Jessye Norman - The Unreleased Masters
Jessye Norman, Thomas Moser, Ian Bostridge, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Berliner Philharmoniker, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Kurt Masur, James Levine, Seiji Ozawa Label: Decca, DDD, 1988-1998
A peerless and towering personality on stage and in the studio, Jessye Norman was unquestionably one of the preeminent sopranos of all time. Following her death in September 2019, which robbed the world of an unmistakable shining light, legions of fans, including celebrities, civil rights activists, and art world leaders, shared the impact she had on their lives and revived the discussion in articles, blogs, and fan groups about "unreleased recordings." At the beginning of 2023, Decca, with the support of her family and estate, presents a collection of six unreleased Philips recordings of works by Britten, Haydn, Berlioz, R. Strauss and Wagner. It was Ms. Norman's perfectionism, the sense that the music was often better than any performer could do it justice, that led her to withhold the recordings that now see the light of day. Now that the original tapes have been lovingly restored and remastered, Jessie's countless admirers who have long longed to hear these important documents of one of the greatest singers ever recorded. All of the works in this impressive new collection are essentially love poems in one form or another, and represent Jessye Norman's final "farewell" to the recording world. The release includes a 68-page booklet with new essays (in E/F/G) by Cyrus Meher-Homji (who did a lot of detective work to uncover the stories behind these recordings), Costa Pilavachi and George Hall, Sun lyrics in the original language with English translations, and many beautiful photos. - Ms. Norman, the great singer of French repertoire and German opera and song, made these six unreleased recordings over a ten-year period between 1988 and 1998, when she was under exclusive contract to Philips. - The first disc in this series, recorded in 1998, is an incomplete but invaluable studio recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and tenors Thomas Moser (Tristan) and the young Ian Bostridge (Der junge Seemann). For various reasons, this recording was never completed. What we do have, however, are just over 66 minutes of highlights that include most of Isolde's music. There is no other studio recording of her singing Isolde (with the exception of "Liebestod" with Colin Davis, Herbert von Karajan and Klaus Tennstedt). - Disc two: music by couples that are synonymous for Ms. Norman: Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder, recorded in May 1989 (her second recording of this repertoire), and Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder, recorded in November 1992, both recorded "live" with the Berlin Philharmonic and James Levine. - The last disc presents a sensational program tailor-made for the great diva. Recorded at concerts in February 1994 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Seiji Ozawa, the three queens in this program are Britten's Phaedra, Haydn's Berenice and Berlioz's Clêopatre. About ten years after the recording was made, the release of both the Haydn and Britten recordings was approved, but Norman felt that the sound mix for the Berlioz recording was not ideal. This has now been satisfactorily remixed and remastered for release. - It was Jessye Norman's perfectionism, the feeling that the music was often better than any performer could do it justice, that led her to withhold the recordings that have now seen the light of day: and now her countless admirers, long dreaming of them, can hear these important documents of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest singers ever recorded. - All the works in this impressive new collection are essentially love poems in one form or another, and represent Jessye Norman's final "farewell" to the world. It demonstrates the amazing versatility that Jessye Norman displayed throughout her career. Her commitment to the musical and vocal task was always total, regardless of the material she sang.