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Ralph V Lucano
American Record Guide, September 2011

The Dutch soprano Gre Brouwenstein (1915–99) was one of those singers whom audiences and record collectors truly seemed to love. I hope Newton’s reissue of an old Philips recital will win her some new fans. She seemed personally involved in everything she did, even Beethoven’s strange excursion into Italian opera aria—this anonymous protagonist might well be a character one can sympathize with. She was perhaps best known for her lyric Wagner roles (though she recorded only Sieglinde). The arias here allow her to return repeatedly to the warmest, loveliest part of her voice, and the Tannhauser and Lohengrin excerpts are about as beautiful as you’ll ever hear.

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Ralph Moore
MusicWeb International, July 2011

Before listening to this recital, I knew and admired Dutch soprano Gré Brouwenstijn (1915–1999). This was down to her contribution as a vibrant Sieglinde to the famous 1961 studio recording of Die Walküre conducted by Leinsdorf. She was also a shining soloist in Beethoven’s Choral Symphony conducted by Cluytens and Desdemona in the live Covent Garden performance of Otello conducted by Kubelik. These all require a big, secure, imposing voice and although Brouwenstijn had her detractors, on account of an intermittently tremulous quality in her tone and a lack of variety in expression, she was also one of the most admired and sought after lyric-dramatic sopranos of the 1950s and 1960s throughout Europe. While I recognise her many gifts, I admit to being a little disappointed by the evidence of her art on this compilation of mono recordings from two sessions in 1952 and 1956; there is sometimes a wearing shrillness in alt and a monotony in her characterisation which for me compromises her art.

An elegant and striking woman of an unorthodox beauty often compared to that of Ingrid Bergman, she evidently made quite an impact onstage. On record, certain vocal flaws are more in evidence. Her forays into Verdi evince a lack of Italianate sensuousness and warmth; hence her Elisabetta and two Leonoras sound almost boyishly plaintive and disembodied in tone, lacking the heroic steadiness and refulgence of voice which mark out the greatest Verdian sopranos. Ah, perfido has never struck me as one of Beethoven’s more inspired compositions and it is over-long at over thirteen minutes, but Brouwenstijn’s cooler, more Germanic temperament and vocal lay-out suit both this and the Weber aria better. The four arias from three Wagner operas are best of all; the steely quality and sense of ecstasy engendered by the flicker in her vibrato lend them the same febrile intensity she brought to her Sieglinde in the complete recording but there is more than a suspicion of uncertain intonation in the quieter, slower sections of “Dich, teure Halle”. Her concluding top B, however, is thrilling. The conducting of Rudolf Moralt—who was in charge of the first, excellent and complete post-war recording of the “Ring” in 1949—is sprung and alert; the mono sound acceptable and undistorted. I do not think that this is a disc I shall return to often but Brouwenstjin fans who have more of a taste for her voice will want this new issue from Newton, as she did not make that many recordings.

Robert Benson, May 2011

Dutch soprano Gré Brouwenstijn (1915–1999) had a successful career for more than three decades, favored by Herbert von Karajan, Rafael Kubelik, and Bruno Walter who planned to record a complete Fidelio with her, but died before this could be done. There are a number of live recordings of complete operas and a major set is the 1961 RCA Walküre conducted by Erich Leinsdorf in which she sings Sieglinde, one of her finest interpretations. Charles Gerhardt told me that originally Leonie Rysanek was to sing the role but she was angered by RCA because of an odd circumstance. Rysanek was to record Aida—but Leontyne Price made her astonishing debut and RCA wanted to record this opera with her. RCA promised Rysanek if she would release them from their commitment to record Aida with her, they would record any other opera with her. She said that’s just fine, I want to record The Egyptian Helen. But RCA didn’t follow through (unfortunately!), Rysanek was angry, and withdrew from the Walküre project at the last minute, which left RCA scrambling. Gerhardt was very familiar with Brouwenstijn’s artistry, suggested her, and fortunately she was available. It’s a remarkable performance (with Jon Vickers, Birgit Nilsson and George London) last issued on London 430 391, very much worth searching for. This Newton Classics issue contains recordings made 1952–1954 when Brouwenstijn was in her prime in some of her greatest roles.

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12:21:22 AM, 19 April 2015
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