This little disc, thoroughly American in conception despite its British issuer, offers more than it might seem at first glance. American soprano Christine Brewer was inspired to collect the material by her work with a voice teacher, Glenn Freiner of McKendree College in Illinois, who heard Kirsten Flagstad, Eileen Farrell, Helen Traubel, and Eleanor Steber as they toured the U.S. and collected programs or wrote down what they sang. Brewer's program is thus a snapshot of some music that was once reasonably common but has now, with the exception of the Broadway selections by Leonard Bernstein, Vincent Youmans, and a few others, been almost totally forgotten. Some of the material has a precious quality, it's true, but set aside the contemporary requirement of irony for a while and listeners will probably enjoy the album. Hardhearted would be the listener who could resist Sea Moods by Mildred Lund Tyson, for whom not even a deathdate is known, with its picture of white wavelets "tumbling along, rippling with song, as tho' to mock my tears." Several of the composers are women; the charmingly named Idabelle Firestone was the wife of Harvey Firestone of tire and rubber fame. The soprano with which each song was identified is indicated, but all the music is cut from the same cloth even though the four singers represented had quite different repertories. Brewer has a pleasant, rounded voice and the right sense of humor for the material, but she's oddly a bit less comfortable in the pieces that approach the American popular language most closely. Nevertheless, this album will be of interest to popular music buffs as well as to fans of the opera singers involved, for, with the exception of Flagstad, these singers had a place in the popular world. No less a figure than Jimmy Durante is said to have mistakenly entered Traubel's dressing room and emerged with the remark "Nobody knows the Traubel I've seen." A charming find for vocalists, who should definitely check out the hilarious final track, Review; it is Brewer's own encore, not one from the repertoires of the four main singers.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Through the years|
|On the Town|