Copenhagen Concert 1959
We had hardly reckoned on some previously unknown recordings with Jussi Björling would crop up. The record companies have the last few years hovered radio archives and other sources on anything imaginable. But then there pops up a tape in excellent sound quality, recorded in Copenhagen on 15 October 1959 in the then brand new Falkoner Centret – a concert hall with superlative acoustics seating 2000 listeners. In the venue there was also a state-of-the-art recording equipment, which was employed to record most of what was happening there – and then the material was hidden in the archives – until now.
New Issue of the Magazine
Editor Calle Friedner, well-known from his time at the Swedish Radio, takes care of the autumn issue of our journal. It contains photos and articles with differing approach. You can read about the summer Jussi concerts, a Jussi Björling conference in Salt Lake City, a discussion about the new opera about Jussi, Harald Henrysson's phonography - doesn't that sound interesting? This and much other reading is offered in #55.
Only in Swedish. Click on the image.
The first of Jussi’s two studio recordings of Cavalleria rusticana , which was made in 1953 with Zinka Milanov and Robert Merrill, has been reissued by Sony from the original tapes, during the autumn of 2015 (RCA 88875054492).
New issue of Trovatore praised
There are five live recordings of Jussi Björling as Manrico in Il Trovatore and one studio recording. The second live recording, from the Met January 1941, was reissued in September 2015 on CD by the Canadian label Immortal Performances (IPCD 1052-2). The critic Henry Fogel in Fanfare is as impressed by the sound as by Jussi’s performance. He thinks that the sound engineer Richard Caniell ”has performed his usual miracles with the sound restoration”, and that the sound ”comes shockingly close” to a professionally made 1941 studio recording.
Jussi news 20 September 2015
Here You will be able to download a Word document with some news about Jussi Björling.
Aida 1955 — from Sony
THE 1955 STUDIO RECORDING of Aida where Jussi Björling is partnered by Zinka Milanov, Fedora Barbieri, Leonard Warren and Boris Christoff, is generally regarded as one of the best ever, and it is the only Aida preserved with Jussi.
Few could accentuate the lyric side of the warrior in love as he did without losing the heroic aspect. In his analysis, Stephen Hastings especially stresses Jussi’s “supreme musical refinement” in the Act I "Celeste Aida" in the final scene.
This recording was recently re-released by Sony / RCA Red Seal (88883729002). It has been transferred with the latest technology from the original tapes to which only the recording company has access.
As a result, this mono recording can be heard in a sound which “for depth, transparency, clarity and dynamic range holds its own with any and every Aida recording of any vintage,” to quote one of the enthusiastic commentaries on Amazon.
Those who happen not to own this recording should buy this issue, and those who own earlier versions are most likely to be positively surprised. The recording itself comprises as usual three CDs, but the libretto is available on a fourth CD-ROM.
Let us hope that Sony makes a similar reissue of Jussi’s Trovatore!
Jussi Björling The World Star Live On Stage
ON THE DOCUMENT´S label, German Membran Records issue one more 10-CD-box with Jussi recordings, this time exclusively live stage recordings. Documents are well known for their CD-boxes at budget and medium price.
This latest issue is entitled Jussi Björling The World Star Live On Stage. (Documents 600129)
10-CD-box containing 110 excerpts from 26 different performances and concerts.
Price: SEK 150, incl. postage for members of The Jussi Björling Society
For non-members SEK 150 + postage
Read Documents' blurb for this issue:
"When Jussi Björling died at the age of only 49 on September 9th 1960 following a heart attack, the music world lost one of the most outstanding tenors of the 20th century. This 10 CD set includes his performances in the great operas of Verdi and Puccini, Gounod’s “Faust” and “Romeo and Juliet”, as well as Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” and Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci”.
The career of the legendary Swedish tenor Jussi Björling began with performances at the Royal Opera, Stockholm and then in Vienna and Berlin, before his triumphant London début in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”.
Excerpts from these can be heard in this collection along with Björling’s great appearances at the New York “Met” in operas like “Don Carlo”, as well as in one of the most demanding of Verdi’s tenor roles, that of Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera”. Especially interesting is the inclusion in the set of recordings of French and Italian operas that Björling made in Swedish, his mother tongue".
Jussi’s Masked Ball Embellishes the Verdi Jubilee
THE CANADIAN record company Immortal Performances has recently issued a double-CD with the famous recording of Un ballo in maschera from the Metropolitan on 14 December 1940 with Jussi, Zinka Milanov, Bruna Castagna and Alexander Svéd in the leading roles.
As a bonus a never before issued recording with Jussi is included. It is the finale of Act I from Puccini’s La bohème, from a performance on 25 September 1949 at the San Francisco Opera.
The premiere on 2 December 1940 was the first time Jussi opened the Met season, and the first time he appeared as Gustavus III in the opera written about the murder of the Swedish King. At the Stockholm Opera – founded by Gustavus III! – he sang in the traditional version where he was English Governor in Boston.
The issue is a very fine contribution to the Verdi Jubilee. The recording has been issued many times in varied quality, but here it is accompanied with an exhaustive essay by Stephen Hastings, the author of The Björling Sound, and he says in his commentary that in this newly-restored recording ‘Richard Caniell has done a magnificent job in recapturing the sound of the voices as projected in the opera house.’ Caniell himself describes the sound as ‘comparable to commercial recordings of this era’.
Kristian Krogholm from Norway, well known for his reviews in the Jussi Björling Magazine, writes: ‘...this is indeed the best sound I have heard of this performance ... basically in the purity of the sound and the balance and the proportions of forte and fortissimo. You can hear how the beautiful voice of Björling (in particular) with its absolute focus and silvery trumpet is carried out in the big space. In duets with the bigvoiced Zinka Milanov, Björling’s overtones always sail above everything.’
Krogholm also reminds us that ‘The Romeo et Juliette released by Immortal Performances a few years back is by and large way ahead of all competition, and have the same quality.’ This issue (IPCD 1003-2) can also be ordered from the Björling Museum.
It should be pointed out that a pirate label, based in the US, has adopted the same name and with their very plain issues on CD-R, sponge upon the good reputation Richard Caniell’s Canadian company Immortal Performances has. The American company even issued a Romeo et Juliette of their own, almost simultaneously, IP-210. Both the Canadian Immortal Performances issues can be ordered from the museum.
Un ballo in maschera: Price: SEK 290 (members), SEK 340 (non-members)