s: the 1959 version of Verdi's requiem with Ferenc Fricsay (DG), where her tremendous voice sounds in 'Liber scriptus' like an Jericho trumpet, and in the legendary 03.07.1951 Mexico performance of Aida with De Fabritiis (Fono 1031-2), where she almost steals the show from Callas and Del Monaco. Having in mind these heights, I ordered this Orfeo CD, but Dominguez' participance in it did not struck me as a new revelation.
In Brahms's Alto Rhapsody Dominguez is vocally safe but her German intonation is wanting and her performance is insignificant compared with such seminal achievements as Ferrier/Krauss (1952) or Christa Ludwig/Klemperer (1962).
In the alto part of Mahler's 'Lied' Dominguez' singing is more involved, but she does not reach the level of Ferrier/Walter (May 1952) and Ludwig/Klemperer (1967). The heroic tenor Set Svanholm was past his prime to the moment of this recording. His voice is too thick for this score, and he occasionally struggles in the high register. Record collectors remember his live performance w. Bruno Walter in New York on February 22, 1953 (available on Music & Arts 950). His performance with Walter and Kletzki is similar, but Elena Nikolaidi, who tackled the alto part with Bruno Walter, was a superior Mahler artist than Dominguez. I also prefer Walter's conducting, despite all merits of this Kletzki's recording.
Of course, we should be grateful for the fact that we got one more good recording in a descent sound from the 1950s, with first-rate soloists and an underrated Mahler conductor.
Recommended - for Mahler completists and for those, who like great voices and great conducting style."