Gré BROUWENSTIJN, a portrait
Gala 4 CD GL.100667


The Netherlands have always been blessed with female voices of an exceptional quality. Of course the country in question has always –and above all- been associated with a very strong oratorio tradition combined with the very best of Lieder singing. Aaltje Noorderwier-Reddingius, Jo Vincent, Ruth Horna, Maartje Offers, Elisabeth Ohms Julia Culp, Aafje Heynis, Elly Ameling, Sonja Poot, Deutekom, Margiono and nowadays Eva-Maria Westbroek….These are but a few names of a glorious past which also included Gré Brouwenstijn. This soprano was for almost 20 years the reigning name in the Dutch operatic world. Lord Harewood once called her one of the leading post-war Verdi sopranos. I wouldn’t go as far as that but she certainly made her mark as an artist internationally and provided us with some very enjoyable recordings. Brouwenstijn made her first commercial recording in 1952 and her last in 1966. All of them have been released by Philips and other labels. Absolutely first-class was her Sieglinde and she would be my first choice after Lehman. The sound of Brouwenstijn’s voice never sounded ‘Dutch’ to me as it was filled with a warm vibrancy, slightly tremulous (Olivero comes to mind) but never disturbingly so. She sang with fervour and intensity and knows how to use portamenti although on occasion there is a lack of correspondence between the intention and the actual tone she produces. Her voice was big enough in volume and she was a very musical and stylish singer in spite of some technical deficiencies. Sometimes she lacks freedom of emission especially in the upper register resulting sometimes in flat acuti. Her German is as perfect as can be and when she sang in Dutch or English for that matter every word can be understood. Nevertheless her recorded performances both live and commercial give unmistakeable evidence of a highly gifted artist.
This Gala compilation of live recordings offers us her very moving portrayal of Jenufa and souvenirs of her Elsa, Contessa, Hoffman’s Giulietta and Antonia, Micaela, Rosalinde and Saffi, The Trovatore Leonora, Tahnhauser and Don Carlos’s  Elisabeth, Aida, Desdemona, Tosca. You can also hear her singing Brahms and Wolf Lieder. All recordings are in very good and enjoyable sound as they stem from Dutch radio b’casts. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful artist.
                           Brouwenstijn2             Brouwenstijn3
Rudi v.d.Bulck