PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf; WAGNER: 2 Arias from Tannhauser; 2 Arias from Tristan und Isolde; 2 Arias from Die Walkuere; Siegrfried: “Nothung! Nothung!;” “Mime hiess ein muerrischer Zwerg” – Lauritz Melchior, tenor/ Chicago Sym./Reiner – Myto

by | Apr 2, 2006 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67; WAGNER: 2 Arias from Tannhauser; 2 Arias from Tristan und Isolde; 2 Arias from Die Walkuere; Siegrfried: “Nothung! Nothung!;” Die Goetterdaemmerung: “Mime hiess ein muerrischer Zwerg” – Lauritz Melchior, tenor/ NBC Symphony/ Fritz Reiner /Albert Reiss, tenor/ Otto Helgers, bass

Myto CD 061.H109 mono,  76:56 (Distrib. Qualiton) ***:

While the main feature on this disc – Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf live
from 1951 NBC Symphony (mis-labeled Chicago Symphony) with the great
Wagnerian heldentenor Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973) – might be construed a
sophisticate’s party-joke, especially since Melchior hams up the various
animals≠ parts and spruces up the narrative with asides, the performance
provides a rare glimpse into the broad and generous personality of this
world-class singer. The poor quality of the recording will put off
audiophiles because of its insistent crackle, swish, and even the presence
of some other audio source not fully eliminated from the original. The
playing of the NBC Symphony, however, is as accurate as William Tell’s
arrow. Melchior’s palpable interaction with the audience, his geniality
and tongue-in-cheek humor, are delightfully transparent. The Danish accent
and avuncular pose make this a treat for music lovers of all ages.

The remainder of this anomalous CD is devoted to 1929-1930 Wagner
inscriptions, via German Electrola and Ultraphone. These are marvelously
clean transfers, with Melchior in strong, sweet voice, always resonant and
augmented by clear diction. His Dir toene Lob from Tannhauser sets the
monumental standard at once, the large-arched phrases in dramatic contrast
to the intense intimacy of the next aria, Inbrunst im Herzen. No
conductors share credit with Melchior, although at this time he worked
with the likes of Frieder Weissmann and Leo Blech. A consummate Tristan,
Melchior’s rendition of Wohin nun Tristan scheidet presents his lyrical
voice against the drooping “Tristan chord” itself, then its unfolding of
the Liebesnacht from Act II. That Melchior can float a chest tone as well
as deliver pungent high notes has here happy testimony. Wie sie selig,
hehr und mild, with its violin obbligato, extends motifs from the Act I
Prelude, mezzo-voce, as the love music swims in self-annihilating bliss.

The–dare I say–“tenor” changes with Melchior’s Siegfried, although the
sensuality in Ein Schwert verheiss mir der Vater is hardly subtle. Then,
Winterstuerme wichen dem Wonnemond. Confident, assertive, keening with
pride, Siegfried simultaneously vaunts his lineage and laments his trials.
The extended scene for the forging of Siegfried’s sword invokes primal
forces for future dragon-slaying, electrifying aural definition even at
almost eighty years of age. Even the clanging of the forge rings with
pungent energy. Echoes of the Forest Murmurs hail Siegfried’s aria in the
last of the Ring operas. Rife with leitmotifs of the Rhinegold, Alberich’s
curse, Brunnhilde’s awakening, and Siegfried’s funeral march, the music
presents as rich a panoply as Melchior’s ardent vocal projection. Splendid
characterizations. One final anomaly, though: for the picture on the back
cover bearing the caption “Fritz Reiner,” we have a nice photo of Eugene

–Gary Lemco

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