Russell Oberlin - A discography

Conception & research: Pierre-F. Roberge
For comments, additions and corrections mccomb@medieval.org (continuing this discography for PFR)
Last update: 08/23/2009

This is an "under construction" and for now a relatively complete discography of Russell Oberlin.

Russell Oberlin, Thomas Hunter ex-professor of music and Director of the Collegium Musicum at Hunter College, is an internationally acclaimed singer widely recognized as America's foremost countertenor. Russell Keys Oberlin was born in Akron, Ohio, on October 28th, 1928. A graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, he met Noah Greenberg, one of the more prominent Early Music specialists, there in the early 50's. Oberlin was a founding member of Greenberg's New York Pro Musica, where he rapidly became highly reknowned. One of his most notable successes was being in "The Play of Daniel".

He started recording with a small company known as "Expériences Anonymes" which later became the well known Lyrichord label. He did 10 recordings for EA mostly of medieval repertory; he was the first to record a complete LP of The Cantigas de Santa Maria, an LP that is, in my own opinion, still one of the most vibrant interpretations even if the approach was rather minimal (voice & lute). In the mid 50's and early 60's he recorded extensively, giving recitals and appearing as soloist with leading orchestras throughout the USA and abroad (most recordings still sadly lacking reeditions in the CD format), singing Purcell, Handel's Arias, Bach, Schumann.

Contrary to Deller, he was a true actor: he even played spoken roles with the American Shakespeare Company. Operatic roles include appearances at the Royal Opera House and Convent Garden, where he sang the part of Oberon in the London premiere of Benjamin's Britten's "Mid-Summer Night's Dream" (it appears that Alfred Deller felt deeply humiliated for not being choosen for the role). Also contrary to Deller, he was not a falsettist, but a true high tenor (a la John McCormack) or what has sometime been called in the past an Irish tenor.

While doing the American premiere in San Francisco, he recorded Bach's works with Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould. A critic even said that "Deller was an angel, Oberlin a man". In the mid sixties, he stopped recording and apppearing in public. He started a career as an educator and trained Willard Cobb and the late John Ferrante. A senior Fullbright research scholar, Oberlin has taught and lectured extensively in the U.S. and England.

One was canonized, the other forgotten..., at least recently and maybe this site will help a little bit in promoting the recognition that this great artist deserves.

This text is freely adapted from a notice appearing on the booklet included with Lyrichord CDs and an article published by Yvan A. Alexandre in the french periodical Diapason (October 1995). Also a very interesting article about Expériences Anonymes/Lyrichord at its beginning and the debut of R. Oberlin appeared in Fanfare, vol. 18 # 1.


This discography is divided into three parts.

Part I lists the original recordings (expected to be around 25) and re-edited material containing tracks not previously released. Each individual titles is (or will be) linked to a descriptive section containing as much information as possible about the original recording; this description is cross-linked to available CDs actually on the market (January 1997) in North America or western Europe. Great care have been taken to prevent misinformations and a large part of the data originates from records themselves (although often not as reliable as it should be). If the recording was not available, the content originates from usual sources (periodicals such as The Gramophone (and the Catalogue), Diapason (and the Catalogue), Bielefelder Katalog, Notes, and Fanfare, etc.). Alas! if all this failed, reference was made to the french book "Diapason - Guide de la musique ancienne et baroque" (Coll. Bouquins, Robert Laffond, 1993) [GMAB]; although impressive in term of quality and amount of content, readers should be careful about many recording dates listed. Also data has been re-checked using the Indiana University Library excellent database [IUCAT]. For those interested in discography of medieval and renaissance period, they should refer to the following three publications.

  1. Medieval and Renaissance Music on Long-Playing Records
    James Coover and Richard Colvig
    Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography # 6 (-end of 1961)
    Information service, Incorporated
    10, West Warren, Detroit 1, Michigan

  2. Medieval and Renaissance Music on Long-Playing Records
    James Coover and Richard Colvig
    Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography # (1962-1970 + corrections to # 6)
    Information service, Incorporated
    10, West Warren, Detroit 1, Michigan

  3. Early Music Discography - From Plainsong to the Sons of Bach
    Vol. 1: Record Index (covers 1970-1980)
    Oryx Press

I tried to list titles according to their label and release dates. In the linked section, I tried to follow the track order of recording; in some cases when the recording was not available, the order may need correction by a careful reader owning the disc. In Part I, my goal is to cover all original recordings, but this may well be wishful thinking without comments and corrections. These could be directed to my E-mail address (pfr@videotron.ca). Credit for any significant contribution will be given at the end of the discography.

This is the third edition. The content needs validation and will be regularly up-dated in the next 3-4 months.

Part II deals mostly with reedition on CDs; I will try to be complete, but the goals is really to inform readers about available recordings on the market.

Part III lists composers recorded by Russell Oberlin; it will become eventually an index of works interpreted by Russell Oberlin. This will be done when Part I and II is completed.

Pierre-F. Roberge

PART I

RCA Victor

1949-52 (Total original recordings = 2)

  1. RCA Victor « Red Seal Records » DM 1339 [78rpm x 4, 25cm]
    Johann-Sebastian Bach: Motet no. 3 « Jesu meine Freude »
    The Robert Shaw Chorale – Robert Shaw, cond.
    Rec.: ca 1952

  2. RCA Victor « Red Seal Records » LM 1711 [LP]
    Robert Shaw conducts Christmas hymns and carols, vol. 2
    RCA Victor Chorale & Orchestra – Robert Shaw, cond.
    Rec.: ca 1949

  3. RCA Victor « Red Seal Records » LM 9035 [LP, mono]
    Johann-Sebastian Bach – Motet no. 3 « Jesu meine Freude » – Cantata No. 4 « Christ lag in Todesbanden »
    Robert Shaw Chorale / RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra - Robert Shaw, cond.
    Rel.: ca 1960

    Cook Recordings

    1952 (Total original recordings = 1)

  4. Cook 1092 [LP, 25cm, mono]
    The Hufstader Singers
    The Hufstader Singers
    Rec.: 1952 or prior

  5. Cook BN 1092 [LP, 30cm, binaural]
    The Hufstader Singers
    The Hufstader Singers
    Rec.: 1952 or prior

    Cook 11312 [LP, mono]
    The Forgotten Pedal Harpsichord - The Hufstader Singers
    Bruce Prince-Joseph - The Hufstader Singers
    Rel.: ca 1956

    Counterpoint/Esoteric Recordings

    1953-1957 (Total original recordings = 6)

  6. Esoteric ES 516 [LP, mono]
    Banchieri: Festino (A Madrigal entertainment) & Dalza, Frescobaldi, Gabrieli
    Rec.: ca 1953

  7. Esoteric ES 519 [LP, mono]
    Henry Purcell, John Blow - Instrumental & Vocal Selections
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

  8. Esoteric ES 520 [LP, mono]
    Thomas Morley - Elizabethan Madrigals
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

  9. Esoteric ESJ-6 [LP, mono, 25cm]
    An Elizabethan songbag for young people
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

  10. Esoteric ESJ-5 [LP, mono, 25cm]
    Seymour Barab - Child's Garden of Verses
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

  11. Esoteric ES 535 [LP, mono]
    Henry Purcell - Songs
    Rec.: 1954

  12. Counterpoint CPT 539 [LP, mono]
    Seymour Barab - Child's Garden of Verses
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

    Counterpoint CPT 540 [LP, mono]
    Children's Songs of Shakespeare's time
    Rec.: 1953 or prior

    Everest SDBR 3145 [LPx7, stereo]
    Noah Greenberg conducting the New York Pro Musica - An Anthology of Their Greatest Works
    Rel. after 1966

    Everest 6145 [LPx7, mono]
    Noah Greenberg conducting the New York Pro Musica - An Anthology of Their Greatest Works
    Rel. after 1966

    Period Recordings

    ca 1953 (Total original recordings = 1)

  13. Period PL 597 [LP, mono]
    Anthology of Renaissance Music
    Rec.: ca 1953

  14. Columbia Recordings / Odyssey

    ca 1954 (Total original recordings = 5)

  15. Columbia M2L 242 (ML 5023 - ML 5024) [LP, mono]
    George Frideric Handel - Messiah
    Rec.: 1956

  16. or
  17. Columbia M2L 242 (MS 6038 - MS 6039) [LP, stereo]
    George Frideric Handel - Messiah
    Rec.: 1956

  18. Columbia ML 5051 [LP, mono]
    Evening of Elizabethan Verses & Its Music
    Rec.: 1954

  19. Columbia ML 5159 [LP, mono]
    Vocal Music of Claudio Monteverdi
    Rec.: ca 1954

  20. Columbia ML 5204 [LP, mono]
    The Music of Salamone Rossi, Hebreo of Mantua
    Rec.: ca 1954

  21. Columbia ML 5775 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Johann Sebastian Bach - Magnificat BWV 243
    Rec.: 1957 or prior

    Columbia ML 5300 [LP, mono]
    Handel: The Messiah - Christmas Music
    Rel.: 1959
    or
    Columbia MS 6020 [LP, stereo]
    Handel: The Messiah - Christmas Music
    Rel.: 1959

    Columbia ML 5346 [LP, mono]
    Handel: The Messiah - Easter Music
    Rel.: 1959
    or
    Columbia MS 6045 [LP, stereo]
    Handel: The Messiah - Easter Music
    Rel.: 1959

    Columbia ML 6328 [LP, mono]
    Handel: The Messiah (excerpts)
    Rel.: 1966

    Columbia MS 6928 [LP, stereo]
    Handel: The Messiah (excerpts)
    Rel.: 1966

  22. Urania Recordings

    1957 (Total original recording = 1)

  23. Urania US 8 018 [LP, mono]
    Buxtehude anniversary program
    Rel.: 1957 or prior

  24. Urania UR 8018 / USD 1011 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Buxtehude anniversary program
    Rel.: 1957 or prior

    Urania US 58 018 [LP]
    Buxtehude anniversary program
    Rel.: 1962

    Expériences Anonymes / Lyrichord

    1957-1960 (Total original recordings = 10)

  25. Expériences Anonymes EA-0012 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. I: Troubadour and Trouvère Songs (XII & XIII Centuries)
    Rec.: 1957

  26. Expériences Anonymes EA-0021 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. II: Notre Dame Organa - Leoninus and Perotinus Magister (The Twelfth Century)
    Rec.: 1958

  27. Expériences Anonymes EA-0023 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. III: Las Cantigas de Santa Maria del Rey Alfonso le Sabio (The Thirteenth welfth Century)
    Rec.: 1958

  28. Expériences Anonymes EA-0024 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. IV: English Polyphony of the XIIIth and early XIVth Centuries
    Rec.: 1958

  29. Expériences Anonymes EA-0029 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. V: English medieval Songs (XIIth and XIIIth Centuries)
    Rec.: 1958

  30. Expériences Anonymes EA-0031 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. VI: XIVth and early XVth Century English Polyphony
    Rec.: 1958

  31. Expériences Anonymes EA-0034 [LP, mono]
    John Dowland - Lute Songs
    Rec.: 1958

  32. Expériences Anonymes EA-0035 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. VII: The French Ars Antiqua
    Rec.: 1958

  33. Expériences Anonymes EA-0036 [LP, mono]
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. VIII: John Dunstable - Sacred and Secular Music
    Rec.: 1961 or prior

  34. Expériences Anonymes EA-0037 [LP, mono]
    William Byrd - Music for voices and viols
    Rec.: 1961 or prior

  35. Lyrichord EA-0312 [LP, mono]
    Catch That Catch Can - New York Catch Club, Saville Clark, dir.
    Rec.: 1958 or prior

  36. Decca (US) Recordings

    19.. (Total original recordings = 9)

  37. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9400 [LP, mono]
    Music of Medieval Court and Countryside
    Rec.: 1957 or prior

  38. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9402 / DL 79402 [LP, mono/stereo]
    The Play of Daniel
    Rec.: 1957 or prior

  39. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9404 / DL 79404 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Sacred Music of Thomas Tallis
    Rec.: 1958 or prior

  40. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9406 / DL 79406 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Elizabethan and Jacobean Ayres, Madrigal & Dances
    Rec.: 1959 or prior

  41. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9407 / DL 79407 [LP, mono/stereo]
    George Frideric Handel - Arias
    Rec.: 1959 or prior

  42. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9410 / DL 79410 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Josquin Des Préz: Missa Pange Lingua, motets and instrumental pieces
    Rec.: 1960 or prior

  43. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 9414 / DL 79414 [LP, mono/stereo]
    Buxtehude, Handel, Telemann: Baroque Cantatas
    Rec.: 1961 or prior

  44. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 10032 / DL 710032 [LP, mono/stereo]
    A Russell Oberlin Recital
    Rec.: 1961 or prior

  45. Decca "Gold Label Series" DL 10097 / DL 710097 [LP, mono/stereo]
    William Turner Walton: Façade
    Rec.: 1961 or prior

  46. Sony Recordings

    1961 Original recording (total=1)

  47. Sony SHV 48408 [Video]
    The Glenn Gould Collection, vol. V - The conductor
    Glenn Gould, Russell Oberlin & others
    Rec.: 1961

  48. VAI

    1961-1962 Original recording (total=1)

  49. VAI VAI 4305 [DVD]
    Russell Oberlin
    Russell Oberlin
    Rec.: 1961-1962


PART II

Re-editions (CD, Cassettes, video)

  1. Fine Classics 4419-2
    Medieval & Renaissance Music - "The Gold Collection"
    Various artists
    Rel.: 1999

  2. Fine Classics 4420-2
    Love Songs in Shakespeare's Time - "The Gold Collection"
    Various artists
    Rel.: 2000

  3. Lyrichord LEMS 8001
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. I: Troubadour and Trouvère Songs (XII & XIII Centuries)
    Rel.: 1994

  4. Lyrichord LEMS 8002
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. II: Notre Dame Organa - Leoninus and Perotinus Magister (The Twelfth Century)
    Rel.: 1994

  5. Lyrichord LEMS 8003
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. III: Las Cantigas de Santa Maria del Rey Alfonso le Sabio (The Thirteenth welfth Century)
    Rel.: 1994

  6. Lyrichord LEMS 8004
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. IV: English Polyphony of the XIIIth and early XIVth Centuries
    Rel.: 1994

  7. Lyrichord LEMS 8005
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. V: English medieval Songs (XIIth and XIIIth Centuries)
    Rel.: 1994

  8. Lyrichord LEMS 8006
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. VI: XIVth and early XVth Century English Polyphony
    Rel.: 1994

  9. Lyrichord LEMS 8007
    Music of Middle Ages, Vol. VII: The French Ars Antiqua
    Rel.: 1994

  10. Lyrichord LEMS 8011
    John Dowland - Lute Songs
    Rel.: 1996

  11. Lyrichord LEMS 8014
    William Byrd - Music for voices and viols
    Rel.: 1997

  12. MCAD2 10102
    The Play of Daniel - The Play of Daniel
    Rel.: 1991

  13. Music and Arts 654
    J-S. Bach BWV 54, Concerto pour clavier, Ouverture à la française; fugue; BWV 552 (+ Glenn Gould)
    Rec.: 1962 or prior

  14. Sony Classics SK 38 481
    Handel: The Messiah - Highlights
    Rel.: 1998

  15. Sony Classics SM2K 60 205
    Bernstein Century - Handel: Messiah
    Rel: 1998

  16. Sony Classics SBK 60 261
    Bach - Easter Oratorio, Magnificat
    Rel: 1998

  17. Deutsche Gramophon 477 6541 [CD]
    Russell Oberlin sings Handel Arias: Messiah - Israel in Egypt - Rodelinda - Radamisto - Muzio Scevola
    Rel.: 2006

  18. VAI VAI 4305 [DVD]
    Russell Oberlin
    Russell Oberlin
    Rel.: 2005

  19. VAI A 1258 [CD]
    Music of John Blow and Henry Purcell - John Blow: Ode on the death of Henry Purcell - Mr Henry Purcell: Songs & Airs
    Russell Oberlin et al.
    Rel.: 2006

And a radio interview (feb. 1995) on KXLU: "Richard McFalls talks with Russell Oberlin", part I and II; can be obtained from Mr Jon Stringer

....And thanks to all contributors....
Todd McComb <mccomb@medieval.org>
Nick Fritsch
Stella Besse
Donald Rice
Joanna Morris
Willie Lockeretz
Jeff Vilencia
Jon Stringer
Bryce Butler
Greg Audette
I am waiting.... for others...

Pierre-F. Roberge

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