25 Sep 2006

Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna

Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording.

Still it’s worth taking the trouble as the writer defines the art of Lorengar in a few and extremely well-chosen words. ‘Luminous’ and ‘a ray of sunlight’ are the apt terms used for this wonderful record. I know that not everybody is so enamoured as McEwen (or myself) by the rapid vibrato of the Spanish soprano (vibrant sheen he calls it), by that pretty fluttery sound with the incredibly beautiful silvery edge but the loss is theirs.

Lorengar is of course fully at home in Le Nozze where she displays the charm and the tear (that too was in the voice) necessary in the aria, incidentally the only one in Italian as all the other pieces are in German; a language she felt at ease in as she lived in Berlin where her home theatre was. She is outstanding as Marzelline and Agathe thanks to her warmth and vocal assuredness in florid music, witness of her zarzuela past. ‘Dich , teure Halle’ is fine too though one has the impression she is overparted and the voice doesn’t quite ride over the orchestra as it ought too. Maybe a richer lower voice à la Lehmann is more apt for Korngold’s ‘Glück, das mir verblieb’ but by track 6 the real jewels shine brighter than ever. What a joy it is to hear a Mediterranean voice with all its colours and incisiveness as well to hear in ‘Aber der Richtige’, the operetta written by Hofmannsthal for Richard Strauss (I wonder if Kalman, Fall or lehar would have accepted so many co-incidences). And when the real operetta-arias start one can only sigh at the beauty in delivery. Such a ferm line, no over sentimentalizing but utter conviction make the arias from Zigeunerbaron and Vogelhändler a delight.

Maybe only that other silvery voice, Lucia Popp, could rival with Lorengar but she recorded pitifully few operetta arias in her prime and had to wait till she was 48 before she could record a full operetta CD. Schwarzkopf, Rothenberger, Moffo, Muszely, Streich are no match for Lorengar. Moreover this CD includes two miracles: the wonderful aria from Lehar’s Eva (a minor work it is called in the sleeve notes by someone who had probably never heard the only complete version, in Spanish and with young Alfredo Kraus) and then there is the aria from Die Csardasfürstin, a recording that I’ll take to my desert island. “Making the music better than it actually is” was the condescending phrase often used by British critics at the time. “Revealing the stunning melodic inventiveness of Kalman by a singer of genius” would be my reply. For Eva and Csardasfürstin alone this CD should be in every collection.

Jan Neckers