Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Carol Brice and Reiner

Carol Brice, as pictured in the liner notes for her set of Bach Arias
Today I present the first three recordings by North Carolina-born contralto Carol Brice (1918-1985), who, in 1943, became the first African-American to win the Walter Naumberg Award.  The first two of these sets, recorded on the same day, also feature Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburgh Symphony - in fact, since the singing is incidental, Reiner gets the main billing in this gripping performance of Falla's El Amor Brujo:

De Falla: El Amor Brujo (Love by Witchcraft)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner, 
with Carol Brice (contralto)
Recorded February 5, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MM-633, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 61.91 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 31.95 MB)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)
Next, the first-ever recording of a popular Mahler song cycle:

Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)
Carol Brice (contralto) with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Fritz Reiner
Recorded February 5, 1946
Columbia Masterworks set MX-267, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC file, 44.03 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 24.75 MB)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)
Finally, from a year later, an album of Bach arias (two from the Magnificat in D, and two from the Mass in B minor), this time conducted by Daniel Saidenberg, and also featuring the talents of Julius Baker (flute) and Albert Goltzer (English horn):

Sacred Arias of Johann Sebastian Bach
Carol Brice (contralto) with the Columbia Broadcasting Concert Orchestra
conducted by Daniel Saidenberg
Recorded April 14, 1947
Columbia Masterworks set MX-283, two 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 52.4 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 30.2 MB)

Cover design by Alex Steinweiss
(restored by Peter Joelson)
As with many of the Steinweiss-illustrated Columbia albums I have been posting lately, the Bach and de Falla sets were kindly provided to me by Ken Halperin of Collecting Record Covers.


  1. Thanks, Bryan - The Mahler and Bach were combined for a 12-inch LP - ML4108, which just happens to be sitting with me here in my study.

  2. My first Amor Brujo, my first love for human "classical" voice; I would repeat the songs ever and ever in approximate spanish ! That was 50 years ago, my mother's vinyle had a plainer cover, though.
    Merci !

  3. How strange to hear the Wayfarer songs sung by a woman. In my opinion, only a man could be capable of the emotional wimpiness expressed in the text.
    I noticed that the cover has a lovely detail in the form of a heart getting stabbed by a dagger, as in the "Messer" song.
    Oh, and I don't think this is the first recording - I have a budget CD box of old Mahler recordings and it includes a version from 1939, with Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw orchestra and Hermann Schey singing.
    BTW Are you planning to post any more Mahler in the future?

    1. You're right, it isn't the first recording, it's only the first commercial recording (the Mengelberg was a concert recording not originally intended for release) and therefore the first way most record buyers at the time would have heard these songs.
      The only other Mahler 78 sets I have are the Bruno Walter 5th (1947, New York) and "Das Lied von der Erde" (1936, Vienna live), which I've not attempted to transfer yet because they are so readily available elsewhere.

  4. Thank you Bryan! This is an amazing collection with great artwork!