An Appraisal of the Vocal Art of Jussi Björling
By Vsevolod Vasilievich Timokhin
(A chapter from Mastera Vokal’nogo Iskusstva XX veka [Masters of theVocal Art of the Twentieth Century], Moscow, 1974, pp. 72-85.)
The countries of Scandinavia have given the world of vocal art many names which have achieved world renown. What music lover does not know about the “Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind, who was one of the greatest singers of the Nineteenth Century? Or about those other artists, Patti’s rivals, Christine Nilsson and Sigrid Arnoldson? Or about the famous Finnish singer Alma Fohström, who performed for many years on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow? In our century many Scandinavian singers have achieved international fame; but it is interesting to note that almost all of them were adherents of the German, principally Wagnerian, vocal school. We have but to remember the names of the Danes Peter Cornelius and Lauritz Melchior, the Swedish artists Birgit Nilsson, Karin Branzell, Set Svanholm, Joel Berglund, Nanny Larsén-Todsen, and Kerstin Thorborg, the Norwegians Kirsten Flagstad and Ivar Andresen, the Finns Martti Talvela and Tom Krause…. Some of them studied with students of the German school who were working in Stockholm and Copenhagen; others themselves went to Germany or Austria to study. It must be remembered that many of the severe epic Wagnerian music dramas have something in common with the traditions and legends of the northern lands, and therefore the emotional atmosphere of these dramas could not but find a response in the soul of a person who was brought up amidst cliffs, lakes, and fiords.