Jussi Björling Society - USA



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New JB Recordings Discovered in RCA-BMG Archives
by Cantor Don Goldberg and Harald Henrysson

One of the high points of JBS’s October Conference in New York City occurred during a lecture given by Daniel Guss, an executive in BMG’s RCA Classics Division, when he announced that BMG would release Jussi’s complete Carnegie Hall recital of September 24, 1955.

Many of us know RCA’s LP souvenir of that event, LM 2003, with its 16 songs and arias including Jussi’s only known recording of Mozart’s challenging aria “Il mio tesoro” from Don Giovanni. And those of us familiar with the Jussi Björling Phonography [authored by Harald] know that some selections from that concert were omitted from the LP, including six Scandinavian songs (Grieg, Sjöberg, Sibelius) and one aria (the Cavalleria “Addio”). According to the Phonography, p. 212, “most of the unissued items [were contained on an] acetate record in the JB family collection,” and thus could be heard only in special circumstances, e.g. by special request at the JB Museum in Borlänge. According to the Phonography, “a master tape of the whole recital is presumed to exist in the RCA archive.”

In fact, that tape was located by RCA officials and found to contain two additional arias at the end of the concert, “Come un bel dì” from Andrea Chénier and yet another version of “Che gelida manina” from Bohème. Thus Jussi had marked his return to the U.S. at Carnegie Hall with an arduous program of 25 selections, ending with these two demanding arias as final encores. Reassuringly for his fans, excellent reviews proclaimed that “Björling Is Back.”

(Note: He hadn’t sung in the U.S. since February 1954, a frustrating time of vocal difficulties and cancellations (see Jussi, Chs. 20-23) followed by some remarkable successes: just recall that two of his greatest recordings, Manon Lescaut and Aïda, were accomplished for RCA during the summers of 1954 and ’55.)

BMG was able to fit the entire concert on a single CD (with some of the applause deleted), with release date scheduled to coincide with Jussi’s Todestag, September 9. Especially because of the nine new selections on this CD, it belongs naturally to RCA’s well known “reDISCOVER” series.

We have enjoyed working closely with Elizabeth Wright, Director of Editorial Services at BMG Classics, to help provide accurate texts (especially for Geijer’s poem used by Sjöberg in his little song “Tonerna”) and suitable photographs of Jussi, as well as the liner notes [by Cantor Don].