This is one of those classic discs that will never go out of fashion, on the contrary we are left to lament a tradition that will probably never be experienced again in this repertoire.
Flagstad's magnificent voice is heard in its full power and subtlety here, especially in the poignant "Kindertotenlieder" with Sir Adrian Boult the charismatic accompanist and the old warhorse VPO providing the ideal accompaniment. The voice is marvelous throughout and in "Songs of a Wayfarer", the sense of loneliness and utter misery is bleakly caught, especially in the final wistful melody. I doubt if there have been better recordings of these two cycles, both masterful Culshaw productions recorded in the now sadly defunct Sofiensaal.
Wagner's "Wesndonk Lieder" are on a smaller scale but Flagstad is no less determined to characterize the passion and lustful intimacy that lies beneath this music. Hans Knappertsbuch is a genial accompanist, bringing all his knowledge of Wagnerian singing to these delicate truffles that are occasionally overlooked. Decca have also spoiled us with three samples of Flagstad's unique singing in "Lohengrin" (a marvelous, Einsam in truben Tagen), "Parsifal" and the classic "Du bist der Lenz" from "Die Walküre".
These recordings have been available in various issues for quite some time but the arias make their first appearances on CD. At 80 minutes, this is definitely one of the historical reissues of the year.
Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech