As electronic technology advances from 78s, LPs, and audio cassettes to CDs, the lovers of song hold onto their memories, cherishing the great performances of the past as they continue to re-appear in ever newer, and on the whole better, sonic manifestations. The new RCA CD re-issue of performances by the American contralto Marian Anderson,1 in documenting an important part of this remarkable artist’s career, can only arouse our deepest gratitude for the miracle of sound recording, even as it confirms our present propensity to look to the past for vocal splendor and beauty.

Born in Philadelphia in 1902, the daughter of poor parents,...


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