"“E un immensa pietà” (“it’s heartbreaking”), says Sharpless near the end of Butterfly, and in the most direct sense those were my sentiments as I listened to this set. As it progresses Callas and Karajan raise what is so often a mere tear-jerker into the deep tragedy Puccini surely intended, reminding us what a masterly score this is. Indeed my well-seasoned and wary ears were quite overwhelmed by the experience. If I knew someone who doubted the validity of opera as music-drama I would sit him down to listen to the last twenty minutes of this set, text in hand, to receive an object-lesson in what it is all about. From the false happiness of “E qui, e qui!” through the stunned empty tone of “forse potrei cader morta sull’attimo” and the expansive generosity of “sotto il gran ponte del cielo” to the searing intensity of the suicide and Karajan’s heartrending last chord, the performance is quite tremendous.
Callas made this set when she was at the absolute peak of her vocal form, and she is the mistress of every vocal change needed to express Butterfly’s changing mood, even to the white, little-girl timbre she uses in the first act .. for once my heart was not in comparative listening. Whenever I turned away to test reactions to other sets I longed to be back chez Callas and Karajan"
- Gramophone, 1976
PUCCINI Madama Butterfly
Maria Callas, Nicolai Gedda
Soloists, Choir and Orchestra of La Scala
Herbert von Karajan, conductor
Recorded 1955 PACO113 (2hr 18:18)
The 1950s Vox Horenstein Bruckner 8 and 9, 32-bit XR-remastered in sound quality never previously experienced in these classic recordings.
"This is the sort of production that puts music-lovers in great debt to the gramophone: fine music rarely heard in this country, a deeply convincing performance, and a recording that is a complete success.
With a performance such as this, spacious and beautifully judged as it is, there is little need for hesitancy. Whatever one gets out of it at a first hearing, I think it would be impossible to reach the end of this record without the feeling that one had been through something in the way of a deep and great experience. I cannot over-praise Horenstein's handling of this score and the orchestra gives us lovely playing throughout. Finally, as I have said, Vox have produced a really fine recording with a rich quality of sound that is just what Bruckner’s music wants—above all, fine string tone and with plenty of double-bass to give the whole sound solidity. This is a record not to miss."
- The Gramophone, 1955
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 8
BRUCKNER Symphony No. 9
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Jascha Horenstein, conductor
Recorded 1953 & 1955
PASC429 (2hr 9:43)
Lauritz Melchior's Siegfried, as captured on a variety of HMV 78s between 1928 and 1932, adds up to not quite the full opera but finds the tenor at the absolute height of his powers. He's joined by a diverse selection of soloists, including stars such as Friedrich Schorr and Florence Easton, with orchestras conducted by Robert Heger, Albert Coates and Karl Alwin, in this second of our "Potted Ring" releases in brand new, superlative transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn.
"Melchior is the Siegfried throughout, and what a Siegfried! I am well aware of his sometimes faulty sense of rhythm and vagueness over note values, but what are these set against his unsurpassed fullness of tone, his ability to convey the part’s many moods (in particular its youthful ardour) and his peculiar vividness of articulation? All prospective Siegfrieds should be locked up with his Sword and Forging songs (‘Nothung’ and ‘Schmiede, mein Hammer’) until they can manage them both with Melchior’s control and perception. He is just as exemplary in the peace of the Forest Murmurs, and the worry and sadness of ‘Selige Öde’..."
-Alan Blyth, Opera on Record (1979)
Lauritz Melchior, tenor
Various soloists, orchestras & conductors
PACO114 (2hr 31:10)
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