Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat. No.: 480 7234
No. Discs: 1
After Irmgard Seefried's death in 1988, her contemporary Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, never one to dish out compliments lightly, commented: "All of us envied her, because what we had to achieve laboriously worked for her so naturally and as a matter of course, because she knew how to sing from the heart".
Freshness, spontaneity, natural warmth of feeling, allied to a voice of gleaming beauty and a delightful stage presence: these were the hallmarks of a much-loved soprano who for three decades charmed and moved audiences in the theatre and concert hall, her face as expressive as her voice. As John Steane memorably put it in Gramophone, "it was as though she wore her own spotlight".
Born in the Swabian town of Kongetried in 1919, Seefried was 'discovered', aged twenty, by Herbert von Karajan in Aachen, where she made her operatic debut as the Priestess in Aida. In 1943 she sang Eva in Die Meistersinger for the Wiener Staatsoper, initiating an association that lasted until 1976. It was in Strauss and Mozart that Seefried was most admired.
Issued over eleven single-disc volumes, Deutsche Grammophon / Eloquence pays tribute to Irmgard Seefried, bringing back to circulation several recordings that have never previously been issued on CD. The music ranges through opera and oratorio, with an especially generous offering of art song from a range of composers, including Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Hindemith and Egk. The notes for the series have been written by that leading connoisseur of the voice, Richard Wigmore.
Seefried's radiance and imaginative strength made her a cherishable Lieder singer over an enterprisingly wide repertoire. The songs of Hugo Wolf, less frequently programmed in the 1940s and 50s than today, were something of a Seefried speciality. In her 1953 recording with Erik Werba of 22 songs from the Italienisches Liederbuch (made five years before her complete set with Fischer-Dieskau) her tone is at its freshest; and she brings her trademark vividness and immediacy of response to each of these pungent vignettes of Italian village life.
From 1958 we are then treated to a further group of songs by Wolf, including several Goethe settings. The disc is completed with a group of ten favourite songs by Richard Strauss. There is much to savour in these performances: urgent, direct, outgoing, devoid of any whiff of sentimentality, and given her reputation as one of the great operatic Straussians of the 1940s and 50s, these performances will be sought after.
As for the entire series comprising eleven volumes, Richard Wigmore provides the insightful notes.
1-22 Italienisches Liederbuch (selections)
23 Anakreons Grab
25 Die Bekehrte*
26 Frühling übers Jahr*
27 Mignon I (Heiss mich nicht reden)*
28 Mignon II (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt)
29 Mignon III (So lasst mich scheinen)*
30 Mignon IV (Kennst du das Land
31 Morgen, Op. 27 No. 4
32 Die Nacht, Op. 10 No. 3*
33 Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op. 21 No. 2*
34 Allerseelen, Op. 10 No. 8
35 Die Georgine, Op. 10 No. 4*
36 Meinem Kinde, Op. 37 No. 3
37 Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29 No. 1
38 Ständchen, Op. 17 No. 2*
39 Schlechtes Wetter, Op. 69 No. 5*
40 Wiegenlied, Op. 41 No. 1*
* First release on CD