Irmgard Seefried (1943-1952)
Today she would probably be marketed as an all-rounder. After all, Irmgard Seefried was not only an acclaimed opera singer whose interpretation of the Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos at the Vienna State Opera is said to have inspired Strauss himself to exclaim that until then he had not known how good his Composer was, but she was also a lyric soprano whose initial engagement in Aachen in 1940, at a time when Herbert von Karajan was the company’s general music director, was followed only three years later by her move to Vienna. Last but not least, she was one of the most sought-after concert singers and lieder recitalists of her age. From an early date it was above all in the intimate, miniature form of the art song that Irmgard Seefried developed her whole range of expressive colours, enjoying the chance to regale her audiences by means of a musical narrative with only her pianist as her partner onstage. Not released until now, the many recordings included in the present CD attest to the richness and variety of that palette even during the early years of her career. Her three accompanists are Viktor Graef, Leopold Ludwig, who was later to become the general music director of the Hamburg State Opera and whose fame as an opera conductor also extended to the English-speaking world, and, above all, Erik Werba. With all three, she recorded a cross-section of the song repertory ranging from some of the most famous composers to others who still await their rediscovery. The earliest of these recordings are Peter Cornelius’s Brautlieder from the heyday of the Romantic art song, settings in which the soprano’s exemplary treatment of the words and the vocal line are fully in evidence. The affinities between this cycle of six songs and the traditional German folksong offer the singer – a native of Swabia – a welcome opportunity to colour her tone even further, an approach that is also found in her recordings of songs by Mozart, Brahms, Wolf and two lesser-known composers, Wilhelm Kienzl and Joseph Marx. This compilation of Irmgard Seefried’s recordings from the first ten years of her career in Vienna additionally includes some of Strauss’s most popular songs, songs such as Morgen and Allerseelen that make it clear why, as we noted above, their composer held the soprano in such high regard.