This recording was issued on Robin Hood Records RHR 5021-5023, and is credited as a "private recording" on the record labels. The performance had been broadcast by NBC radio, and there is aural evidence that the present recordings was most likely taken from this transmission. As was standard practise in 1959, the fourth and fifth acts are both cut and rearranged in order from the original score - despite its popularity, Faust had never been performed in its full version at the Metropolitan Opera by the time of this performance. The Robin Hood LPs would appear to have been mastered from what I would expect to be acetate LP recordings, with little or no evidence of any processing or remastering at the time - some clicks from those original masters were evident on the LPs used for these transfers - clearly distinct from the surface clicks of the RHR sides.
The sound quality of the LPs was somewhat muted and lacking in bass, something I've rectified as much as was possible. The top end extends to around 12kHz, which suggests a broadcast source; hiss was variable but noticeable throughout - slightly more so after XR re-equalisation brought out top end clarity in the recording. Some of the disc sides displayed a greater degree of high frequency hiss than others, and there was a tendency for the pitch to droop somewhat towards the end of each LP side, something which is now correctable. I've used very mild pitch stabilisation throughout - taking into account of course the inappropriateness of "correcting" vocal vibrato! I've also been able to fix some occasional dropouts. The final result is a complete transformation of the sound heard on the original sources to something which I hope does full justice to a great performance from one of the greatest singers of all time.
notes from Wikipedia
Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling (5 February 1911 – 9 September 1960) was a Swedish tenor. One of the leading operatic singers of the 20th Century, Björling appeared frequently at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City as well as at many major European opera houses.
Björling (surname also spelled as "Bjoerling" and "Bjorling" in English-language sources) was born in Borlänge, Dalarna, Sweden, in February 1911. The midwife's register shows he was born on 5 February; however, the church baptism records erroneously show 2 February, and this was the day on which he celebrated his birthday throughout his life. He was initially taught to sing by his father, David, an accomplished vocalist, and made his debut public appearance at the age of four with the Björling Male Quartet. The group performed in concerts throughout Sweden and the United States for eleven and a half years. He later studied opera with John Forsell.
Björling made his professional operatic debut as the Lamplighter in Manon Lescaut at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm in 1930. This was soon followed by Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Arnold in Rossini's William Tell and Almaviva in Rossini's The Barber of Seville. This in turn led to engagements in Europe and the United States. Björling made his American concert debut in Carnegie Hall in 1937; the following year, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo in La bohème.
Björling went on to become one of the principal singers at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1940s and 1950s, with an interruption during World War II. He sang many major tenor roles in operas in the French and Italian repertoire, including Il trovatore, Rigoletto, Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, and Manon Lescaut.
In December 1940, Arturo Toscanini invited him to sing the tenor part in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in New York, a recording of which exists. He also performed the Verdi Requiem under Toscanini in 1939 in Lucerne, Switzerland, and in November 1940 in New York, another performance eventually transferred to recordings.
One of Björling's first LP sets was a 1950 performance of the complete Il trovatore, with Zinka Milanov, for RCA Victor. In 1953, he recorded the role of Turridu in a complete version of Cavalleria rusticana opposite Milanov for RCA Victor, but because Victoria de los Ángeles was under contract to EMI, the recording of the complete Pagliacci, made concurrently with Cavalleria, was not released by RCA, but by EMI. Robert Merrill appeared on both albums, but Leonard Warren was featured only on the Pagliacci one, as Tonio.
Again with de los Angeles and Merrill, Björling made a widely admired recording of Puccini's La bohème conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Björling's recording of Madama Butterfly, with de los Angeles in the title role and conducted by Gabriele Santini, is also widely celebrated. In Victoria de los Angeles' s biography by Peter Roberts (Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1982), de los Angeles noted that "In despite of technical developments, none of the Jussi Björling recordings give you the true sound of his voice. It was a far, far more beautiful voice than you can hear on the recordings he left".
Björling sang the part of Mario in the 1957 complete stereo recording of Tosca, recorded by RCA Victor in Rome with Erich Leinsdorf conducting. The tenor was awarded the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance - Vocal Soloist (With Or Without Orchestra) for his recording Björling in Opera.
In 1956, he appeared in an episode of the NBC television anthology Producers' Showcase. The episode was one of two programs entitled Festival of Music, and was hosted by Charles Laughton (José Ferrer hosted the second Festival of Music program.) Björling can be seen with soprano Renata Tebaldi in two arias from La bohème. Both Festival of Music programs, originally telecast in color, have since been released on black-and-white kinescopes on DVD.
Björling was known as the "Swedish Caruso". His son, Rolf, a successful tenor in his own right (although not at the level of his famous father), and his grandson, Raymond are inheritors of the "sound".
His widow, Anna-Lisa Björling, published a biography with the cooperation of Andrew Farkas that described Björling as a loving family man and generous colleague. However, Anna-Lisa did not attempt in the book to hide the destructive influence of Björling's alcoholism.
On 15 March 1960, Björling suffered a heart attack before a performance of La bohème at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. However, he still performed that night. He died of heart-related causes (enlarged heart) six months later in Siarö, Sweden, aged 49. One of his final recordings was the Verdi Requiem conducted by Fritz Reiner for Decca Records which was recorded as late as June 1960 alongside Leontyne Price, Rosalind Elias and Giorgio Tozzi. He is buried in the little church cemetery at Stora Tuna, Sweden.
His name is now used with the prestigious Jussi Björling Music Scholarship at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and adorns the concert hall there named in his honor.
An archive of nearly all of Björling's recorded performances, photographs, letters, recital and opera programs, reviews, obituaries, and other items related to his career is maintained at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington.
Notes from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jussi_Björling