Jussi Björling Society - USA

 

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Jussi Björling Live: American broadcast concerts 1937-1956

 Recordings of Jussi Björling’s American Radio Concerts on
Track for Release in September 2010

  by Dan Shea 

Jussi Bjorling Live 

JUSSI BJÖRLING LIVE, $45 including shipping and handling

For the first time, most of Jussi Björling's US radio and TV performances have been gathered together on 4 brilliantly-remastered CDs, including previously unreleased performances.The splendid 32-page booklet contains essays on Björling's US career, the Swedish view of Björling's US activities, and previously unpublished photos. This elegant set is only available to members of the Jussi Björling Society-USA.
Membership in the Society is on a calendar-year basis; individual membership is $35; family memberships are $50.
Please send checks made out to JBS-USA to Dan Shea, at
3337 Conservancy Lane
Middleton, WI 53562
 
 

 
Jussi Björling introduced himself to America not by his first performances at the Metropolitan Opera starting in 1938, but rather in a remarkable series of three nationwide radio broadcasts made during 1937, on November 28 and December 5 and 19. As you can hear from a few surviving recordings made of those broadcasts, the 26-year-old tenor’s brilliant voice and innate musicality projected beautifully via the microphone and the resulting attention enabled him to get a quick start to what became his major career in this country.

Interestingly, the radio network that produced those three concerts apparently managed to record all three of them, but to date the known recordings of the first and third concerts have not survived well and do not provide very pleasurable listening. (Of course we are glad to have at least some trace of announcer Milton Cross’s warm introduction of young Jussi and of his performance of arias from Bohème and Rigoletto as well as a duet from Cavalleria rusticana with Maria Jeritza from the first concert, and of “Celeste Aïda” and “Land, du välsignade,” apparently from the third concert, whatever their condition!)
 
Unfortunately the early aluminum discs that were used for recording at that time were easily ruined by repeated playback with blunt needles, and it seems to have been the very attractiveness of Jussi’s singing that may have doomed many of the recordings of that singing.

But luckily at least one copy of a recording of the December 5 concert did survive in reasonably good condition, thanks to a Swedish-American collector who made a copy available to the Swedish Radio’s archive. And thanks to Harald Henrysson’s connections to that archive, and the always-helpful cooperation of the Björling Museum in Borlänge, we now can make available Jussi’s performances in that second concert in what seems the "best-available" known recording.

The JB Society has been working for most of the past decade to recover quality sources for recordings of the radio broadcasts made by the great Swedish tenor during his visits to America during the years 1937 to 1959. Thanks to the essential support of collectors in the US and Sweden, and to the Björling Museum and its past and present curators, as well as to the cooperation of the Björling family, considerable progress has been made in this task of collecting the best-possible broadcast sources. It's a wonderful story of friendly cooperation, not always to be assumed among collectors of this genre of recordings!

Good sources are important, but the latest technology of sound engineering can lead to dramatic
 improvements, and we are fortunate to have one of today’s leaders in the field, Seth Winner, as ace engineer for our project. Even better, as a long-time admirer of our tenor, Seth had himself accumulated some extraordinary recordings of Björling performances that he has made available to this project. The results to date are extraordinary, as you will be able to see (or hear) for yourself now. In fact you can sample some of our work, by listening to these sound clips made available here:

(1). From the Voice of Firestone program of November 19, 1945, listen to the opening announcements and then Jussi singing "If I Could Tell You", and the Stephen Foster favorite, “I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair.”


(2), (3). Two excerpts from the October 23, 1949 Standard Hour concert from San Francisco: a very showy “Che gelida manina” and a powerful “Ah, fuyez, douce image.”
                  

(4). From the September 30, 1951, Standard Hour concert, we offer what might be Jussi’s best performance of Tosti’s song “L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra.”
 

(5). The story of how we were able to obtain and reproduce the Carnegie Hall concert of April 11, 1949, a benefit for the Swedish Seamen’s Welfare Fund called “Sweden in Music,” is a fine one. In brief: The major hero here is Swedish collector Harold Löwing who long was able to obtain the original acetate discs of the WNYC-FM broadcast and keep them in good condition. Last winter Harald Henrysson explained our project to Harold and got his permission to carry the entire concert (a heavy set of about 8 discs) to
Charleston, for mailing on to Seth Winner. Then Seth performed prodigies of engineering technique (with some applied chemistry and physics) to scrub a certain mold from the discs and then prepare the grooves with a lubricant that would allow optimal playback.  Next Seth digitized the recordings and could begin to use electronic harmonic analysis to bring out the music in the transformed recording.  
Listen here to Jussi’s last encore on that occasion, the lovely Peterson-Berger song “Jungfrun under lind.”


(6). We end with one of Jussi’s standard encores, from the Bell Telephone Hour broadcast of March 15, 1948:  Listen to Orlando Morgan’s “Clorinda” and, if you like, imagine that voice being used to much better effect in a song by Schubert, Strauss, or Rachmaninov! Luckily we have lots of those in our complete edition as described below, and due off the presses in late summer.
 

  ___________________________________________________

Jussi Björling Live: American broadcast concerts 1937-1956
[Notation from JBP = JB Phonography:  (XY0A) refers to the A-th recorded performance of year 19XY, thus (4504) refers to 4th recorded performance of year 1945.]

==> CD1
Voice of Firestone, 19 Nov. 1945  (4504)
If I could tell you; An Sylvia; Le reve (Manon); Jeanie; Mʼappari (Martha); In my garden.

VofF, 21 Jan. 1946
  (4602), with 2nd and 4th selections sung with E. Steber:
If I could tell you; Will you remember (Maytime); For you alone; Miserere (Trovatore).

VofF, 25 March 1946 (4603)
If I could tell you; Jeg elsker dig; Berceuse (Jocelyn); Because; Neapolitan love song; In my garden.

Ford Sunday Evening Hour, 12 May 1946 (4605)
Salut! demeure (Faust); Jungfrun under lind; Land, du välsignade; Mother oʼmine.

SFOpera, 25 Sept. 1949 (4905) 
O soave fanciulla (w. Albanese; Kritz).

We, the People, 16 Feb. 1951 [p. 234, (A72) of JB Phonog.]
Interview with Dorothy Caruso; Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci).

==> CD2
Standard Hour, 23 Oct. 1949  (4906),  2nd & 4th selections are duets w. A-L Björling:
Che gelida; O soave (Bohème); Ah! fuyez (Manon); Chamber scene (Roméo et J.).

Standard Hour, 30 Sept. 1951  (5108),  4th selection a duet w. B. Sayão:
Cielo e mar!; Lʼalba separa; E lucevan (Tosca); Chamber scene (Roméo et Juliette).

Sweden in Music, 11 April 1949  (4902), Carnegie Hall.
Five Swedish songs + Lʼalba separa.

==> CD #3  
Bell Tel. Hr, March 15, 1948  (4801)
Mattinata; Lilacs; Clorinda; Je suis seul...Ah! fuyez (Manon).

Bel Tel. Hr, April 4, 1949  (4901)
Ständchen (Schubert); Neapolitan love song; Addio alla mamma (Cavalleria rusticana).
                                                                                                                                      
Bell Tel. Hr, Nov. 7, 1949  (4907)
Ständchen (Strauss); Jeanie; Che gelida manina.

Bell Tel. Hr, Oct. 23, 1950 (5006)
O paradiso; In silence of night; Zueignung; Come un bel dì (Andrea Chénier).

Bell Tel. Hr, Jan.8, 1951 (5101)
Le reve (Manon); Jungfrun under lind; For you alone; Donna non vidi mai (Manon Lesc.)

Producerʼs Showcase, Jan. 30, 1956 (5601), audio of telecast with R. Tebaldi:
O sventata; Che gelida manina; Mi chiamano Mimì; O soave fanciulla (Bohème).    

==>  CD #4
JB Greets America, Oct. 3, 1937 (3705)
Spoken greeting addressed to Milton Cross about upcoming radio concerts.

GM Concert: Opera night, Dec. 5, 1937 (3708)
Recondita armonia (Tosca); O paradiso (Lʼafricana); Solenne in questʼora (Forza) with D. Dixon;  Quittons ce lieu...Anges purs (Faust) with Dixon, G. Moore.

Bell Tel. Hr, March 12, 1951 (5102)
Vesti la giubba; The rose of Tralee; Celeste Aida (Aida).

JB interview, Aug. 15, 1949 (4903)
Answers to Bill Arthur of Australian Broadcasting Comm. on his best recording, favorite role, fishing hobby, family.

Studio rec. 1920, alternate take 1 of Sommarglädje, by Björling Juvenile trio.
Studio rec. 1933, alternate take 1 of Kärlekens sång, by “Erik Odde.”
Studio rec. 1949, alternate take 1 of Berceuse (Jocelyn), by J.B.

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