(b Woburn, MA, 28 May 1737; d ?Boston, 30 Dec 1794). American conductor, bandmaster, engraver and tune-book compiler. He became an important figure in the musical life of Boston during the decade beginning in 1764, and was active in both sacred and secular music-making. He organized and performed in at least six concerts in Boston between 1769 and 1773, and also claimed to have founded and trained a regimental band in the city. No music-making by Flagg has been traced after 1773.
Flagg’s two sacred tune books are devoted to the compositions of English psalmodists. A Collection of the Best Psalm Tunes (Boston, 1764), engraved by Paul Revere, was the largest collection of sacred music published in America to that time and the first to be printed on American-made paper. Sixteen Anthems (Boston, n.d. ), intended not for beginners but for ‘those who have made some proficiency in the art of singing’, was engraved and printed by Flagg himself, and he may also have been the engraver of Billings’s The New-England Psalm-Singer (Boston, 1770).
Flagg was one of the most versatile and energetic American musicians of the years immediately preceding the Revolutionary War. He was also an early champion of Handel’s music in America, as is reflected both in his tune books and in the programmes for his Boston concerts.
O.G.T. Sonneck: Early Concert-Life in America (1731–1800) (Leipzig, 1907/R), 261–4, 298–9
R.F. Camus: Military Music of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, NC, 1976), 46, 48–9
B. Lambert, ed.: Music in Colonial Massachusetts 1630–1820, ii: Music in Homes and Churches (Boston, 1985), 1045–56
D.W. Music: ‘Josiah Flagg’, American Music, vii (1989), 140–58
A.P. Britton, I. Lowens and R. Crawford: American Sacred Music Imprints 1698–1810 (Worcester, MA, 1990), 271–4
RICHARD CRAWFORD/DAVID W. MUSIC
Flagstad, Kirsten (Malfrid)
(b Hamar, 12 July 1895; d Oslo, 7 Dec 1962). Norwegian soprano. She came of a musical family: her father was a conductor, her mother a pianist and coach. While still a student, she made her début on 12 December 1913 at the National Theatre, Oslo, as Nuri in d’Albert’s Tiefland. For the next 18 years she sang only in Scandinavia, where she appeared in a wide variety of parts, including operetta, musical comedy and even revue. On 29 June 1932 she sang her first Isolde, at Oslo; this was also her first public performance in the German language. Ellen Gulbranson, the regular Bayreuth Brünnhilde of the previous generation, chanced to hear her, and recommended her to Bayreuth, where she sang small parts in 1933, and Sieglinde and Gutrune in 1934. An engagement at the Metropolitan ensued, and her first appearance there, on 2 February 1935 as Sieglinde, followed four days later by Isolde, was the beginning of her world fame. Her first Brünnhilde performances, later in 1935, set the seal on her success. In 1936 and 1937 she sang Isolde, Brünnhilde and Senta at Covent Garden, arousing as much enthusiasm in London as in New York.
In 1941 Flagstad returned to Norway to join her second husband, who was arrested as a Nazi collaborator after World War II and died in 1946 while awaiting trial. Although she herself was acquitted of political offence by a Norwegian tribunal, her return to Nazi-occupied Norway during the war and a certain political naivety in her nature caused her afterwards to be looked at askance in America. Flagstad’s return to English musical life, on the other hand, was quite uncontroversial. She returned to Covent Garden in 1948 as Isolde, and thereafter sang for three more seasons in her other Wagnerian roles, including Kundry and Sieglinde as well as all three Brünnhildes; her farewell came in Tristan on 30 June 1951. At the age of 55 she could still sing these heavy roles with majestic effect. In 1950, at the Albert Hall, she gave the first performance of Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder with Furtwängler as conductor. In 1951 and 1952 she sang Purcell’s Dido in the little Mermaid Theatre in Bernard Miles’s garden in St John’s Wood, London; and when the permanent Mermaid Theatre opened its doors in the City of London, she reappeared in the same role, bidding farewell to the operatic stage there on 5 July 1953.
Meanwhile, she sang Leonore in Fidelio, under Furtwängler, at the Salzburg Festival (1948–50) and her Wagner roles in many major houses. In 1957, in honour of the 50th anniversary of Grieg’s death, she sang some of his songs, in Norwegian national costume, at a Promenade Concert. During her retirement she continued to be active, as director for a few years of the newly formed Norwegian State Opera, and in the recording studio, for which she even learnt music that was new to her, such as the part of Fricka in Das Rheingold. Over a period of more than 30 years she made many superb recordings. The complete Tristan und Isolde and her Brünnhilde in the complete Ring, live from La Scala (1950), both under Furtwängler, undoubtedly offer the finest memorial to her art; especially valuable, too, are her later sets of songs by Grieg and Sibelius. The majority of her discs were reissued on CD to mark her centenary in 1995.
Although Flagstad was not a singer of naturally ardent temperament, she was always a superlative musician, with a rock-like sense of rhythm and flawless intonation. The lasting purity and beauty of her tone, unsurpassed in the Wagner repertory, probably owed much not only to natural gifts and sound training, but to the enforced repose of the war years and the fact that she undertook no heavy roles until middle life. At 40 she sang with a voice of radiant quality in the upper range, and with heroic power which responded with an effect of ease to Wagner’s utmost demands; but as Leonore, Senta, Elisabeth and Elsa she then revealed flaws in her legato. Later, her scale was perfectly consolidated. Her Isolde was a stately Nordic princess, more proud than passionate. No other Brünnhilde in her time seemed so much a Valkyrie born.
J.Dennis: ‘Kirsten Flagstad’, Record Collector, vii (1952), 172–90 [with discography]
L.Biancoli: The Flagstad Manuscript (New York and London, 1953)
E.McArthur: Flagstad: a Personal Memoir (New York, 1965/R)
H.Vogt: Flagstad: Singer of the Century (London, 1987)