Just because it’s… Björling

Just because it’s… Björling


norman lebrecht

December 22, 2015

No excuses. There has never been a tenor like him.

Jussi Björling sings Prayer of Thanksgiving


  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    If I were to pick a recording of Bjorling, I’m not sure it would be this one. It would perhaps be this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lneRZzs5nqo

    And, as to there never having been a tenor like him? Caruso, Borgioli, Gigli, Wunderlich.

    Of course, there’s not a tenor singing at the moment within a hundred miles of any of them…

    • Berta Calechman says:

      I absolutely agree that Bjoerling was the best. No one like him. But I would differ with your statement “not a tenor singing at the moment within a hundred miles…….” Please listen to almost anything Piotr Beczala sings. Especially “Kuda, Kuda,” just to name one. One of today’s finest tenors, if not the finest.

      • Marshall says:

        I think Beczala has a nice voice with potential, but he’s not a Bjorling.

        His recent Rigolettos at the Met were troubled-I hope it’s just a bad patch

        • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

          No. Bjorling was not the best. There is no best. He was a very fine singer indeed. A great singer; but it impossible for one tenor to be the best.

          Put Bjorling up against Bergonzi. Bjorling is a better singer of Puccini; but Bergonzi is the master of Verdi.

          Put Bjorling up against Borgioli in Donizetti, and Borgioli probably has the edge.

          The trick is to recognise greatness, but not to rank it.

          There are no singers of that standard singing today. A lot of this has to do with the decline of the Italian Technique. The bladed voice, with immaculate breath control, tasteful phrasing and a wide palette of colours and dynamics is disappearing. And it is a great sadness.

  • Milka says:

    Depends on your knowledge and taste .Some people thought Pavarotti and Callas
    to be great singers .

  • Brian Hughes says:

    Have to agree with you on this one, Norman. His Nessun Dorma was the greatest of them all.

    • NYMike says:

      Yep – did Turandot @ Chicago Lyric Opera with him in ’58…..

      • Marshall says:

        Hate to challenge the nostalgia of your memory, but to the best of my knowledge he never sang the role of Calaf on stage. Though he made a wonderful recording of it (as did Pavarotti) neither sang it on stage,nor would they have been that effective in it.

        That role belonged to Franco Corelli-who had the power and heft for it, but not just that-and to many of us despite Bjorlings earlier recording of it, and the way it became identified with Pavarotti, it was Corelli that we associate with it.

        • Steve Bauman says:

          Small correction. Pavarotti did sing Calaf in several complete staged opera performances. It was during San Francisco Opera’s 1977 season. He sang it with Caballe in the title role, Leona Mitchell as Liu, and Giorgio Tozzi as Timur – Riccardo Chailly conducted.
          A pirate recording of the broadcast of 11-4-77 is readily available in excellent sound on several pirate labels. It is the finest performance I have ever heard of this opera – a total benchmark. Pav is at his best and Cabelle is absolutely stunning as Turandot – I’ve never heard anyone ever come close.

      • Petros LInardos says:

        Whew, lucky you. To what extent do recordings do Broerling’s voice justice?

      • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

        Di Stefano was the Calaf in Chicago in 1958, not Bjorling, who famously never sang the role on stage.

  • Nicholas Ashton says:

    Ach, a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful singer and artist. There was something – in both the voice and the direct and concentrated expressivity – which was completely unique to him. The studio and (live recordings) of Boheme with Victoria de los Angeles are amongst the best of some very precious jewels. The first recording I was ever given – at the age of eight – was Bjorling and the imprint of hearing, for the first time, of a voice like that has stayed with me all my days and informed everything have since heard.

  • esfir ross says:

    And his Russian opera repertoire as good, as Sergei Lemeshev. Incredible tenor!

  • Stuart Donaldson says:

    ‘If I were to pick a recording of Bjorling, I’m not sure it would be this one. ‘ Well, OK, fair enough, but if this is second class Bjoerling [and I’m not certain about that] what does that say about the premium quality stuff??!!! Heaven knows I grumble about much of what Norman posts here, but he’s bang on the money with this one!!! Keep them coming and season’s greetings.

  • Göran Södervall says:

    In complete agreement with others about Björling as one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century but disappointed with most re-issues of his 78s on LP ,or CD. You only have to listen to a 78 eg Nessun dorma on good equipment to realize what is missing. The bloom and excitement of his voice can only partially be realized in many inferior transfers. Nothing to be compared to the original 78!