PERFORMER: Tiana Lemnitz, Erna Berger, Maria Cebotari, Heinrich Schlusnus, Leo Slezak, Franz Völker, Julius Patzak, , etc
CATALOGUE NO: 459 066-2 ADD mono
The high point of Deutsche Grammophon’s Centenary Collection volume GREAT VOICES OF THE EARLY YEARS (defined here as 1925-47) is the classic Winterreise by tenor Peter Anders and pianist Michael Raucheisen (459 009-2); their discipline and imaginations allow them to find endless variety in subtle shades of despair. I confess to being a bit let down by the rest of the set.
The disc of Italian opera arias (mostly sung in German; 459 005-2) includes previously unpublished recordings by little-remembered tenors Gino Sinimberghi and Alfons Fügel, but throughout the set DG so extensively represents the work of Heinrich Schlusnus, Franz Völker, and the aging Leo Slezak that numerous eligible luminaries (Delia Reinhardt, Emmi Leisner, Rosette Anday, Elisabeth Ohms, Maria Németh, Alfred Piccaver, and so on) are not allowed to appear at all (although 30 singers can be encountered here).
Questionable playing speeds turn baritone Schlusnus into everything from basso (‘Erlkönig’) to lyric tenor (Schumann’s ‘Aufträge’), welcome reduction of surface noise unfortunately draws attention to the need for quite unworn source material, and numerous anomalies becloud the handsomely produced booklet photographs of original pressings and sleeves. The singing is generally very good, although in this period the expression of German singers sometimes tends more toward geniality than idealism.