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Posted by Martin Walker on July 30, 2015, 11:52 am
In Paul Corfield Godfrey's review of the historical Ring recordings both the body of review and the appended list of performers refer to a "Horst Laubenthal" in the role of Siegfried. That was a rather light-voiced post-WW2 tenor who never sang heavy Wagner roles; the singer in question was Rudolf Laubenthal. I grew up with some of these records during the late 40s and 50s, and though my father also possessed Melchior recordings, he always said he preferred Laubenthal in the role of Siegfried in the eponymous opera - a judgement I still concur with: he sounds more boyishly heroic. I never noticed any "strain" on the old 78s, though I would admit that his voice resembles Martinelli's to the extent that certain transfers of the old recordings can make the voice-production sound effortful, even though, like Martinelli, he had a peerless command of the arching, swelling legato line; this may be due to their relatively sparing use of rubato. While Paul's comments on both singers and orchestras seem generally spot-on, it is only fair to recall the conditions under which such "bleeding chunks" were recorded in our forefathers' day. None of these artists really had a modern, perfectionist studio-based approach to recording. Albert Coates is perhaps best appreciated in orchestral performances on record in which there were no singers to deal with e.g. Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini, though I still enjoy the Melchior/Leider Tristan love duet.I find it ironically amusing that a somewhat younger German friend of mine, a great music and opera lover, was appalled by Melchior's singing in that recording when I played it to him!
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