Mike Leone | Houston, TX, United States | 03/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Erna Sack was known by various nicknames, most of which included the word "Nightingale." Hence, she was at various times "The German Nightingale," "The European Nightingale" and "The International Nightingale." My first introduction to Erna Sack was by way of a Decca/London 10" LP containing selections she had recorded in 1949. Some were good; others, such as "Estrellita," where she goes spectacularly flat on the last note, less so. Even so, this album quickly became one of my favorites, just for Madame Sack's sheer joy in singing, which is obvious throughout the album.Later I met a German woman named Brunnhilde who gave me her two-LP set of Madame Sack on Telefunken to keep just because I enjoyed the singer so much. Unlike a lot of Erna Sack LPs that I have run across, this one was actually in good condition. Nobody can say that her fans did not enjoy her records, many of which were rather beaten up by the time I found them.Well, after a period where the art of Erna Sack was largely forgotten, she is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. At the front of that renaissance is the release by Telefunken of this CD which is both more and less than the two-LP set. It is less in that it does not contain all the selections on the LPs, and more in that it does include some items that are not on there, and is better engineered.These are, by and large, her most famous recordings, and the ones that turned up over and over again on various LP repackagings of her 78s that turned up during the 1950s. And with good reason: these recordings, made in the late 1930s, represent her in top form. Her joy in singing is certainly there, but she was in overall better vocal estate than she was for the Decca/London sessions, and whenever I put this CD or the other CDs of Madame Sack that I have in my car CD player, I am loathe to remove them. I can see how people wore out her records.My favorite selection here is whichever one I'm listening to at the moment, but if I had to single one out, I would choose the "Gluhwurmchen-Idyll" from the operetta "Lysistrata." This number is more commonly known to English-speaking audiences as "Glow Worm." I can't give a real reason why I like this selection the best, other than possibly that her charm is even more apparent here than elsewhere, and I love the "ah" phrases she sings over the chorus. The end of the piece also contains the cadenza that she was most fond of using, as well as her favorite concluding phrase.I don't care for the title track that much, mostly because I think it's a rather silly piece of music, but Erna does sing it well, and this is the one with the famous "violin effect." I find the following selection, Arditi's "Parla-Walzer," to be much more enjoyable. She would later record the same composer's "Il bacio" for Decca/London. And the Strauss waltzes are pretty much irresistible, especially the "Kaiser-Walzer" (which we know as the "Emperor Waltz") which is pretty darn near perfect, especially the beautiful cadenza near the end. The effect is spoilt a bit by the final note which is about an eighth-tone flat, but overall it's one of her better records.Erna Sack recorded a fair amount of opera as well, but those were not among her better-known records. We do get the nice aria from "Martha" here, as well as a couple of selections from "Die Fledermaus," technically an operetta but often performed by opera houses.A very interesting item, which is new to this CD and not on the corresponding LP, is the potpourri called "Die deutsche Nachtigall." This recording obviously took two 78rpm sides and is a medley of seven or eight tunes. The "Bravour Variationen uber ein Thema von Mozart," which is essentially variations on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is another that I also enjoy quite a bit. And the engineers have improved this item from the LP issue, where the engineer started turning the sound down at the end a little too early.Anyway, this is overall a very nice CD and a wonderful introduction to Erna Sack. Those who are interested in investigating Madame Sack a little more might go to amazon.de and get the three separate CDs on Dante called "Un rossignol allemand." They contain some of the same selections as here, but also a number of her opera recordings--including a rarely heard "Bell Song" from "Lakme"--and some live radio broadcasts as well. A very nice essay about her is contained in volume 3 of that set as well. And the two Decca/London 10" LPs (or both together on a single 12" record, lacking only "Estrellita") turn up on eBay fairly regularly. But this CD is definitely the place to start listening to Erna Sack."
A Vocal Comfort Zone Somewhere Around High C.
John Austin | Kangaroo Ground, Australia | 01/29/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many of the tracks heard on this CD demonstrate the best attributes of a singer who had a phenomenal voice but not a phenomenal success with critics. Erna Sack (1898-1972) had a vocal comfort zone somewhere around high C. The notes she could produce in that area were quite beautiful, and were wonderfully well caught on her Telefuncun recordings of the 1930s. When associated with eminent conductors like Dr Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (Tracks 2 & 3) and eminent singers like Marcel Wittrisch (Tracks 4 & 5) she produced her best work; elsewhere there were sometimes pitch problems, vocal roughnesses, and crude chortling. No singer to make records ever seemed to be enjoying herself as much as Frau Sack did, however, and this is another remarkable attribute that is well worth hearing. Accompanying orchestras included the Berlin Philharmonic, and there was often a chorus. Her career in opera and in concert was never as secure or as successful as reported by her manager, promoter and husband, Hermann Sack, whom she married in 1921. At her concert in Melbourne, Australia, I walked out a half time. You'll not feel like abandoning this CD however, which provides very good value. I hope for more Erna Sack reissues together with other treasures from the Telefuncun vaults."
Will open up closets of the mind closed since 1945
John Austin | 06/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I played selections from this CD over the telephone to the German born wife of a friend. "Ciribiribin" and "Chi Sa?" brought back the good memories of a childhood spoiled by forced membership in the Hitler Jugend. Hats off to Warner/Teldec for restoring these old Telefunken delights. They are relatively hard to find but, then, the good ones always are. Erna Sack has a voice from the highest of the Alps."
More than just high notes...
M. Tietjen | Syracuse, NY, USA | 09/01/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Of the three sopranos whom I have personally heard whose voices extend beyond the G in alt (the others being Mado Robin and Natalie Dessay), Erna Sack had the widest range and the prettiest voice. Her technique was also very impressive, far exceeding Robin's, but falling a little short of the phenomenal virtuosity of Dessay. And as an old school coloratura, she wasn't as emotionally involved in the music as, say, a Callas or Sutherland. But she was definitely more than just a factory for producing high notes, although there are plenty of them on this album. She had a very playful voice and sounds like she's having a lot of fun recording these selections, mostly from operettas. And some of her techincal feats are astounding; on the title track, she hits a high note so quietly that I didn't even realize that she was singing until she came down. She sounds like a violin. As for the sound quality, I am extremely impressed with Teldec's restoration techniques. Some of these were recorded in 1936, but the sound quality is so high, you would think it was recorded 50 years later."