Various

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Lieder & Arias
PERFORMER: Nicolai Gedda with various artists
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 67684 2 Reissue (1962-76)
Since Grace Bumbry’s fame was founded on her no-holds-barred approach to the meatier 19th-century roles, it’s good to be reminded of the fact that she was a protégée of Lotte Lehmann with some thoughtfully executed Lieder – mainly well-known examples by Schubert, Schumann and Brahms. Rather less successful (due to vocal insecurities) are the operatic extracts themselves, which reproduce a repertoire in which Callas was supreme.

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Second only to the latter, at least in technical skill, has been Montserrat Caballé, whose limpidity of tone and highly individual interpretations of Bellini, Verdi and Puccini are constantly fascinating, and who is superbly idiomatic in two substantial Spanish song cycles by Turina and Montsalvatge in which she’s memorably supported by the outstanding pianism of Alexis Weissenberg.

Puccini, surprisingly, helps broaden our impression of Mozart and Strauss specialist Lisa Della Casa, in the shape of some Tosca extracts sung in German with Rudolf Schock’s ringing Cavaradossi, but the most persuasive items here are Strauss songs and Rosenkavalier and Ariadne excerpts, together with a Schumann Frauenliebe und -leben whose minor vocal flaws are easily outweighed by its spontaneous sense of communication.

Lieder aficionados will need no introduction to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, accompanied here by Gerald Moore in Eichendorff settings by Schumann (including the Op. 39 Liederkreis), but collectors may relish intriguing rarities by two minor 20th-century composers, Reinhard Schwarz-Schilling and Mark Lothar. For reasons of tone and line, Fischer-Dieskau in Italian opera has always been more controversial, but it’s never less than interesting, while the tokens of his Dutchman and Amfortas are well worth having.

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Most protean of all, perhaps, is Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda, who could sing, expertly, in umpteen languages and umpteen-and-three musical styles, and seems to fit most of them in here. Take your pick from Spanish song to French opera, from Puccini to Beethoven, from Prince Igor to Haydn’s L’infedeltà delusa, and all delivered with immaculate taste and technique.