Remembering Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig, the German dramatic mezzo-soprano, has passed away. She was 93.

Ludwig was one of the most significant and distinguished singers of the twentieth century “with a voice of exquisite richness and, when needed—breathtaking amplitude.” (Ted Libbey, NPR) She made her debut in Frankfurt at the age of 18, shortly after the Second World War. Her celebrated roles included Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio and Octavian and Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. In addition to opera performances, Ludwig gave regular recitals of lieder over the course of her forty year career. Born in Berlin, she was the daughter of prominent opera singers. She once said, “Singing for me was as natural as learning to walk.”

Here are five of Christa Ludwig’s recordings:

Mozart: Smanie implacabili (Così fan tutte)

In this aria from Act I, Scene 3 of the opera, Dorabella overreacts to the point of hysteria after her fiancé has gone off to war. The scene begins with Despina, performed in this clip by Olivera Miljakovic. Karl Böhm leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this recording from 1970:

Schubert: Der Tod und das Mädchen

This performance of Schubert’s famous and haunting song comes from a 1961 BBC broadcast. Ludwig is accompanied by Gerald Moore:

Strauss: Cäcilie

This second excerpt from the same broadcast features the second in a set of four songs composed by Richard Strauss in 1894:

Wagner: Ich sah das Kind (Parsifal)

In this excerpt from Act II, Scene 3, Kundry tells Parsifal about his mother. She watched him grow up, and when he left she died of heartache. Parsifal wonders if the entire scene, including the garden around him, is a dream. This sense of haziness is captured in Wagner’s music, which seems to be in danger of losing its tonal center. Sir Georg Solti leads the Vienna Philharmonic on this 1973 studio recording:

J.S. Bach: Erbarme Dich (St. Matthew Passion)

Otto Klemperer led the Philharmonia Orchestra in this 1962 performance:

Recordings

  • Mozart: Così fan tutte, Karl Böhm, Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Olivera Miljakovic, Luigi Alva, Hermann Prey, Walter Berry unitel.de
  • Schubert: Der Tod und das Mädchen, Christa Ludwig, Gerald Moore Amazon
  • Strauss: Cäcilie, Op. 27 No. 2, Christa Ludwig, Gerald Moore  Amazon
  • Wagner: Parsifal, Ich sah das Kind, Sir Georg Solti, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, René Kollo, Christa Ludwig, Gottlob Frick, Zoltan Kélémen, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Hotter, Birgit Finnilä Amazon
  • J.S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion, Erbarme dich, Otto Klemperer, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Peter Pears, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, Nicolai Gedda, Walter Berry, Hampstead Church Boys Choir, Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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