Another five-Thursday month invites “Trove Thursday” to offer a combo of shorter works. This week a song trio from some sterling sopranos: Dorothea Röschmann delves into the mysteries of Mahler’s Das Knaben Wunderhorn; Véronique Gens strolls through Cantaloube’s arrangement of Chants d’Auvergne; and Jessye Norman soars and broods in an early broadcast of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder

Following Jonas Kaufmann’s Lieder eines Fahrenden GesellenChristian Gerhaher’s Rückert Lieder; and Janet Baker and Jess Thomas in Das Lied von der Erde, Röschmann sings half of the magical Das Knaben Wunderhorn.

I was lucky to hear these artists perform these six songs together as well as the Fourth Symphony at Carnegie Hall a few months after this broadcast as part of a complete Mahler cycle by the Berlin Staatskapelle, the only time I heard Boulez conduct.

Röschmann began her career singing mostly early music (Bach, Handel, etc.) but I didn’t much care for her then; despite her enthusiasm the sound was shallow and a bit squeaky. However her voice evolved dramatically becoming round and rich and she also grew markedly as an interpreter.

Her Susanna, Pamina and Ilia at the Met are among the finest Mozart portrayals I’ve ever seen there.

Recently she has encountered some difficulties particularly at the top of her voice and has drastically reduced her operatic appearances to mostly the Countess and Donna Elvira although there have been outings as Agathe in Der Freischütz and Marenka in The Bartered Bride.

Her Jenufa (opposite former Jenufa Angela Denoke as Kostelnicka) in Vienna last year was streamed but I missed it while some of her dips back into baroque music haven’t been much to my taste. These Mahler songs from nine years ago tomorrow though find her in her prime form.

Mahler: Das Knaben Wunderhorn (exc.)
Salle Pleyel, Paris
3 November 2008

Dorothea Röschmann
Staatskapelle Berlin
Pierre Boulez — conductor

The ever-elegant Gens too began her career with the baroque; I heard her a half-dozen times from the late-80s to mid-90s performing Lully, Rameau and Purcell with Les Arts Florissants during their frequent tours to the US.

I may be wrong but I don’t believe she’s sung in New York since 1996 when I attended her wonderful Handel concert with LAF that included a magnificent Silete venti. I was lucky though to catch her as Giunone in Cavalli’s La Calisto at the Bavarian State Opera in 2005.

Other than occasional forays into German roles like Eva and Agathe, she seems content to continue in Mozart and to explore fascinating rare corners of French opera. Her superb 3-CD set Tragediennes with Christophe Rousset provides an invaluable survey of 17th to 19th century arias, and her just-released collection “Visions” excavates even more obscure repertoire.

Beyond arias, she has recently performed complete in concert such rarities as Godard’s Dante, Saint-Säens’s Proserpine, Gounod’s Cinq-Mars and Lalo’s La Jacquerie. Her conductor in this selection from the much-loved Canteloube collection is the noted composer Matthias Pintscher, music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain,

Canteloube: Chants d’Auvergne

5 March 2015

Véronique Gens

Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Matthias Pintscher — conductor

Norman and Wagner had a complicated relationship; Elisabeth in Tannhäuser was the role of her stage debut at 25 (!) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and she sang it again at Covent Garden in 1973. She only returned to it for only four performances in 1987 at the Met where her other two Wagner roles were Sieglinde and Kundry, both of which she performed only at the Met.

I attended her first Kundry in 1991; it was my first Parsifal too but I recall her being dramatically scattered and vocally strained at moments.

Of course there is a complete recorded Elsa with Placido Domingo conducted by Georg Solti but it was Isolde that everyone hungered for. She sang the “Liebestod” many times including that celebrated concert with Herbert von Karajan at the Salzburg Festival,

but neither a rumored recording (with James King) nor a complete performance ever came to be. In 1981 around the time of her return to performing opera on stage after a hiatus, she did do act 2 in concert at Tanglewood with Jon Vickers and Seiji Ozawa.

There are those who wished that later in her career she’d explored other Wagner roles like Erda or Waltraute or even Fricka but that, alas, did not happen.

A recent rebroadcast of this mid-1970s Wesendonck from an off-the-beaten-track venue presents Norman at 33 in her early prime.

Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder
October 2, 1977

Jessye Norman

Radio Symphony Orchestra Saarbrücken
Hans Zender–conductor

A complete opera returns on November 9!

In the meantime this week’s trio of Mahler, Cantaloube and Wagner can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on each selection’s audio player and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.

More than 100 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts also remain available from iTunes for free, or via any RSS reader.