In 1952, Walter Legge auditioned a young Swedish tenor, and cabled his contacts, ‘Just heard the greatest Mozart singer in my life: his name is Nicolai Gedda’.
The former bank teller was swiftly engaged for Dobrowen’s classic Boris Godunov recording, and by 1953 it was snapped up by houses across Europe. But Legge could hardly have foreseen his discovery would become the most versatile and enduring tenor of the post-war years, triumphing in repertoire from the terrifying high notes of Bellini’s I Puritani to the heroics of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini and Wagner’s Lohengrin, and making some 200 recordings – the last only in 2003.
Nicolai Harry Gustav Gedda Ustinov possessed an elegantly lyrical sound, enhanced by polished diction. In the 1970s, when I saw him, his formerly clarion upper register was showing strain, but he compensated admirably with style and ardour. A wide-ranging intellectual, Gedda brought serious thought to his roles.
Michael Scott Rohan
In his own words: ‘Those to whom God has given a fine voice are also burdened with the duty of training it and caring for it.’
Greatest recording: The very best of Nicolai Gedda EMI 585 0902 (2 discs)