It's no wonder, given the large amount of talent that has graced the realm of classical music since the dawn of the recorded age, that we have such a huge number of great performers. Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Jessye Norman are all relatively well known even among people who don't listen to classical music. But once in a while, someone falls through the cracks and doesn't quite achieve the fame they might deserve.
Witness Christina Deutekom. Maybe she's more famous than I know, but I've only ever heard her in one recording – as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute. But what a performance.
A few years back I bought my first copy of that opera — featuring Gorg Solti conducting the Wiener Philharmonic. With that lineup, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. And I wasn't. Sumi Jo as the Queen turned in a very credible and able performance. And I was happy with this 1991 recording… until I heard another version on CBC radio.
And it turns out, it's basically the same lineup – the Vienna Phil with Solti again, only this time it's from 1971, and Christina Deutekom is the Queen. And what a difference! The force and the crispness of her voice are incredible. Listen to the triplets about halfway through. Where Sumi Jo sings them legato (like most performances I've heard) Deutekom rings each note separately and it makes the world of difference. It sounds almost impossible that she's able to separate them so well.
I'd love to know if her career as a recording musician went any further. I've never come across her name again – but given the quality of this performance, she really deserves to be listed as one of the greats.