Small commercial subtlety: this box is titled "Complete Album Collection" and not "Complete Collection". This means that recorded by Björling operas are presented in "album", for each opera is a single disc with a selection of the work (except Cavalleria that is offered in full, but suddenly it is also deprived of Pagliacci was there coupled!). We note in passing beautiful violations of the principle of original albums, since the original LP albums selection (Trovatore, Aida, Manon) were here "extended" based on the full recording, while other selections that previously the not exist in album were performed for the occasion! Sometimes selections to editorial choices besides a little curious' (two examples among others: the famous air in Aida Radames starts trumpets and therefore amputated peremptory "If what io fossi warrior," while we in Turandot search in vain scene puzzles, yet major for tenor!). In short, therefore we regret that RCA did not see fit to bring these recordings in their entirety, all discographiquement almost indispensable.
As usual too, with this kind of issue with "original covers" some timings are pretty chick: Barely 25 minutes for the first CD, and 28 for the second; (!) 3 of the 4 other recitals discs with an average of 45 minutes. However the other 9 CDs offer more generous timings (average 76 minutes). Finally, whatever its duration, each of these disks has a neat sound transfer, known as the RCA offer. When the 23 tracks RCA ANNOUNCED "unpublished" in the CD, I must always look for (they are also mentioned in the book by;)
Warm lyric tenor with a velvety timbre, sunny and bright, with outstanding treble, Jussi Björling has established itself as one of the greatest voices of the twentieth century. Through the few criticisms mentioned above, this set of course is a beautiful tribute to that Life Magazine ran the headline "Swedish Caruso" in 1939 (a legendary name that is still attached today). In addition, we will seek eg the Icon box at EMI, but we will not hesitate to glean the integrals of operas here (I have listed below some references available) or other essential studios (for not to mention the numerous testimonies live!) as the legendary Bohemian Thomas Beecham, captured in March-April 1956 with the Mimi of Victoria de los Angeles, available especially in Naxos)
Below the detailed contents of the box; recitals (CD 1-6), followed by selections from operas (CD7 to 14).
Abbreviations used: RVO = RCA Victor Orchestra; = OOR Opera Orchestra of Rome.
CD1: The first "recital" studio, picked up in 1951 with the RCA Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Renato Cellini, a Franco-Italian program: Leoncavallo: Pagliacci - Gounod: Faust - Puccini: La Bohème - Meyerbeer: L African. The "complement" original (! Preventing us record a 17 minutes drive) comprises two air captured in 1950 with the Swedish Radio Orchestra led by Nils Grevilius: Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana - Bizet Carmen. A first disk 4 tunes barely, but that seems to tell us at every moment: Here came the voice of the northern sun!
CD2: Always with the CAR and Orchestra Cellini, probably one of the most famous duets disc recording history, recorded in 1950-51 with the superb voice complicity of Robert Merrill: Verdi: La Forza del Destino; Don Carlo; Otello - Puccini: La Bohème - Bizet: The Pearl Fishers. 28 minutes only, certainly, but 28 minutes vocal bliss!
CD3: lieder recital, captured April 11, 1952 with Frederick Schauwecker piano. Schubert's works (5 lieder), Brahms, Liszt, Wolf, Grieg (2 lieder) R.Strauss (2 lieder), Sibelius, Sjöberg, Rachmaninov and Tosti.
CD4: "Björling at Carnegie Hall", the famous live recital at New York captured September 24, 1955, always with Schauwecker piano. A true small collection of irresistible nuggets, with a mixture of lieder: Beethoven, Schubert (4), R.Strauss (2), Brahms, Grieg (2), Sibelius (3) Sjöberg, Tosti, Foster; and arias from operas: Mozart, Giordano (2), Bizet, Massenet, Mascagni and Puccini (2).
CD 5 "Björling in Opera" brings together opera arias from various recordings; the first 5 songs are a small recital recorded on 22 and 23 January 1957 with the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic directed by Niels Grevillius: Martha Flotow (sung in Italian), Prince Igor by Borodin (sung in Swedish), L 'Elisir d'amore by Donizetti, Eugen Onegin (sung in Swedish), Giordano's Andrea Chénier. The following 6 air actually come integrals: Cavalleria Rusticana (see CD 7), Aida (see CD 9), Manon Lescaut (see CD10), Tosca (see CD 12), and two arias from Rigoletto (see CD 10).
6 CD Swedish romantic Airs: Althen, Sjöberg, Peterson-Berger, Stenhammar, Söderman Körling, Alfven, and two splendid Sibelius. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Stockholm is always under the baton of Niels Grevillius, in recordings dating from January 1957 and February 1959.
CD 7 Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana (integral), with Zinka Milanov and Robert Merrill, led by Renato Cellini RVO in January 1953, also available from Regis or Naxos. A Cavalleria originally coupled with Pagliacci that can be found particularly in the EMI label. Note that four years later Björling will register a new record for Decca Cavalleria, in my view essential reference, under the direction of Alberto Erede with Renata Tebaldi and Ettore Bastianini extraordinary.
CD 8 Verdi: Il Trovatore (selection), with Zinka Milanov, Leonard Warren, Fedora Barbieri, RVO under the baton of Renato Cellini, March 1952, available at Regis. One whole discography of the most electrifying Trovatore, through a sovereign Björling course, but also because it is particularly well surrounded, especially with the tremendous Luna Leonard Warren.
CD 9 Verdi: Aida (selection) with the same (Zinka Milanov, Leonard Warren, Fedora Barbieri) and Boris Christoff 'that we can not even hear in this selection; OOR led by Jonel Perlea in June-July 1955, available from RCA.
10 CD Puccini: Manon Lescaut (selection), with Licia Albanese and Robert Merrill, led by Jonel OOR Perlea in July 1954; undoubtedly one of the best versions of the discography (if not the best), available especially for Regis or Naxos. It may be recalled in passing that it is in a small role of Manon Lescaut that Björling made his debut in 1930 (only 19 years, a few weeks before being Don Ottavio!)
CD 11 Verdi: Rigoletto (selection), with a superb Robert Merrill, the Gilda coloratura Roberta Peters, and Giorgio Tozzi; OOR led by Jonel Perlea in June 1956, available from RCA.
12 CD Puccini: Tosca (selection), with Zinka Milanov and Leonard Warren, Erich Leinsdorf directed by REOs, in June-July 1957, available from RCA or in Urania.
13 CD Puccini: Turandot (selection), with Birgit Nilsson steel princess, perfect for Renata Tebaldi Liu and Timur paternalistic Giorgio Tozzi, Erich Leinsdorf directed by REOs, in July 1959. The last studio Björling in an unlikely confrontation Nordic, is a classic of discography, repeatedly edited at RCA, Regis, or at Membran.
CD14 (bonus) Gounod: Romeo and Juliet (selection), captured live at the Metropolitan on 1 February 1947 (in his very good, considering the circumstances) with the Romeo absolutely radiant with Björling and delicious Juliette Bidu Sayao The Metropolitan Orchestra under the direction of Emil Cooper. Arguably one of the major references of the work available in the MetOpera collection.