SWEDEN’S GREAT KERSTIN MEYER

In the STERLING RECORDS (STE1862) recording Kerstin Meyer Memorial Edition 1956–1980, that comprises two compact discs, and throughout 47 tracks featuring song and operatic vocal music from Mahler to Verdi, the late Swedish mezzo-soprano Kerstin Meyer (1923- 2020) proves how she became one of the finest singing actresses of the post-war years.

The dozens of selections in this invaluable pair of CDs range from Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire to dramatic utterances of Wagner’s heroines, to the contralto depths of Ulrica’s Re dell’abisso affrettati (sung here in Swedish as “Heliga hoga siarkraft”) to the French lyricism of Debussy’s Le promenoir des deux amants.

Add to all that her memorable Frauen-Liebe und Leben, her elegant Der Rosenkavalier’s Oktavian, her singing in slightly accented Italian, but idiomatic French, and in excellent Russian, German, Norwegian, and Swedish, and the result is a full range of performances of the highest artistic caliber.

In O don fatale, Meyer is in fine form, with a solid upper range that permits her to comfortably rise to a top B, anchored in a solid middle voice enhanced by a steady vibrato ideally suited to the typical Verdi cantilena.

In Rossini’s Una voce poco fa she handles the coloratura gingerly, considering that hers was a voice best suited to the dramatic mezzo-soprano roles like Wagner’s Kundry – represented in this recording by an intense Ich sah das Kind.

In the contralto repertoire with which Meyer began her career, the Swedish mezzo-soprano plumbs the depths of Erda’s warning to Wotan in a terrific but sadly truncated Weiche, Wotan, weiche next to the great Danish bass-baritone Leif Roar, one of a number of esteemed colleagues with whom she sang – Ingvar Wixell, Karl René Kollo, Gundula Janowitz, Peter Schreier, and Elisabeth Söderström, among others.

In a six-decade career that began in 1948 at the age of 25 and continued well into her early sixties, and that would have lasted past that moment, were it not for a bout with throat cancer that stunted her singing, Kerstin Meyer was one of the most important singing actresses ever to come out of the land that gave us Jussi Bjoerling, Ingvar Wixell, Birgit Nilsson, and Elisabeth Söderström, among many other legendary singers.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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