IT'S BEEN A LONG WAIT FOR THESE, BUT WORTH IT!
L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 02/12/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a well documented and accepted fact that Kirsten Flagstad, (along with Birgit Nilsson) was the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the Twentieth Century. Hers was, based on these recordings alone, a voice of such beauty, richness, and substance - that one is hard-pressed to think of another voice that sounded like this ---- especially at age 62. Flagstad was one of those extremely fortunate singers whose voice took on a beautiful autumnal color after her official retirement. The extreme uppermost notes were relinquished as the middle and low sections of her instrument actually became more beautiful, more focused, and almmost contralto-like. London/Decca undertook quite a few recordings with Flagstad during this period, and the results yielded solid gold. Most of these London/Decca recitals were re-issued by the late 1990's and then disappeared again. The items presented HERE were originally issued as two different recordings ---- "Kirsten Flagstad Sings Sacred Songs" and "Flagstad Sings Bach and Handel". Neither of these were re-released in the late 1990's with the others. Now, ALL of them are reappearing on London/Decca Eloquence, and they are welcome indeed. To begin with, one gets to hear the great Flagstad voice with orchestra as opposed to mere piano in a recital. Hearing Flagstad with orchestra was always a more thrilling experience. However, one should really own the entire three volumes of these Flagstad treasures.
The "Sacred Songs" contain some very beautiful material, especially Parry's "Jerusalem" as well as "Silent Night", "Abide With Me", and and "O Divine Redeemer". The chorus is rather small, with the Flagstad voice always dominating the proceedings. The Bach and Handel arias are not sprightly and light as one has become accustomed to hearing them, but are opulently sung, richly delivered, and beautifully accompanied by Sir Adrian Boult. These recordings originate from the late 1950's, but they sound wonderful, and if anything, the Flagstad sounds even more spectacular than I remembered from the earlier LP's. This was supremely great singer who was fortunate enough in her final years to have retained her magnificent voice, and London/Decca took advantage of it.
Also very strongly recommended are the Flagstad versions of Acts I and III of "Die Walkure", which is also available in this series. London/Decca are to be commended and applauded for finally reissuing this wonderful Flagstad material. Highly recommended.