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Alla Breve

March 06, 1994|WALTER PRICE

THREE SONG RECITALS. Erna Berger, soprano; Gunther Weissenborn and Michael Raucheisen, pianists. Koch 3-1058-2. Between October, 1950, and September, 1951, when she was 50 years old, Berger gave three recitals in Berlin. This set represents the best culled from the performances. They are brilliant examples of the seemingly lost art of Lieder programming. Berger sounds younger than most half her age, but, more important, she has a musical inquisitiveness, a solid technique and a voice--not large, but pure, beautiful and projected with the accuracy of a laser--still in prime condition that allowed her complete freedom to roam the song literature. She was always ideal for Strauss and here both the Brentano cycle and the Ophelia songs are sung with a glow that, if anything, increases with "Wiegenlied" and "Schlechtes Wetter." She does not neglect the Schubert, Schumann and Brahms repertory either, but she reminds us the latter wasn't the only one to set a lovely "Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer"; Pfitzner did, too. Her curiosity leads her to three melismatic Turina songs (in Spanish), as well as Britten's Two Michelangelo Sonnets (in Italian). A curiosity is Werner Egk's specially commissioned aria to be inserted in the "Barbiere" Lesson Scene. There is not an ugly or unmusical sound to be heard throughout the three evenings. Of note: Her pianist, Raucheisen, was the husband of one of Berger's mentors, the great Maria Ivogun.

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