Jussi Björling, wartime concerts


November 10, 1944 (the first half, consisting of three Swedish songs, has not survived) demonstrates Björling’s increasingly idiomatic command of that language in arias by Donizetti, Mascagni and Puccini and displays the thirty-three-year-old singer at his mid-career best: the voice still enchanting in its youthful overtones, but sufficiently full-bodied to project the music of Calaf and Turiddu (and of course Nemorino) with total authority. Moreover the presence of an enthusiastic audience (the concert was programmed as part of the Stockholm Musicians Festival) and the singularly spacious leadership of the fifty-year-old Tor Mann (then chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Orchestra) inspire him to invest all three solos with an extra degree of long-breathed, legato-bound lyricism that makes these performances entirely special even by his own elevated standards.

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