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Jessye Norman Classics
Giuseppe Verdi, Francis Poulenc, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Jessye Norman Classics
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Classical
  •  Track Listings (14) - Disc #1


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Simply Wonderful
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I have always loved Jessye Norman since the first time I heard her voice. That occasion occurred when I bought a completely unknown Verdi opera, Il Corsaro, and was delighted with the result. I knew who Caballe was (I had recordings of her singing, and enjoyed them), but Jessye Norman was a complete unknown to me. I was taken back by the rich vibrant spacious voice that I heard. What also interested me was the fact she could do coloratura work, and float a very beautiful high B flat. The voice then was not as fully developed as now, nor was her artistry as deep, but what I heard was simply breathtaking and I was hooked on her as an artist from that time forth.This disk is simply a sampling of her singing, and it does show her singing a wide variety of things. She is not perfect in everything she sings (and even the Great Maria Callas was not successful in everything she sang, and I doubt any artist is; some works simply are better suited to their voices and their temperments than others), but one cannot fault her interpretations. The voice is always beautiful and well managed.I perfer Norman in German opera, which is sampled here, and even though I think she sings a great Strauss (the Ariadne) I feel that composer really doesn't give her much. I have a recording of her doing Salome, which I love and she is superb, but Strauss is not the composer for her. Wagner is where she really sings and takes your breath away. Sadly, there is no real representation of his music here. French opera is another place she really excels. However, nothing of any real worth is represented here. American music, particularly spirituals, is another field in which she is sublime. Her Christmas Album is incredible. In this area all we have is the Gershwin, which is extremely well sung, but not really to my liking. To me, for some reason, Ethel Mermon should be singing that song. As for the Baroque music; Norman is actually exceptional in it. Her voice is fabulous and breathes much warmth into music that is often sung in such a cold lifeless way it loses any power to communicate. I happen to love her Dido (I have the complete opera, and I have that opera with many other singers who are equally fine). I do agree with the one writer who stated that her voice is really "too much" for this music. It actually is. If one has heard Norman in real life, she has an incredibly powerful, full voice. It has nobility in it that is well suited to the grandest of the grand. She is an unforgetable Cassandre in Berlioz's opera. In many ways, it is like hearing Brunhilde sing Vivaldi with the voice large enough to wash over a Wagnerian orchestra being accompanied by 10 instruments. However, not matter how loud or strong her singing, the voice always remains warm, caressing, and enveloping (it is never sharp and penetrating like Nilsson cutting into the ear like a spear). Norman never violates the style of the music she sings. She just has a huge voice. Yes, she can sing the most melting pianissimos, and does so, but God gave her a treasure trove (not a simple chest) of virtues and abilities in her voice. Even though I love her voice, and her singing of Dido, the truth is she is too much of a good thing for that role. Now that isn't to say the music is lesser music, not at all for it is truly great music, it is simply the way it is written, the style of the period it comes from, and the emotional content and the way it should be expressed is simply not right for her lush and glorious sound. With all this said, this is a super recording. The sound is excellent. I would say, Norman did very well with her recording career having Philips be her label. They have served her voice well. One thing I must say, and this is rather general about recordings; Philips has really done well to capture the true quality of this amazing voice. Most companies simply can't capture large voices well, and often we hear their many problems before we can hear their many strengths. Decca for all its wonderful recording technique never captured the real Nilsson, nor the real Sutherland (and definitely not the real Tebaldi), simply because the miking system has the most terrible time capturing large voices without distorting them. EMI was the worst at capturing big sounding voices and keeping them sounding true. Philips has managed to capture the sound of Norman's voice and to remain fairly true to it. One is not surprised to hear her in performance after hearing one of her recordings. You just feel more "part of it" in a live setting than on the recordings. Nilsson shocked me, for I was completely unprepared for the strength of her penetrating and exciting sound when I hear her live for the first time. It was like the records captured only a shadow of what and who she was. The fact that the engineers at Philips have captured her sound so well really places this recording (and all the rest of Normon's recordings) on the top of my list for "authentic sound." I recommend this recording as a wonderful introduction to the art of Jessye Norman. She is a complete artist, and like all singers, she has areas where she is super and without rival, and other areas where she is not necessarily our first choice. Yet, no matter what she sings one can never claim she is uninvolved, detached, or careless in her work. She sings with conviction, and she puts her own stamp on everything she sings. She literally makes the music her own."
A monumental talent
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jessye Norman has a landmark voice. It has such warmth, variety of colour, strength and depth that few can surpass her interpretations. The tracks on this CD are a good mixture that show off the best qualities of her voice. Of course few CDs are perfect and, I'm afraid this is not one of them. Although the Poulenc and Brahms songs are supurbly executed and the Strauss song and aria are similarly noteworthy I must take exception to two of the renditions. Jessye's Dido leaves something to be desired. For me, and those others I have discussed this with, her voice is too rich and uncharacteristic for a touching Baroque aria. I've had the good fortune to play continuo in a live performance of Dido and Aeneas and the Dido in that performance was much colder, though still emotional. For me too Jessye's vibrato is a little too much for the work. Likewise unsatisfactory for me was the Gerschwin. I thought it was a little too much like a vacuum cleaner at points (no offence intended). However, given the overall stunning quality and effortlessly beautiful singing I felt compelled to give this a 5 star rating, after all there is still over one hour of sublime music and perhaps others will like her renditions of the two tracks I highlighted."