‘If I were condemned to hear only one voice for the remainder of my life I think it might well be hers. If I wanted to be charmed, to laugh or cry I would find her the perfect companion. In her singing … we hear someone whose every utterance bespeaks natural sincerity and truthful feeling’
ALAN BLYTH on IRMGARD SEEFRIED (Gramophone)
After Irmgard Seefried’s death in 1988, her contemporary Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – never one to dish out compliments lightly – commented: ‘All of us envied her, because what we had to achieve laboriously, worked for her so naturally and as a matter of course, because she knew how to sing from the heart’.
Freshness, spontaneity, natural warmth of feeling, allied to a voice of gleaming beauty and a delightful stage presence: these were the hallmarks of a much-loved soprano who for three decades charmed and moved audiences in the theatre and concert hall, her face as expressive as her voice. As John Steane memorably put it in Gramophone, ‘it was as though she wore her own spotlight’.
Born in the Swabian town of Köngetried in 1919, Seefried was ‘discovered’, aged twenty, by Herbert von Karajan in Aachen, where she made her operatic debut as the Priestess in ‘Aida’. In 1943, she sang Eva in ‘Die Meistersinger’ for the Wiener Staatsoper, initiating an association that lasted until 1976. It was in Strauss and Mozart that Seefried was most admired.
Issued over eleven single-disc volumes, Deutsche Grammophon/Eloquence pays tribute to Irmgard Seefried, bringing back to circulation several recordings that have never previously been issued on CD. The music ranges through opera and oratorio, with an especially generous offering of art song from a range of composers, including Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Hindemith and Egk. The notes for the series have been written by that leading connoisseur of the voice, Richard Wigmore.
Volume 2 showcases Seefried in further operatic roles including such rarities as Lortzing’s ‘Der Wildschütz’ and Thomas’ ‘Mignon’ in which Seefried performed the mezzo role of the waif, Mignon, on stage, in German translation (then the norm in German opera houses) and recorded two of her arias. With her viola-like warmth of tone and dramatic immediacy, Seefried was Jochum’s unhesitating choice as the heroine Agathe in ‘Der Freischütz’. Octavian – which she often played opposite Schwarzkopf’s Sophie or Marschallin – became another signature role and the disc presents nearly 40 minutes of music from ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ in the 1958 Dresden recording conducted by Karl Böhm.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Così fan tutte: Sorella … Prenderò quel brunettino
Nan Merriman, soprano
CARL MARIA VON WEBER
Wie nahte … Leise, leise, fromme Weise
Und ob die Wolke sie verhülle
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Kam ein armes Kind von fern
Dort bei ihm ist sie jetzt
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
GUSTAV ALBERT LORTZING
Auf des Lebens raschen Wogen
Ihr Weib? / Mein teures Weib!
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Wie du warst! Wie du bist!
Marianne Schech, soprano
Rofrano! … Mir ist die Ehre
Rita Streich, soprano
Ilona Steingruber, soprano
Nein, nein! I trink’ kein Wein
Kurt Böhme, bass
Marie Theres’… Hab’ mir’s gelobt … Ist ein Traum
Marianne Schech, soprano
Rita Streich, soprano
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
Irmgard Seefried, soprano
Recording Producers: Wolfgang Lohse (1–3, 8–11); Hans Weber (4–5); Karl Faust (6–7)
Balance Engineers: Günter Hermanns (1, 4–5); Gerhard Henjes (2–3); Heinz Wildhagen (6–7); Heinrich Keilholz (8–11)
Recording Locations: Ufa-Studio, Berlin, Germany, 8–17 December 1962 (1); Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, 12–21 December 1959 (2–3); Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 15–19 November 1963 (4–5); Kulturraum, Bamberg, Germany, 19–22 September 1965 (6–7); Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany, 12–20 December 1958 (8–11)
‘[Her Octavian] was so charismatic that when she was on stage it could be difficult to look elsewhere for a moment unless … the Baron Ochs was Kurt Böhme. They played together in the opera quite frequently and with a matching ‘joie de vivre’ … their partnership was utterly positive, potent and great fun.’ John Steane
‘It is almost possible to see the adolescent fire in this young Octavian’s eye, as he rails against the arrival of day or declares himself lord of the Marschallin’s bedroom … The best of her portrayals, like the Octavian, combine vocal certainty with ardour, freshness and energy. There is an uplifting Agathe from ‘Der Freischütz’, singing her first aria with a lovely youthful impulsiveness’ Gramophone
‘She is appropriately bright and jolly in the ‘Wildschütz’ scenes, and wistful and concerned in the ‘Freischütz‘ … her Octavian may well be her best complete role on disc.’ Fanfare