Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Perfect voice, perfect technique, consummate artistry: a radiant blonde beauty who transcended the controversy about her Nazi years.

To hear anything sung by Schwarzkopf – but especially Strauss, Mozart and Hugo Wolf – was, and is, to receive a masterclass in the art of singing at its subtlest. The way she conjured myriad tonal colours to convey the mood, context and significance not just of individual phrases but of single notes within those phrases; the sheer intelligence of her approach to words and music; her flawless intonation, diction and control: all these made her the singer’s singer, the Olympian ideal. True, she commanded every vocal art except that of concealing how artful she was. Her self-esteem was too pronounced for that. She was, after all, the castaway who chose eight records of herself for ‘Desert Island Discs’ . But if I had her voice, I would do the same. She was the ultimate professional: immaculately prepared; tirelessly perfectionist.

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Richard Morrison.

In her own words: ‘Many composers today don’t know what the human throat is.’

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Greatest recording: Strauss Four Last Songs (1966) Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, LSO/George Szell EMI 566 9082