Great Schorr, poor transfers
Albert Innaurato | Philadelphia Pa | 06/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In these recordings made between 1927 and 1931 Schorr's singing is so improbably glorious that it's never been matched. Heard in good transfers these are well made records, with plenty of warmth and a good orchestral balance. Schorr recorded many of these selections earlier, and there is a very chopped up and distant recording of some of an earlier complete performance, but these are infinitely better. Schorr has a gorgeous bass baritone sound that floats effortlessly and covers a wide dynamic range, from a strong but never forced forte (loud) dynamic to a heavenly mezza voce (half voice) and even a sweet, full bodied piano (soft tone). He has a legato conception of singing supported by an endless breath, not barking or semi-speaking, and no coarseness ever in the sound. Like all the great singers of this era he sings off the words, and they are beautifully pronounced in themselves, he achieves a perfect balance of word and tone. No one has come close to this, not Schorr himself, in two Met broadcasts made past his best (the one from 36 is much the better of the two), and certainly none of the many singers of the role since, apt to be hoarse, constricted, uneasy at either top or bottom, inclined to bark, or unable to move their heavy voices to achieve Schorr's extraordinary delicacy and sweetness, or too light to bring this kind of importance to what is being sung.
Unfortunately the transfers here are very noisy. For at least quarter century is has been possible to reproduce these recordings in all their fullness and presence, with the various noises that accrued due to playing eliminated (when masters could be found, and it's a pity EMI didn't do a complete selection), and when there were no masters with a technology that when discretely used kept the sound but reduced the noise. Pearl apparently didn't care, and some of these selections sound like the record was found in granny's attic and immediately put on the CD.
His colleagues here are very good (maybe the slightly whiny tenor Laubenthal excepted), and they include the great Melchior and the enchanting Elisabeth Schumann in a never bettered recording of the third act quintet. The great English conductor Albert Coates gets to conduct the amusing 'Jerum!' and the lead in to the quintet which like many other selections is conducted well by Lawrence Collingwood. Leo Blech also gets a hand in, and conducts the 'filler', a marvelous account of the Dutchman's first act monologue.
Unfortunately this is the only complete collection of Schorr's Sachs recordings on CD, but those who resist 'old records' will have a case making CD here. That's why the three stars."