In November 2012, Immortal Performances released a double CD in their
series "Famous voices of the past", featuring Set Svanholm in "unknown lieder recitals". The latter is partly false labeling, as many of the
recordings presented on the CDs are not unknown at all and have been previously published. However, the CDs contain many recordings that have
never been issued on LP or CD, and they are of great interest.
The CDs are composed of the following: 15 songs by Schubert and Brahms, taken from a recital at the Washington Library of Congress (02/04/1949),
which for the most have been previously issued by Gebhardt. 17 items from a Vienna recital from 09/17/1952, which have never been published,
plus a bonus with excerpts from a Covent Garden Tristan from 1950 (previously published on LP and CD) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
As the Washington recital already is well known, let's talk about the Vienna recital. The selection of songs is very interesting as it
contains a great deal of modern lied literature that we hitherto have not heard sung by Svanholm. Among others, he sings a group of
Strauss songs ("Allerseelen", "Zueignung" and more) and a total of eight Scandinavian songs by Rangström, Sibelius and Grieg. As encores,
he sings "In fernem Land" and "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond", greatly acclaimed by the Vienna audience.
Svanholm is in great voice in this recital. Unfortunately, the sound quality is not too good, there is a lot of hiss and other side noises.
Immortal Performances have not cleaned the recording, but an original recording is often better than a recording manipulated by electronics.
The pitch of the recordings is correct, and that also goes for the Washington recital that had been issued by Gebhardt in poor pitch. We have
to thank Immortal Performances for the correct pitching.
The bonus clips are not too interesting as most of the sound material has been published on CD before (again, mostly by Gebhardt). The singing
in the well known Tristan excerpt (large parts of act 1) is excellent. Both Svanholm and Flagstad are perfect for their roles. The "Prize
song" from Die Meistersinger (from a 10/09/1949 Bell Telephone Hour) is fine as well. Only one excerpt (act 3, scene 2 from Die Meistersinger)
from the opera house in Stockholm has not been published before. In this excerpt (sung in Swedish), Walther is rehearsing his "Prize song",
but Svanholm is not in best voice, forcing most of the time.
The booklet (24 pages) is very well done. It contains essays on Svanholm by Daniele Godor and Stefan Johansson, head of dramaturgy at the
Royal Opera House, Stockholm. Both essays contain new information on Svanholm that cannot be found elsewhere and are an interesting reading.
The booklet also contains a few pictures that we have not seen before and that seem to be printed for the first time. The usual design in
burgundy-yellow might not be the most attractive, but the overall impression of the CD set is the one of a high-price issue.