Bjorling Rediscovered - Carnegie Hall Recital September 1955

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RCA's "Rediscovered" series has given us important, previously unreleased recitals by such major artists as Richter, Horowitz, and Heifetz. Jussi Björling is to singers what those luminaries were to their instruments, among the best of the best. Much of his September 14, 1955 Carnegie Hall recital was issued on LP, and some selections have found their way onto CD. But this is the first issue in any format of the complete recital, encores and all, including some of the tenor's title announcements. Only some of the applause has been excised to keep the disc from spilling over onto a second CD, thus sparing us the annoyance of sitting through whistles and stomps from long-gone strangers, though enough is left to preserve the "live" atmosphere. Nine selections never have been issued before, and producer Jon Samuels has done the requisite detective work to slot them into their proper sequence, no small task since Björling inserted encores at various points of the prepared program, not just at the end.

Björling fans most likely will have the majority of these songs and arias in their collections, many in multiple versions. But if they want the complete 1955 recital--and they should, as should all lovers of great singing--they'll need this welcome disc. The nine new items include arias from Cavalleria rusticana (Addio alla madre), Andrea Chenier (Come un bel di), La Bohème (Che gelida manina), and songs by Grieg, Sibelius, and Sjöberg. Whether this or that selection is the "best" available by Björling is a moot point; those made in the 1930s featured a lighter, ravishing voice, the later ones an instrument with more depth and body. Later often equals more subtle interpretations, as this 1955 Beethoven song "Adelaide" demonstrates, with its sophisticated use of rubato and changes in tonal color that reflect textual nuances, not to mention the added fervor of a singer projecting into Carnegie's vast space.

The Schubert group is highlighted by a tender "Ständchen" and an intense, pull-out-all-the-stops "Die böse Farbe". Björling's gorgeous middle voice and silvery top pay dividends in Mozart's "Il mio tesoro", where he negotiates the coloratura well and makes Don Ottavio less of a wimp than usual. As in any Björling recital, the usual suspects are here, but since he was really "on" that night, they're as thrilling as ever--a "Flower Song" from Carmen both tender and ardent, the ravishing "La Rêve" from Manon, and "Amor di vieta", among others. The latter aria should be heard by benighted individuals who subscribe to the strange notion that Björling was a "cool" singer in the Italian repertoire. The Scandanavian set is another of the many highlights, beautiful songs sung with elegance. And has Stephen Foster's "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" ever sounded more lovely? Björling's lightly accented English, wide vocal range, and respect for his material, coloring words as if they were a Schubert song, make it irresistible.

Jon Samuels' transfers easily eclipse all other releases of this material, giving us not only the incomparable sound of Björling's voice, but also a realistic rendering of the important way in which Frederick Schauwecker's piano supports and interacts with that voice, along with a sense of hall ambience rare for monophonic recordings. This disc offers 80 minutes of bliss. Get it.
--Dan Davis,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 82876532312

  • UPC: 828765323123

  • Label: Sony

  • Composer: Carl Sjöberg, Edvard Grieg, Francesco Paolo Tosti, Franz Schubert, Georges Bizet, Giacomo Puccini, Jean Sibelius, Johannes Brahms, Jules Massenet, Ludwig van Beethoven, Pietro Mascagni, Richard Strauss, Stephen Foster, Umberto Giordano, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

  • Performer: Frederick Schauwecker, Jussi Björling