Luise Willer

CD Preiser 89177

Before this CD release Luise Willer’s recordings had been available on a double ‘Historia’ LP and on a Preiser LP, now for the first time a CD release of several –if not all- of her recordings both commercial ones and radio b’casts. Anyone familiar with Bruno Walter will know that she was one of the conductor’s discoveries and that after he had taken her from the chorus she became the leading alto of his Munich troupe. Hans Hotter was a great admirer and always spoke glowingly about her. Jurgen Kesting in his magnum opus ‘Die grossen Saenger’ though calls her ‘ Eine provinzielle Saengerin trotz gutter mittel’. That’s not what my ears tell me, on the contrary. Preiser is clever enough to start this CD compilation with her rendering of Azucena’s Stride la vampa and how I was impressed from the very first bars. This is an artist paying attention to all musical details rendering the racconto more as a lamento than the verismo cry-out you so often hear. Like Karin Branzell she gives us all the necessary trills and she displays good breath control and thus an excellent legato. For some the timbre may be a bit too ‘German’ or the technique too teutonic in approach. There’s some sliding and some squeezing of the tone but then I’m also not surprised that Hotter after eighty years could still hear her instantly recognizable timbre in his head. The Cd includes arias and scenes from Trovatore, Carmen, Samson et Dalilah, Tristan and several Lieder by Wagner, Strauss and Marx. Carl Bergner accompanies her in four songs from his own hand. Strangely enough one of these songs is called “Schade, dass die Liebe ein Marchen ist” Now I’ve always known the song “Schade, dass Liebe nur ein Marchen ist” from the hand of Walter Jurmann and recorded by Roswaenge amongst others. Bergner’s song is almost as beautiful as Jurmann’s but also owes his debt for musical inspiration. In 1937 –the year Willer recorded the Bergner song- Jurmann had already fled Germany for 4 years ending up in Hollywood. Tauber, Kiepura, Bjoerling and Judy Garland recorded Jurmann’s music but Bergner seems to have been preserved by Frau Willer only. Another remarkable item on the CD is the Weingartner Lied “Liebesfeier’ which I hear for the first time accompanied by orchestra. Seinemeyer, Schlussnus and Tauber recorded it with piano only. The neo-romantic style song –short as it is- can nevertheless easily be compared to the best of Strauss and should be more widely known. Willer is quite good in the Strauss songs too and sadly enough her rendition of ‘Freundliche vision’ is not included in this compilation as she must be one of the very few mezzos who recorded the piece.

Rudi van den Bulck, Opera Nostalgia