LJUBA WELITSCH "The Complete Columbia Recordings"
Music of Richard Strauss, Johann Strauss, Mozart, Puccini, Brahms, Schubert et al.
Ljuba Welitsch, soprano/Metropolitan Opera Orch/Fritz Reiner and Max Rudolf, cond./Paul Ulanowski, pianist
Sony Masterworks Heritage 62866 (2 CDs) (M) (ADD) TT: 69:50 & 73:49  


This is a major issue in Sony's Heritage series, a 2-CD set that presents the blazing artistry of Bulgarian soprano Ljuba Welitsch, whose identifying role was that of Strauss' Salome, a role she studied with the composer and first sang in 1944 with the composer conducting. Her debut at the Met in March, 1949, was one of the most exciting nights at the venerable opera house, abetted by the conducting debut at the Met of Fritz Reiner. Why Columbia did not record the entire opera remains a puzzle of the record industry; what an opportunity they missed! At least the final scene was recorded, and it is spectacular. The liner notes suggest that with digital editing it was possible to use some alternate takes, although I have not been able to detect any difference from the original LP or 78 rpm issues.

 Also included is the Love Duet from Act I of Puccini's Tosca, (with tenor Richard Tucker) as well as the aria "Vissi d'arte" from the same opera. Several excerpts from Mozart's Don Giovanni, another opera she sang at the Met, are also included as well as outstanding performances of arias from Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron. A group of lieder of Brahms, Schubert and Schumann recorded in 1952 is included, as well as songs of Dargomizhsky, Marx, Mussorgsky and Strauss, plus three of Mahler's Rückert Lieder, and an incomplete Um Mitternacht.. The inclusion of Strauss' Four Last Songs, with pianist Paul Ulanowsky, is questionable--she is not at her best and this will hardly add to her legend. Many of the lieder are issued here for the first time and most are valuable additions to the catalog. But for Sony to state this set contains "The Complete Columbia Recordings" is inaccurate. Have they forgotten the complete recording of Die Fledermaus, in which she sang Rosalinde in the English version by Howard Dietz and Garson Kanin, with Eugene Ormandy conducting? Sound on this fine reissue is superlative, and the set is essential for  vocal collectors.

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)