Deutsche Grammophon is lucky in that World War II didn't slow classical recordings in Germany as it did in the United States but stimulated them: It was essential for wartime morale. Thus, if you can get past any repugnance related to these recordings' genesis, there's a huge amount to enjoy. There's a disc of lieder by all the prewar greats (Franz Volker, Tiana Lemnitz, Erna Berger, and Heinrich Schlusnus), a disc of Wagner featuring young Hans Hotter, opera and operetta performances by Berger and Helge Roswaenge, and a disc showing how the German singers gave Italian opera a distinctively Nordic but highly communicative edge. The set is crowned by a complete Winterreise that was recorded by Peter Anders in 1945 (and sounds it): the cultivated tenor's anguished performance embodies a Germany facing the abyss. –David Patrick Stearns
Conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler already enjoyed a worldwide legendary standing during his lifetime he was considered the German conductor and performances were greeted with rapturous applause. Today, more than 50 years after his death, Wilhelm Furtwängler is still an icon and his work has become an integral part of the music scene.
Of all the laudatory epithets applicable to Barbara Bonney, “radiant” might not be the one that springs to mindat least, not insofar as it suggests the warm luxuriance of sunshine. Bonney’s light, bright lyric soprano is something else: a voice of delicate refinement and transparent, pure-toned beauty. But it’s capable of silkily seductive textures too; and there are wonderful examples on this compilation disc that, if featuring a less well-established artist, might qualify as a demo tape. Most of the tracks are previously issued but together they define her capabilities and home-base repertory, from Bach, Purcell and Mozart through to Scandinavian song and Richard Strauss. –Michael White .