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Cache of Björling Recordings Retrieved from the Library of Congress
by Sue Flaster
The Library of Congress [LC] collects every book published
in the United States. They also collect, when possible, copies of radio and
television programs which have been somehow preserved, either on disc or
tape. Could their archives contain anything interesting for the Björling
Early in 2000, Cantor Don Goldberg made two trips
to the LC to research Jussi Björling radio broadcasts from the 1930s to 1950s
that might be archived there. His report of those excursions was published in
Issue 11 of this Journal (Fall 2000). Don had found that indeed the LC is
holding a number of radio broadcast tapes and acetate disks containing work by
Jussi. In some cases, this material has not been heard since it was first aired
nearly 60 years ago; in other cases, broadcast material which has been
commercially available in crude sound, existed at the LC in excellent – and
occasionally pristine – sound.
Late last summer, Harald Henrysson began the work
required to get authorization for the LC to copy and release these programs to
the Björling Museum. Although a large number of these programs were of
interest, time and available money limited how many Harald would be able to get
copied in summer 2002. While waiting times for the LC’s transcription services
might have been very long, due to backlogs created by the security issues
arising from the terrorism of 9/11/01, Harald argued that he needed the
recordings in time for the October JBS Conference in Manhattan. Thanks to
friendly interest by the LC staff (the key contact person, Jerry H., was
himself a tenor!), the LC would expedite Harald’s requests, provided he could
get releases from the legal departments of the NBC and ABC Radio
Harald patiently wrote many letters and made many
phonecalls from Sweden, before finally finding the right network lawyers to ask
permission to have copies made of their radio programs. The process was
frustrating, since while the lawyers guarding the networks’ “intellectual
property rights” seemed willing enough to help us, once we finally found them,
it was simply very hard to find these people! By the end of September, the
various approvals had been made, a check for $700 had been sent to the LC, and
by mid-October the completed CDs were on their way to Andrew Farkas at the
Library of the University of North Florida.
The CDs with this material were sampled for
members of the JBS Conference in Manhattan on Saturday morning, October 26,
2002. These recordings also have been shared with the Swedish National Archive
of Sounds and Pictures. Now we hope to contact the NBC and ABC legal experts
again and attempt to arrange some slightly broader release of this material to
interested members of the chapters of the Jussi Björling Societies in the UK,
USA and Scandinavia, so they may have the chance to own these
Some whimsy suggested by Harald: As you may be
aware, there was a “Che gelida manina” CD produced for JBS-USA by Toby Hekler
and her accomplices (see Newsletter #3) with 15 performances of that aria by
Jussi. Since there now are eight Voice of Firestone programs in our hands,
Harald has suggested that we might produce for Society members a CD of all
eight versions of Idabelle Firestone’s introductory anthem “If I could tell
you” combined with the recessional “And now each flow’r.” For filler, we might
present all of Jussi’s versions of the “Neapolitan love song” from Victor
Herbert’s Princess Pat. (You can get a more information on Mrs. Firestone’s
songs if you go to
The Library of Congress broadcast programs are
(numbers refer to H. Henrysson’s “A Jussi
4504, Voice of Firestone: 19 November
b. Who is Sylvia (Schubert) – c. Le rêve – d.
Jeanie – e. M’appari
b has been commercially released, it’s in English
and a bit odd.
c, d, e appear not to have been released; c in
particular is spectacular, and the sound is fantastic overall.
4602, Voice of Firestone: 21 January
b. Will you remember (Romberg) – c. For you alone
– d. Miserere
(with Eleanor Steber in b, d)
b and d have been released; c has not, but has a
bad scratch running through it, to the end of the broadcast (easily repaired
with modern transcription methods).
4603, Voice of Firestone: 25 March
b. Jeg elsker dig – c. Concealed in this retreat
– d. Because –
e. Neapolitan love song
Nothing here seems to have been commercially
released. The sound is really excellent, and (e) is one of the best Nls
4605, Ford Sunday Evening Hour: 12 May
a. Salut, demeure – b. Jungfrun under lind – c.
Land du välsignade –
d. Mother o’ mine
(a) does not appear to have been released,
although the other items have been. In fact this is a truly splendid “Salut,
demeure” with fantastic pppp’s. The sound is terrific throughout.
4801, Bell Telephone Hour: 15 March
a. Mattinata – b. Lilacs – c. Clorinda – d. Ah,
fuyez, douce image
All items have previously been released, but
perhaps not in such excellent sound – despite a small scratch in
The versions of “Lilacs” and “Mattinata” may be
the best yet.
4901, Bell Telephone Hour: 4 April
a. Ständchen – b. Neapolitan love song – c. Addio
These are really fine, and b is the best version
of all of Nls’s.
5006. Bell Telephone Hour: 23 October
a. O, paradiso – b. In the silence of night – c.
d. Come un bel dì di maggio
All items previously released. The sound here is
excellent, with “Silence of night” extraordinary for phrasing and astounding
A72. We, the People: 16 February
a. Interview together with Dorothy Caruso – b.
Vesti la giubba
Previously unreleased, indeed its very existence
in doubt. The interview is amusing but not very informative, in which both read
from cue cards. Jussi talks very fast. The “Vesti” seemed to me a little dry.
He may have been nervous. Superb sound.
5102. Bell Telephone Hour: 12 March
a. Vesti la giubba – b. Rose of Tralee – c.
All items previously released. The sound is good
overall, with some scratches. THIS “Vesti la giubba” is tremendous! I think
this is the best “Celeste Aïda” sung by Jussi, and therefore the best one sung
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