Classicalite’s Five Best: Marilyn Horne Recordings

By James Inverne on Jan 27, 2014 01:45 PM EST

Many happy returns to Marilyn Horne, who turns 80 years young this month!

One of the truly iconic singers of the 20th century, the American mezzo may not grace our stages these days, but we have her dozens of recordings to remind us of that great, glorious voice and charismatic personality.

Here, then, are Classicalite's Five Best not to be missed.

Bizet, Carmen (cond. Leonard Bernstein, DG)

Never one of nature's natural Carmens, it would take a conductor with his own way of doing things to make it work. Bernstein more than fits that bill. Someone once said that he makes everything he conducted sound like he composed it. I'm not sure that's quite true, but his interpretation swells around Horne's fruity tones and James McCracken's giant-voiced Don José.

Rossini, Semiramide (cond. Richard Bonynge, Decca)

The vocal fireworks fly as the famous Horne-Joan Sutherland partnership is at its best in Rossini's great showpiece.

Verdi, Requiem (cond. Solti, Decca)

Never my favorite recording of this work, it does nevertheless show off Horne's sensitivity and charisma to great advantage. And you get Horne-Sutherland again, which is its own reward.

William Bolcom, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, "I Will Breathe A Mountain" (Tokyo String Quartet, RCA)

William Bolcom composed this song cycle for Horne, to mark Carnegie Hall's centenary. The mezzo savors the 11 poems by 11 women, and the CD pairs the cycle with Barber and Bernstein works.

Mahler, Symphony No. 2 (cond. Claudio Abbado, DG)

People don't talk much about this Mahler's Second from Abbado and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with all the praise heaped upon his later cycle from Berlin. But this earlier reading is the more spontaneous and, to my ears, much the more involving. And Horne's profound, solemn contribution is a major part of that.

And, to round it all off, here's a collector's item--Horne letting her Broadway side show in the estimable company of Renée Fleming and Frederica von Stade, back in 1997...

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TagsJames Inverne, Classicalite's Five Best, Marilyn Horne, James McCracken, Carmen, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Renee Fleming, Joan Sutherland, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca

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