It is unfortunate for students of Toscanini this is the only recorded performance of Brahms' A German Requiem under his baton, as Mortimer H. Frank rightly comments in Arturo Toscanini - The NBC Years: “Not that it is an inferior account; on the contrary, it is magnificent.” The question remains as to whether this would have been Toscanini's interpretation a decade later, or a decade earlier, prone as he was to the constant revision and reinterpretation of his readings.
Certainly this is one of those great performances which goes contrary to the received wisdom that Toscanini was often too inclined to faster tempi – Frank again: “some of his tempos here are considerably slower than the norm. The effect of this approach is to strip away the halo of Victorian sobriety that have hung over many accounts of this score...”. He also notes the fact that the performance is in English and wonders whether this was due to wartime anti-German sentiment.
As the sole recording from Toscanini it is no great surprise that this specially-extended broadcast, the last in a six-programme Brahms season for NBC, has been made available on a number of issues, and one might question the need for another. I was strongly influenced in my decision to at least investigate this recording by the incredible quality of the original transfer supplied to me. For a 1943 broadcast it was exceptionally clean, clear and had a wonderfully extended frequency and dynamic range. It would appear that the transcription was a straight and high-quality dub of near-mint originals, with no interference whatsoever – even the side joins remained undone. In my experience it has been rare to have such strong source material to work on from this period.
But the fact remains that others may have started with similar sources. Thus I decided that it was worth going a step further than I might otherwise do. Naturally the recording received a full XR remastering; this performed wonders on the already clear sound quality, removing perhaps a decade or two from the perceived age of the recording. Then we come, inevitably, to the sound of NBC's Studio 8H. At the time it had recently been overhauled to try and improve the acoustic, and NBC's engineers were busy trying various microphone set-ups to bring out the best in it. But the recording here was rendered nearly dead by an acoustic as dry as the desert.
This is where convolution reverberation comes in, something I've written extensively about before. By effectively placing the recording in the acoustic of a real hall (as opposed to the artificial sound of generic digital reverb), it acquired a new and entirely natural life that was totally sympathetic to the recording. Indeed, I suggest that only the listener used to – and conditioned to – the dryness of 8H would even think for a moment that this is not what the audience experienced on the day (as indeed they might have - depending on how the microphones were hung we may have little real idea as to the actual sound as heard by those attending these concerts.)
The result is for me a particularly satisfying achievement, and one which allows me to be further absorbed in the music than before, when subject to the constant irritant of the original sound and the way it to often made certain sections of the music sound raw and almost amateur in delivery. In short, I believe this is closer to how this performance would have sounded in a real concert hall than has ever been heard before, and is all the better for it.
Full Brahms biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahms
Vivian della Chiesa
notes from Wikipedia
Vivian Della Chiesa (October 9, 1915 – January 6, 2009) was an American lyric soprano who achieved a high level of popularity in the United States singing on the radio during the 1940s and the early 1950s. She performed a wide variety of classical and popular works from opera to musical theatre, jazz, and popular songs. She sang on a number of radio programs during her career, including The American Album of Familiar Music, The American Melody Hour, and The Standard Hour among others. A particularly important triumph for her radio career was a 1943 radio concert of Brahms’s Deutsches Requiem with conductor Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra. In addition to her radio career, Della Chiesa performed actively on the opera stage, mostly at the Chicago City Opera Company and the Chicago Opera Company, during the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s, she became a successful nightclub singer, headlining at major clubs in Las Vegas, Reno, and in major venues in other cities throughout the United States. After her singing career ended she worked as a voice teacher and a fundraiser for charity.
Early life and education
Della Chiesa was born into an Italian family in Chicago. Her mother, Dulia (Morelli) Della Chiesa, was an accomplished pianist, whose father had been a conductor in Italy., and who initiated Vivian's training in piano at an early age. Vivian Della Chiesa also studied singing and violin and was, by age 10, interested in opera. She also studied foreign languages, gymnastics and dancing. She attended the Roosevelt High School in East Chicago, Indiana, and the Chicago Musical College.
While in her teens Della Chiesa studied for three years with Marion Claire of the Chicago Opera Company. These lessons were financed by "a rich woman who was a philanthropist." . Studies began with Forrest Lamont, formerly a leading tenor of the Chicago Opera, in 1934, and continued until his death at the end of 1937.
In 1935, Ms. Della Chiesa entered and won a large contest sponsored by an affiliate of the CBS network. Her prize was a $100 a week contract to appear on thirteen weekly radio programs. These appearances led to an invitation from Paul Longone, the impresario of the Chicago Opera, to audition. Ms. Della Chiesa obtained an engagement with the company for three years. Her debut occurred on November 15, 1936 as Mimi in La Bohème. She also appeared with the company as Adina, (L’Elisir D’Amore), Micaela (Carmen), Marguerite (Faust) and Eudoxie (La Juive). . In 1943 she twice sang under the baton of the composer Italo Montemezzi in his own works - L'Amore dei tre re (Fiora) and, on October 9, in the first performance of L’Incantesima (Griselda) with the NBC Symphony. She sang with the San Francisco Opera in 1944 (Falstaff - Alice; Faust - Marguerite) and in 1945 (Boris Godunov - Marina (in Italian with Ezio Pinza); Cavalleria Rusticana - Santuzza; Don Giovanni - Donna Elvira; La Bohème - Mimi). Vivian also appeared with the St. Louis Opera, the Cincinnati Opera Company and the Havana International Opera. She appeared with the New York City Opera in 1947 as Maddalena in Andrea Chenier.
Della Chiesa also appeared as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her appearances with the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini in 1943 were a high point in her career. Opera News considers her to be “best remembered for her 1943 radio concert of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem” in that series.
Radio was an important part of Della Chiesa’s career. An offer of sponsorship appeared early in the series of radio broadcasts resulting from the CBS contest of 1935. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s she sang a mixture of popular and classical music on shows such as the Carnation Hour, the Magic Key, the Firestone Hour, Album of Familiar Music (Bayer Aspirin), American Melody Hour and Standard Hour. At one point “I was on CBS, NBC and Mutual at the same time,” she told Diane Ketcham. During the late 1960s, she spent a brief time as an afternoon television show hostess on Cincinnati's WLWT. Her career eventually made the transition into featured attraction at supper clubs such as the Empire Room at the Waldorf-Astoria (New York) and night clubs. “Vivienne Della Chiesa” is listed among celebrity performers at the Deauville, a Miami Beach hotel, in 1970. . In retirement she was active in community musical affairs and taught voice.
Della Chiesa moved to Huntington, Long Island in the late 1950s, bringing her widowed mother with her. She shared her home with her widowed sister, niece and nephew for an extended period of time. She married three times. Her third husband, Alfred J. Ré, predeceased her.
She died on January 6, 2009 at a nursing home in Huntington, Long Island, New York. She is buried in the St. Patrick Cemetery in Huntington.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivian_Della_Chiesa
notes from Wikipedia
Herbert Janssen (Cologne, September 22, 1892 – June 3, 1965 in New York) was a leading German operatic baritone who had an international career in Europe and the United States.
Janssen came from a music-loving family and received his first singing lessons in his early youth. Nevertheless, he studied law before deciding upon a professional singing career.
In 1922, the singer was offered his first contract at the Berlin State Opera, starting with small roles but rising in status quickly. A year later, during the 1923-24 Berlin season, he appeared for the first time as Wolfram in Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser, a role that would become one of his trademarks.
Janssen remained a member of the State Opera's ensemble until 1937. During this time, he appeared as a guest at most of the important opera houses and festivals in Europe.
Beginning in 1925, Janssen spent the summer months singing at the Wagner-Festival at the Zoppoter Waldoper. From 1926 until World War II, he regularly sang at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. Guest appearances led him to the Vienna State Opera, Nationaltheater München, Opera Garnier in Paris, Semperoper in Dresden and the principal operatic theatres in Barcelona and Den Haag. From 1930 to 1937, he sang at the Bayreuth Festival.
In 1937, Janssen became a member of the Nazi party, but a year later he had to leave Germany, going initially to Buenos Aires. From 1939 he lived in New York City, where he accepted a contract to sing at the Metropolitan Opera, remaining at the Met until the end of his stage career in 1951. He stayed on in New York during his retirement and was a sought-after singing teacher until his death in 1965.
Originally, Janssen had sung an extensive and manifold repertory. He appeared in, for example, Mozart roles (such as the Count in Le Nozze di Figaro) and as Lortzing's Zar Peter in Zar und Zimmermann. Major baritone roles composed by Giuseppe Verdi also figured in his early repertoire. They included Conte di Luna in Il Trovatore (a personal favourite of his) as well as Renato in Un ballo in maschera and Iago in Otello. He performed Bizet (Escamillo in Carmen), too, and much else.
Yet at the height of his career, especially at the Metropolitan Opera, Janssen was cast overwhelmingly in Wagnerian roles (a development which he regretted because it curtailed his versatility as a singer). Indeed, during his vocal prime, he was considered to be the most important extant singer of the more lyrical baritone parts in Wagner's music dramas. He was celebrated for his beautifully-sung interpretations of Kurwenal (in Tristan und Isolde), Amfortas (Parsifal) and, above all, Wolfram (Tannhäuser). The heavier Wagnerian baritone roles, such as Wotan and Hans Sachs, were the natural preserve of Janssen's more heroic-voiced contemporaries Friedrich Schorr and Rudolf Bockelmann, but he was ill-advised enough to attempt them during the Second World War, owing to a shortage of dramatic singers at the Met.
Janssen made commercial gramophone records of some of his signature roles. There is also a recording derived from the 1930 Bayreuth Festival with him performing Wolfram's music, while he sang the role of Don Pisarro in a 1944 radio broadcast of Beethoven's Fidelio, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. These recordings have all been re-issued on CD. On top of his other attainments, Janssen was a fine Lieder singer, employing his soft, rich and velvety voice, with its Italianate timbre and smooth legato style, to outstanding effect.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Janssen