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Cd review 45
CD REVIEW 45
GREAT BRITISH SOPRANOS
Regis RRC1374 (79.44).
A selection of pre-war performances by British sopranosin repertoire which secured their reputations.
Weber: Ocean, thou mighty monster!(from Oberon – Act II)
Sung in English, recorded 19th December, 1911Agnes Nicholls
Mozart: Misera Elvira. Mi tradi quell’alma ingrate(from Don Giovanni – Act II)
Sung in Italian, recorded 2nd May, 1929Miriam Licette
Puccini: One fine day(from Madam Butterfly, Act II)
Sung in English, recorded 10th June, 1933Eva Turner
Debussy: Mes longs cheveux(from Pelleas et Melisande, Act III)
Sung in French, recorded before 1904Mary Garden
Sung in French, recorded 26th March, 1941Maggie Teyte
Sung in French, recorded 20th May 1946Maggie Teyte with Gerald Moore
Ne’ trionfa d’Alessandro Lusinghe piu care
(from Alessandro)Sung in Italian, recorded 16th February 1949Isobel BaillieLondon Symphony Orchestra conducted bySir Malcolm Sargent,
12. Handel: O Sleep! Why dost thou leave me?
Sung in English, recorded June 1927Elsie Suddaby
Sung in English, recorded 11th July 1924Elsie Suddaby
16. Delius: Evening Voices (Twighlight Fancies) 4.10
Recorded in 10th July 1929, Sung in EnglishDora Labette with Thomas Beecham ( piano)
Sung in English, recorded 7th March 1949Gwen CatleyFlute obligato by Lionel Solomon, orchestraconducted by Eric Robinson,
Sung in Italian, recorded 1927Margaret SheridanOrchestra of La Scala, Milan conducted byCarlo Sabanjo, with Aureliano Pertile (tenor).
Sung in Italian, recorded November 1926Margaret Sheridan
Sung in Italian, recorded November 1927Margaet Sheridan,Orchestra conducted by Eugene Goosens,
Sung in Italian, recorded 1926Margaret Sheridan
The sleeve notes for this welcome CD are brief and so I would like to give a few details about the tensopranos on this CD. It is important that we do not forget the great singers of the past. There are someslightly differing opinions about the singers dates, I should add.
Agnes Nicholls was born on 16 July 1876 in Cheltenham, the daughter of a draper, who loved music.
She studied at RCM and sang before Queen Victoria three times at Royal command. She was excellentat Mozart and superb in Wagner with the roles of Venus, Sieglinde and Brunnhilde. Hans Richterconducted her in a Ring Cycle in 1908. Four years earlier, in 1904 she married the Irish composer andconductor Hamilton Harty who died in 1941. He was the man who inspired the Halle Orchestra (1920-1933) to a high standard which dropped after his death and declined drastically in the Barbirolli years(1943-1970) and was redeemed and became a fine orchestra under Skrowaczewski (1984-1992).
Nicholls toured periodically including a tour to Australia. She had a pure voice and a fine sense ofdrama. She died in London on 21 September 1959.
As for Miriam Licette, she was born at Over, Chester on 9 September 1892. She studied in Italy withMelba's teacher and with Melba herself. Among her many roles, she sang Marguertie in Gounod'sFaust, Micaela in Bizet's Carmen, Pamina in The Magic Flute, Antonia in Offenbach's Tales ofHoffmann, Licetta in Charpentier's Louise and in the UK premiere of Bizet's The Fair Maid of Perth.
In 1918, she sang Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walkure. She sang in a revival of Delius's A VillageRomeo and Juliet and in the UK premiere of Hindemith's Cardillac. She died in a Reading hospital on11 August 1989.
The widely-held view that only modern singers can tackle these demanding roles is absurd.
Dame Eva Turner was a star. She was born on 10 March 1892 in Werneth, Lancashire and began hercareer as a member of the chorus of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. She sang the taxing roles ofWagner very well as well as Bizet, Puccini and in Beethoven's Fidelio. Toscanini took her up for the1924-1925 season at La Scala, Milan, where she sang the Wagner roles of Freia and Sieglinde. Shewas outstanding in Puccini's Turandot. When Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his gorgeous Serenadefor Music,which employed sixteen solo singers, he composed lines especially for Turner. On retiringin 1948, she became Professor of Voice at the University of Oklahoma and, on returning to London in1959, was Professor of Voice at RAM. She was made a DBE in 1962. She died on 16 July 1990, aged98.
The recording of Mary Garden on this disc was made before 1904. She was born in Aberdeen on 20February 1874 and enjoyed a career in France and the USA. She was also an actress working withOscar Hammerstein and was a talent scout for MGM. She is well know for her role as Melisande inDebussy's Pelleas and Melisande which is regarded as a poor opera. She also sang in Massenet'sCherubin. She died on 3 January 1967.
I have never warmed to Maggie Teyte who was born in Northampton on 17 April 1885. She studied atthe Royal School of Music and in Paris where she sang Cherubino in Mozart's Magic Flute andZerlina. She moved to America and sang with the Chicago Opera Group (1911-1914) and the BostonOpera Group (1914-1917). She returned to Britain in 1919 and, two years later, married for the secondtime to a Canadian millionaire Sherwin Cottingham. Like her first marriage to Eugene de Pluman(1909 -1915) this union also ended in divorce. In the 1930s she worked with the pianist Alfred Cortortmainly in songs by Debussy. She appeared in New York in 1948. She was created a Dame in 1958 anddied in London on 26 May 1976.
She never seemed to fit in anywhere and, on this disc, her performance of Bizet's Chanson de Avril istoo fast. Listen to the excellent recorded performance by Jill Gomez.
Isobel Baillie was born in Hawick on 9 March 1895 and made her name mostly in oratorio. Shetaught at RCM (1955-1957 and 1961-1964), Cornell University (1960-1961) and Manchester Schoolof Music from 1970. She was a tutor to Kathleen Ferrier. She received the CBE in 1951 and wasmade a DBE in 1978. She died in Manchester on 24 September 1983. Having spoken to manysingers who studied with her, I am told that she was neither a good teacher or a winsome personalityand was very limited.
A different type of person was Elsie Suddaby, a very fine lyric soprano born in Leeds on 5 June 1893.
She was active and admired between the two world wars and one of the original soloists in RalphVaughan Williams 's Serenade to Music. She had studied with Sir Edward Bairstow and was known asthe Lass with the Delicate Air, for obvious reasons. A room in Leeds Town Hall is named after her. Shereally was an amazing singer. She died in Radlett, Hertfordshire on 2 April 1980.
Dora Labette was born in Purley, Croydon in 1898. She won many prizes at the Guildhall School ofMusic
(GSM) and her career was largely based on song and oratorio. Encouraged by Beecham, who was anadvocate of Delius, Dora sang Delius songs accompanied by Beecham some of which are on this CD.
It was rumoured that she born Beecham a son. She was certainly an attractive woman and a finesinger. She died in Purley in 1984.
And so to Gwen Cately, born In London on 9 February 1906. She was short in stature measuring onlyfour foot eleven but she had a high colouratura voice and was quite brilliant. She studied at GSM with
Sir Landon Ronald. In 1936, she married the cellist Allan Ford. She was very good in Mozart, Verdiand Puccini, Edward German, Gounod and Offenbach. During World War ll, she was in a revue, Hi-deHi at the Palace theatre presented by jack Hylton where she sang operatic arias. She died at Hove on12 November 1996.
Finally, we come to Margaret Sheridan who was not British but Irish, born in Castletown, CountyMayo on 15 October 1889. She was orphaned at the age of four and brought up in a DominicanConvent in Dublin. She trained in Italy and had a short career in the 1920s when she was very popular.
She was admired in Madame Butterfly. She was known as the Irish Nightingale but she would say thatshe was Maggie from Mayo. She may not have had the greatest skill which is why she retired in 1930.
She died in Dublin on 16 April 1958.
I could go through all 21 tracks but time and space does not permit. While each track has its merits,Eva Turner singing One Fine Day, Suddaby singing Handel and Purcell are my highlights.
Singers of the past but just as good as singers of today?
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