Gifted with great beauty and a natural stage presence, Hilde Gueden was unfailingly easy on the ear as well as the eye. With her creamy tone and ability to spin the silvery upper-register sonority needed for her Strauss roles, she was a natural successor to Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Schöne and Adele Kern. Fortunately for posterity, she recorded prolifically, starting in 1942 with Musetta in German for Berlin Radio. In the LP era she worked mainly for Decca, taking part in many opera and operetta sets. Hilde Gueden belonged to a generation of artists who lost some of their best years to World War II. When her career got properly under way in 1946, she was almost 30. Thus, although this recital is rightly headed ‘The Early Years’, because it consists entirely of recordings from her first sequence of sessions for Decca, there is nothing unformed or inchoate about the artistry it enshrines. When Gueden’s chance finally came, she was fully prepared; and although, like all the best singers, she never stopped learning, she was already a polished vocalist and a first-rate interpreter.
Recorded in London in 1947 and 1949, in Vienna between 1951 and 1952, and in Rome in 1954, this disc showcases the artistry of Gueden in both operetta and opera, from Lehár and Kálmán to Puccini, Verdi and Richard Strauss. In the latter she is joined by Lisa Della Casa and in a sample of her poised, controlled singing –¬¬ the Act I duet between the sisters in Arabella – Gueden makes the ideal foil to Della Casa. There was apparently no love lost between the two prima donnas in real life, but on stage they often collaborated effectively, and their duet here is nothing short of wondrous.