The VRCS 2013 annual CD has just been released and the old cliché returns : a must-have treasure trove of outstanding vocal recordings often of extreme rarity. This issue includes 21 tracks not available elsewhere on LP or CD. Usually their issues contain at least one cantorial rarity but the current issue regrettably  doesn’t.  The compilation starts with an amazing rendition by Teresa Arkel of Tannhauser’s  act one ‘Geliebter komm!” sung in Italian and recorded in 1905 followed by Florencio Constantino in ‘Mi nina’ recorded five years later. Hungarian coloratura Aurelie Révy was unknown to me until a few years ago I got to know her through Ferenc Kiss's amazing book on Singers at the Royal opera house in Budapest (click here). Révy can be heard –amazing trills included- in “Sur mes genoux” sung in German- well sort of German- from Meyerbeer’s Africaine.  Not many singers displayed the durability, versatility and longevity of the French bass Marcel Journet whose career spanned four decades. You can hear his sonorous, smooth, extensive and well-placed voice in Phanuel’s act three aria from Massenet’s Hérodiade.  Ward Marston’s issue Three American Sopranos –click here- includes Lillian Nordica’s rendition of “Mia piccirella” from Gomes’s Salvator Rosa recorded in 1911, the VRCS compilation has a version recorded four years earlier. At least so they claim. In October 1918 Hulda Lushanska was partnered by Hipolito Lazaro in Verdi’s  final duet from Aida.  Their voices blend well together in an excellent rendition, awesome. The Riga born Joseph Schwarz is one my favorite “German” baritones of all times and he can be heard in indeed a very rare 1911 Pathé recording of Vanderdecken’s  “Wie aus der Ferne”. Swedish-French Samuel Hybbinette whom we know from the Rubini LP Singers in Sweden (vol.1)was a tenor who besides resonance also had a decent enough brain in his head as he got a medical degree in 1904. The resonance in the song ‘Tornerna’  spelled wrongly in the content (also on the Rubini LP and known from Bjoerling’s recording) clearly has Swedish resonance to me. And fine resonance on top of that!  Hanna Muller-Rudolph sounds appropriately angel-like in her very straight though ethereal  “Hore dich, Israel” from Mendelsohn’s Elias and Max Kuttner –who as a Jew survived the war in Shangai – was mainly known for his popular repertoire sounds equally at ease as Hoffmann in his act two aria which is  the last but one acoustic recording on this CD. Solo CD’s of Max Kuttner can be obtained through the TrueSound company in Berlin (click here).  Nelie Melba pupil Stella Power can be heard in “A spring morning” with rock sure top notes and trills. The first electrical recording on this compilation is by Jeanne Gordon who sings Azucena’s music as to the manner born –yes, trills included - with her natural and unforced contralto voice. Sad to read she ended her life in a sanatorium.  My compatriot Albert Huberty sings the Song of the Flea in French (1929) without over-doing it and always keeping his vocal line. Soprano Ilse Wald sings Humperdinck’s Sandman’s aria (1928) with a warm voice and the Basque tenor Miguel Villabella needs no introduction to the tenor buffs. His brilliant and stylish voice can be heard in an orchestrated version of  Massenet’s “Pensée d’automne” .  In 1942 Seidler Winkler conducts Friedel Beckman in Haendel’s “V’adoro, pupille”  which she of course sings auf Deutsch. In 1933 and two years after his official retirement Titta Ruffo recorded Sanderson’s lovely “Until” The English is of course heavily accented but there’s still some impressive voice left. A few years ago the French label Malibran –click here-  devoted a CD to the art of French coloratura Lucienne Jourfier which didn’t include Lucia’s act three scene one aria luckily and wisely featured on the present VRCS release. My unstylish self never warmed up to Gerhard Husch’s Lieder recordings though I know he still has a great following amongst collectors and no doubt they will delight in this great new discovery which is an unissued Stuttgart radio tape of Schubert’s Fruhlingsglaube made around 1953. The recording was supplied by Gary Thalheimer of Gary Thal Music Incl. and it “reveals a great musician at work in spite of the fact he is a bit past his vocal prime”  so says the booklet included. Replace a bit by definitely. Latvian soprano Mascia Predit’s recording of Tchaikovski’s ‘It was in spring’ (1946) will delight anyone listening to this CD and you will beg for more. But much more there isn’t.  As far as I could find out just 7 shellack records (HMV and Cetra) most of them not available and a 1952 Berlin concert with Markevitch doing Mussorgsky songs (CD Audite). Predit also sang a lullaby on the Visconti 1971 film Death in Venice. To be heard on the soundtrack. The Record of Singing CD box included Mussorgsky’s “Night” and the VRCS 1996 release included Tchaikovski’s “The Gypsy”.  Another great find is the final item with Cesare Siepi singing live Bach’s Kantate nr 159 and yes in –very good- German going back to 1957 at Town Hall. Bach’s music gains a lot to this listener when sung by such a rich-voiced stylish basso voice as was Siepi’s. The singers’ biographies keep improving  and as always the producers managed to provide a photo of every artist represented.  All of the CD releases are still available, get them while they last.

Rudi van den Bulck