Lauritz Melchior as Parsifal

Lauritz Melchior Web

Recordings

 

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Performance Chronologies:

1890-1920   1920-1924   1924-1926   1926-1929   1929-1931 

1931-1933   1933-1935   1935-1936   1937-1938   1938-1939

1939-1941   1941-1945   1945-1947   1948-1950   1950-1955

1956-1973

A Short Guide to Studio Recordings and Radio Broadcasts featuring Lauritz Melchior

There are two main sources for hearing Lauritz Melchior's vocal ghosts: studio recordings and recordings of radio broadcasts.  The creation capable of entrapping the human voice remains elusive. This is true today; and it was true at the time when Melchior sang. Sometimes the antique sounds can be heard clearly and fully enough to be enjoyed, sometimes they cannot. It takes a courageous ear to pursue an interest in opera performance history. It says something about the quality of the performances that these captured echoes have any audience at all.

Because the artificiality of studio recordings often overwhelms usually clearer sound, recordings of radio broadcasts tend to more representative of his art. Melchior's prime of voice spans approximately the 15 years between 1925 and 1940, the borders being debatable. The radio broadcasts from the Rooseveltian Metropolitan Opera and from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, begin around the second half of that prime. They memorialize the now-or-never late 1930s and feature most of the prominent performers of the time.  The recordings from radio broadcasts are highlighted on this page. An asterisk indicates if the performance is the only known, and/or only commercially available, "live" example of Melchior's work in this role. Sole-surviving-examples tend to have poorer than average sound quality.

There are also the commercial recordings made in recording studios, dating from 1913 into the 1950s for Odeon, HMV, Nordisk Polyphon (Denmark), Grammophon and Parlophon (Germany), HMV (England and Germany), Brunswick, Victor, Columbia, M-G-M Records, Decca (USA). The guiding principle of recording companies: to record only the most marketable excerpts. The consequences of this understandable company policy are unfortunate from a historical point of view. The best of Melchior's studio recordings, from an engineering standpoint, and in many cases from a vocal standpoint as well, date from the late 1920s, after the introduction of electrical recording, up to the early to mid 1930s, and were made in England, Germany, or Austria by HMV (His Master's Voice). These are operatic excerpts.

Many of Melchior's American-made studio recordings from the later 1930s or early 1940s seem to be less representative.  Depression America record companies wanted to attract a larger, populist audience to opera recordings. The companies often attempted to mimic the more commercially viable "crooner aesthetic" in their acoustical setups and engineering. The distortions resulting from this principle, misguided as far as representing an operatic voice is concerned, range from mildly annoying to disastrously misleading. For Melchior, the widely circulated 1939 Wagner duets with Flagstad may be the most prominent example of the tragedy of the type of inappropriate acoustics endemic throughout the 1920s into the 1950s.

The photographs used on this page are examples of CD transfers of a recording in the author's possession. The images are used for illustrative purposes only. Often the transfers (and the recordings themselves) have pitch or other problems. Some broadcasts are so poor in sound quality that even "marstoning" them hasn't helped. Some have recently benefited from much needed fixings-up; others await their remasterer-redeemer. Hearing something is better than hearing nothing at all, one has to keep in mind; at least with these performers.

Naxos, Myto, Gebhardt/Archipel/Walhall, Guild, Cantus Classics (mp3) are some European companies that have released these broadcasts on CD in recent years. The author's dialup internet connection precludes a knowledge of downloads available online at this time. Sirius/"Metropolitan Opera Radio" rebroadcast one or two late 1940s Wagner broadcasts in 2007.

This list will be modified over time. More known surviving tapings will be added as they are heard by this author. Those not already appearing in the list are extremely rare it is safe to say and have not been released by the European "pirate" labels.

The list is not intended to be a substitute for a discography. Only a sample of studio recordings are included. Anyone looking for a discography is directed here

Tannhäuser, 1936, Archipel, ISBN: 7640104000389     Tannhäuser "Paris Version"

Broadcasts:
Jan. 18, 1936
, Met: Bodanzky; Melchior, Flagstad, Halstead, Tibbett, List
Jan. 4, 1941, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Flagstad, Thorborg, Janssen, List
Dec. 19, 1942,
Met: Szell; Melchior, Traubel, Thorborg, Janssen, Kipnis
March 6, 1948
, Met: Stiedry; Melchior [last performance of role], Traubel, Varnay, Janssen, Szekely

Recordings:
HMV: 1929-1930 (excerpts)
Parlophon: 1924(acoustic) (excerpt: Breisach; with Bettendorf).

  Die Walkuere, 1940, Myto, ISBN: 8014399500272 Die Walkuere, Acts I and II, Naxos Historical, ISBN: 636943125021 Die Walküre

Broadcasts:
Feb. 17, 1940,
Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Lawrence, List, Flagstad, Huehn, Branzell
March 30, 1940,
Met (tour to Boston): Leinsdorf, Melchior, Lehmann, List, Lawrence, Schorr, Thorborg
Dec. 6, 1941, Met: Leinsdorf, Melchior, Varnay [debut], Kipnis, Traubel [role debut], Schorr, Thorborg 
Dec. 2, 1944, Met: Szell, Melchior, Bampton, Kipnis,
Traubel, Janssen, Thorborg
March 30, 1946 Met: Breisach, Melchior, Varnay, List,
Traubel, Berglund, Thorborg

Excerpts from broadcasts:
Act II:
Nov. 13, 1936, San Francisco: Reiner; Melchior, Lehmann, List,
Flagstad, Schorr, Meisle
Dec. 13, 1937, Met: Bodanzky; Melchior, Flagstad, Hofmann,
Lawrence, Schorr, Thorborg

Recordings:
HMV 1935 (Act I; Walter; Melchior, Lehmann, List; also excerpts from Act II)

Siegfried, 1937, Naxos Historical, ISBN: 636943121122 Siegfried (excerpts); Naxos Historical, ISBN: 636943109120   Siegfried

Broadcast:
*
Jan. 30, 1937
, Met: Bodanzky, Flagstad, Laufkötter, List, Schorr, Habich,Andreva

Recordings:
HMV 1929-1932 (excerpts; Coates, Heger; with Melchior, Easton, Reiss, Tessmer, Bockelmann, Habich, Gruhn)

 

Götterdämmerung, 1937, 1938, Gebhardt CD ISBN:4035122000030 Naxos, Götterdämmerung 1936, ISBN: 636943122822 Excerpts from Die Walkuere, etc.,  Music and Arts, ISBN: 017685103520 Götterdämmerung

Broadcast:
*Jan 11, 1936,
Met: Bodanzky, Melchior, Lawrence, Schorr; Manski, Habich

Excerpts from broadcasts:
Prelude/Act I and II (various scenes from):
Sept. 30, 1934, Wiener Staatsoper: Weingartner, Melchior, A. Konetzni, Manowarda (itsy bitsy excerpts from prelude & Act II)
May 14, 1936, Covent Garden: Beecham, Melchior, Leider, Janssen, Thorborg, List, Nezadal
June 1, 1937, CG: Furtwängler, Flagstad, Janssen, Thorborg, Weber, Nezadal
June 7, 1938,
CG: Furtwängler, Leider, Janssen, Stosch, Schirp

Recordings:
HMV 1929-1930 (excerpts; Blech, Heger, with Schorr, Helgers)

Parsifal, Act II, 1938; Guild Historical; ISBN: 795754220124   Parsifal, 1938, Myto. ISBN: 8014399500135 Parsifal

Broadcast:
*April 15, 1938
, Met: Bodanzky/Leinsdorf, Melchior, Flagstad, List, Schorr, Gabor


Lohengrin, 1935, Gebhardt, ISBN: 4035122000238     Lohengrin

Broadcasts:
Dec. 21, 1935,
Met: Bodanzky, Melchior, Lehmann, Lawrence, Schorr
Feb. 22, 1940, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Rethberg, Thorborg, Huehn                  
Jan. 2, 1943, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Varnay, Thorborg, Sved
Jan. 25, 1947, Met: Busch; Melchior, Traubel, Harshaw, Hawkins
Jan. 7, 1950, Met: Stiedry; Melchior, Traubel, Varnay, Ernster

Recordings:

HMV 1928 (excerpts; Blech)


Tristan und Isolde, 1937, Archipel, ISBN: 7640104000211   Tristan und Isolde

Broadcasts:

Mar. 9, 1935, Met: Bodanzky; Melchior, Flagstad, Branzell, Schorr, Hofmann
May 18/June 2, 1936, CG:  Reiner; Melchior, Flagstad, Kalter, Janssen, List 
Jan. 2, 1937, Met: Bodanzky; Melchior, Flagstad, Thorborg, Huehn,
Hofmann
June 18/22, 1937, CG: Beecham; Melchior, Flagstad, Schöffler/Janssen, Branzell/Klose, S. Nilsson
March 23, 1940, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Flagstad, Thorborg, Huehn, List
Feb. 8, 1941, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Flagstad, Thorborg, Huehn, Kipnis
Feb. 6, 1943, Met: Leinsdorf; Melchior, Traubel, Thorborg, Huehn, Kipnis
Aug. 7, 1943, Teatro Colón: Busch; Melchior, Traubel, Kindermann, Janssen, List
Dec. 17, 1949, Met: Perlea; Melchior, Traubel, Thebom, Janssen, Székely

Excerpts from broadcasts:
Dec. 11, 1943, Met: Beecham, Melchior, Traubel, Thorborg, Cordon (Acts II & III)

Recordings:
HMV 1929-1930 (excerpts; Coates; Heger; with Leider)

    Lauritz Melchior III, Lebendige Vergangenheit, ISBN: 717281890861 Other:

Otello: HMV 1930 (excerpts; Barbirolli)

Meistersinger: HMV 1931 (excerpts; Heger, Collingwood, Barbirolli; with Schorr,  Schumann) [not a stage role]

Song/Lieder:
A selection of Lauritz Melchior's recital repertoire-of which his Strauss, Schubert and Grieg seem to have received the most consistent critical praise-was recorded. These recordings, including standard German lieder and Scandinavian (art) songs, date mainly from the late 1930s and 1940s, and were published by US Victor and Columbia. Most of them have not been transferred from the original 78s (see author's "engineering principles gripe" above).

Lauritz Melchior's late 1940s and early 1950s recordings for a mixed audience were movie tie-ins. For reasons of studio sound conditions the author prefers seeing his movies. Kultur also released performances from the TV show "Voice of Firestone" on VHS tape in the 1990s. Tapes of guest appearances on comedy TV and radio shows pop up, mainly on "unofficial" releases, from time to time.


Information to share? Questions? Suggestions? Please write me at ringedwithfire@heroictenor.com and put Melchior's name in the subject line of the email
Copyright © 2005-2008 Victoria Boutilier, All Rights Reserved
Last Updated  February 13, 2008