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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

This great and legendary voice of the post-1945 period remains for many the incarnation of the world of German music, specifically for the operas of Richard Strauss, the performances of which remain a model of singing, of style, of perfect diction and emotion, qualities which are rarely found together in a single artist. She has also left us two recordings of Vier letzte Lieder (with Otto Ackermann, and later, with George Szell) which are absolute works of reference. 13 year separate these two versions which every music lover will want to get to know: the first, with a more ductile, supple voice, more enchanting than the second, darker and more sombre, with dulled mid-range notes. But one shouldn't pin her to a single composer, because Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was also a great recitalist, in particular with the famous English pianist Gerald Moore. Together, they recorded a number of albums dedicated to the German Lied, from Mozart to Hugo Wolf. An accomplished Mozartian, Schwarzkopf also sang Italian opera (a Turandot appears, with Maria Callas).

We must also not forget the field of the operetta, to which Elisabeth Schwarzkopf brought such a noble bearing. She sparkled with particular shine in Johan Strauss's Die Fledermaus or One Night in Venice. In a less typical register, we also find her performing Pelléas et Mélisande, Debussy's masterpiece, where she sang under Karajan's direction and in Stravinsky's Rake's Progress, in the role of Anne Trulove, which she performed at Venice's La Fenice, directed by the composer, in 1951.

With Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf gave us immortal recordings of the Lieder of Hugo Wolf, to whose fame she contributed immensely.

The singer was also known for her inflexible personality, and an ardour for her work which allowed her a long career that spanned over three decades. At her height, in full command of her abilities, she cut down her roles, choosing only to keep those that she could absolutely master: Fiordiligi (Cosi fan tutte), Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), the Countess (The Marriage of Figaro), Countess Madeleine (Capriccio), and her signature role, the Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier). Her art seduces or appals, depending on whether or not you like her finely-chiselled work, which is as multi-layered as a Viennese whirl. At the opera, her collaborations with Wilhelm Furtwängler or Herbert von Karajan were the perfect marriage of intelligence and the most heightened sensibility. It is perhaps in the Lieder, with dream partners such as Edwin Fischer, Furtwängler, Gieseking or Moore that Elisabeth Schwarzkopf reveals the most intimate, highest secrets of her art. Thanks to her husband and manager, Welter Legge, famous musical producer at the British firm EMI, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf has created a large number of recordings which today form an inimitable ensemble.

© FH / Qobuz


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