Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat. No.: 480 7235
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. She always championed the songs of Hugo Wolf, far less frequently programmed in the 1940s and 50s than today. In 1953 Seefried recorded with her regular pianist partner Erik Werba 22 numbers from Italienisches Liederbuch. Five years later she teamed up with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for a complete recording that quickly became something of a classic and it is from this recording that the numbers she performs are taken for this issue. Seefried's tone was no longer quite as crystalline as it had been a few years earlier, yet she compensates with her trademark directness and immediacy of response, bringing each of these pungent vignettes to vivid life.
Ever-adventurous in her repertoire, Seefried made the first commercial recording, in 1952, of Paul Hindemith's Latin motets for soprano and piano of 1941 and 1944, the beginning of a projected motet cycle spanning Christ's life that Hindemith would continue in the late 1950s. The disc concludes with one of her frequent encore pieces, the Reger Lullaby.