In several valuable and newly remastered releases under ‘The Decca Recitals’ banner, Eloquence has compiled tributes to several fine singers of the 1950s whose vocal personality particularly fitted the demands of art song: among them Jacques Jansen (4824603), Irma Kolassi (4824637) and Oda Slobodskaya (4803524).
They are now joined by an 82-minute, single-CD issue of the song recordings made for Decca by the Swiss baritone Heinz Rehfuss. Rehfuss was an authoritative and keenly sympathetic presence on sets of Pelléas et Melisande (directed by Ernest Ansermet and reissued on Eloquence 4800133) and the St. Matthew Passion (with Hermann Scherchen) which have attained the status of classics. Other Ansermet reissues on which he features include rarities by Ravel (4800124) and Stravinsky (4803775).
However, his crystal-clear enunciation of text and cultivated technique were especially suited to German art songs which he performed and recorded in a long partnership with his fellow Swiss Frank Martin. Several of the Schubert Lieder on this 1955 recording – including Der Wanderer, Auf dem Donau and Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, all now acknowledged if grave masterpieces – were receiving first recordings: a testament to the baritone’s ambition and imagination. Martin’s own masterpiece in the genre is the Six Monologues from Jedermann. The cycle was later made famous by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, but this, more naturally cantabile reading by Rehfuss was honed in close collaboration with the composer.
Another regular recital partner of Rehfuss was Hans Willi Häusslein, founding director of the International Opera Studio at the Zürich Opera. When they recorded a French translation of the Songs and Dances of Death by Mussorgsky in June 1953, this cycle was also rarely taken on by non-native singers, but throughout his career Rehfuss showed a determination to put his art at the service of unfamiliar and progressive music including the premiere of Nono’s politically motivated opera Intolleranza 1960. Above all, as John Steane remarked in The Grand Tradition, in these recitals may be appreciated ‘A beautiful voice, trained to sing beautifully, and a brain and heart to guide it – but the beauty comes first’.
Songs and Dances of Death (sung in French)
Der Strom, D.565
Der Wanderer, D.649
Totengräbers Heimweh, D.842
Auf der Donau, D.553
Der zürnende Barde, D.785
Gruppe aus dem Tartarus, D.583
Sechs Monologe aus ‘Jedermann’
Heinz Rehfuss, baritone
Hans Willi Häusslein, piano (Mussorgsky, Wolf)
Frank Martin, piano (Schubert, Martin)
FIRST RELEASE ON DECCA CD
Recording Producers: unidentified (Mussorgsky); Peter Andry (Wolf)
Balance Engineers: unidentified (Mussorgsky); Gil Went (Wolf, Schubert, Martin)
Recording Location: Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland, June 1953 (Mussorgsky), 14 October–11 November 1954 (Wolf), 27 October–9 November 1955 (Schubert, Martin)
Remastering Engineer: Chris Bernauer
ALSO AVAILABLE AS