After Irmgard Seefried’s death in 1988, her contemporary Elisabeth Schwarzkopf – never one to dish out compliments lightly – commented: ‘All of us envied her, because what we had to achieve laboriously worked for her so naturally and as a matter of course, because she knew how to sing from the heart’.
Freshness, spontaneity, natural warmth of feeling, allied to a voice of gleaming beauty and a delightful stage presence: these were the hallmarks of a much-loved soprano who for three decades charmed and moved audiences in the theatre and concert hall, her face as expressive as her voice. As John Steane memorably put it in Gramophone, ‘it was as though she wore her own spotlight’.
Born in the Swabian town of Köngetried in 1919, Seefried was ‘discovered’, aged twenty, by Herbert von Karajan in Aachen, where she made her operatic debut as the Priestess in Aida. In 1943 she sang Eva in Die Meistersinger for the Wiener Staatsoper, initiating an association that lasted until 1976. It was in Strauss and Mozart that Seefried was most admired.
Issued over eleven single-disc volumes, Deutsche Grammophon / Eloquence pays tribute to Irmgard Seefried, bringing back to circulation several recordings that have never previously been issued on CD. The music ranges through opera and oratorio, with an especially generous offering of art song from a range of composers, including Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Hindemith and Egk. The notes for the series have been written by that leading connoisseur of the voice, Richard Wigmore.
Volume 1 showcases Seefried in key operatic roles from a quartet of Mozart operas: Il re pastore (in which she is serenaded by her husband Wolfgang Schneiderhan in the two arias with obbligato violin), Così fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. It also includes a rare foray into French (for Carmen) and Respighi’s scena for voice and strings, Il tramonto (the sunset), the latter displaying Seefried’s mezzo hues to great effect.
“combine vocal certainty with ardour, freshness and energy […] Her Marzelline in Fidelio is lively and detailed […] there is also a fine reminder of her partnership with her husband, the violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan” Gramophone
“suits Seefried to perfection, in the mezzo quality of her tone, the developing moods” (Respighi) Gramophone