HISTORIC MASTERS – TWELFTH ISSUE

PROSPECTUS (Notes by Stanley Henig)

HMB 75 – Richard TAUBER (1891-1948)
La Boheme (Puccini) – Che gelida manina Madama Butterfly (Puccini) – Addio fiorito asil

Richard Tauber’s is one of the great names and central voices in opera, singing and recording. From his debut in Cheenitz as Tamino in the Magic Flute he soon became the leading Senan lyric tenor, performing extensively in Dresden and Berlin. Tauber’s later association with Franz Lehar and his supreme success in operetta and song sometimes obscure the importance of his operatic career. Yet, when mortally ill in autumn 1947, he still made his last public appearances as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni at Covent Garden.

There is a huge legacy of recordings – even ignoring second takes they amount to some 750 – spanning every state and facet of his career. There is an unforced lyricisa and a haunting beauty to the early operatic items. The two chosen for the Historic Masters series were on regular issue, but they are extremely difficult to find in good condition.

HMB 76 – Maggie TEYTE (1888-1976)
L’absent (Faure)
Ciboulette (Hahn) – Ce n’etait pas la meme chose

Maggie Teyte had a stupendous career, appearing in opera from her debut at Monte Carlo in 1907 in a minor work by Offenbach until her final performances at the Mermaid Theatre in London in Dido and Aeneas with Kirsten Flagstad. Her total ‘live’ singing career extended to 49 years and she made recordings over a period of 51 years.  Although she had a major and successful operatic career – Melisande at the Opera Comique in 1908, where she succeeded the great Mary Garden; several seasons at Covent Garden; many performances in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia -it was the concert stage which increasingly became her metier after 1920.

The bulk of Teyte’s recordings are of songs with the French melodie particularly prominent. There is a charming story in Bary O’Connor’s biography of Teyte telling Reynaldo Hahn that he played the piece from Ciboulette too fast! Hahn’s alleged response suggests a greater tact, but also courtesy and an exquisite taste – “Ha chere, any way you sing it, will always be right”!

HMB 77 – John McCORMACK (1884 – 1945)
The cloths of Heaven (Dunhill) –
Ein neues andachtiges Kindelwiegen (trad./D. Corner)

Another of the great names, McCormack has perhaps the most instantly recognisable voice on record. Like both Tauber and Teyte he enjoyed early success on the operatic stage, particularly at Covent Garden and at both the Manhattan and Metropolitan in New York. However, as early as 1912 he began the concert career which increasingly dominated his life.

His was a simply prodigous recording career. Paul North and Jim Cartwright in their scholarly and exhaustive discography document no less than 1197 recordings and offer the further tantalizing information (especially for Historic Masters) that only 733 exist in any known form. Our search for available unpublished metals has been long and, until now, unsuccessful. The 1927 version of Cloths of Heaven was never even allotted an original issue number; our other side recorded in 1934 was evidently scheduled for release but would appear to have been unissued.

HMB 78 – Adelina PATTI (1843-1919) See our Patti Issue
Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)
The Last Rose of Summer (trad./Moore)

He are told that when Patti first heard her own recordings she exclaimed “Now I understand why I am Patti”. For all that she was nearly 63 when Fred and Will Gaisberg together with accompanist Landon Ronald visited Patti to make her recordings (she had been singing professionally for 46 years), we too can understand from these priceless documents of the gramophone not only why she was Patti but what it meant to be Patti. (Read about Patti’s recording sessions by Fred Gaisberg here)

From her first performance at Covent Garden in La Sonnambula until her ‘farewell’ at the Albert Hall in 1906 Patti was the operatic darling of London.  Herman Klein claimed that Patti’s art was inimitable and this view is certainly reinforced by her records.  This is a truly great singer in the twilight of her career making a careful choice of repertory, husbanding her vocal resources, using all her skills and technique and yet, through her own spontaneity totally avoiding the ‘art which conceals art’.  Even the slightest pieces are infected by the Patti personality.

Neither of these two sides was published in the Patti series. However the Ave Maria was theoretically available at a much later date on an IRCC disc.  This version of ‘Last Rose’ has never hitherto been published in original form. See our Patti Issue

HMB 79 – Andrei LABINSKY (1871-19 U) Dubrovsky (Napravnik) – O, give me oblivion
Mikhail KARAKASH (1887-1937)
Don Juan (Napravnik) – Serenade

It is common-place to associate Russia with the deeper male voices, but before the revolution there was a plethora of fine-tenors – Figner, Erschov, Sobinov, Smirnov, Damaev and Labinsky. Levik in his major work on singers (a translation of which by Eddie Morgan is being sponsored by Historic Singers Trust) considered Labinsky as ranking only below Sobinov and Smirnov as a lyric tenor. Levik further comments on the blending of the voice and the charm of his singing although he claims that ‘it was not very subtle’.  Labinsky’s debut was at the Marinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1897 and he remained with that company until 1911 when he transferred to the Bolshoi.

Karakash has already appeared in the Historic Masters series, and it is thanks to the discographical researches of Alan Kelly that we were able to discover the existence of this hitherto unpublished and unknown disc. He made his debut in 1911 as Eugene Onegin in an incredible cast including Sobinov, Zbrueva and Kastorsky and yet achieved an outstanding success. Apart from Onegin and Yeletsky in Queen of Spades, his outstanding role was as Figaro in Barber of Seville. Hitherto only 11 of his records have been issued in any form. Certainly there is no reference to the Don Juan title in the allegedly complete Karakash issued on Melodya.

HMB 80 Vladimir KASTORSKY (1871-1948)
Lakme (Delibes) Lakme, ton doux regard The two grenadiers (Schumann)

In 1893 Kastorsky had the distinction of being expelled from the St. Petersburg conservatoire for “lack of voice and talent”. Although within a year he was singing extensively in Russia he failed to obtain an engagement at the Mariinksy until 1898. It was only after appearances as Wotan in Nalkure with Litvinne and Erschov that he became recognised as one of the truly great bass singers. Apart from his extensive career in St. Petersburg, Kastorsky appeared in Russian seasons in Paris in 1907 and 1908 and in the early 1920’s in Riga, Berlin and Prague.

Most sources suggest that extensive singing of Wagnerian roles took their toll on Kastorsky’s voice which at its prime, as evinced on these records, was a magnificent instrument. However, he remained with the Harinsky until 1930, was still making records in the late 1930s and actually appeared in a minor role in Queen of Spades in 1940 when aged 69.

Once again Historic Masters expresses its thanks to the donor who made the issue of this record possible as a bonus for all subscribers to this series.


This article was last updated Thursday, 26 March 2009
This article is presented here for archival reference only. All information was accurate at time of printing, however, HM policies, fees/charges, details and availability of recordings are subject to change without notice. Copyrighted material – Historic Masters

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