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Zarah Leander (1907-1981). Die ersten Jahre
Ralph BENATZKY (1884-1957)

Gebundene Hände
Eine Frau von heut’
Ich hab’ eine tiefe Sehnsucht in mir
Yes, Sir!
Ich steh’ im Regen
Kinostar, die Sehnsucht tausender Mädchen
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)

Entréelied aus Die lustige Witwe
Viljalied aus Die lustige Witwe
Dénes von BUDAY

Ich hab’ vielleicht noch nie geliebt!

Merci, mon ami
Sag’ mir nicht Adieu, Sag nur Auf Wiederseh’n
Cherie…Du bist heut’ so anders!

Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt
Du kannst es nicht wissen

Eine Frau wird erst schön durch die Liebe
Drei Sterne sah ich scheinen
Zara Leander (soprano)
Orchestras directed by Anton Paulik, Jules Sylvain and Eugen Wolff
Ufa Film Orchestra/Lothar Brühne
Recorded 1931-38
PREISER 90027 [48.37]


One of the great singer-actresses, the so-called Diva of the Third Reich, Zarah Leander’s life seems indivisible from her smoky music making. If Dietrich remains the ultimate emblem of a Weimar that actively shunned its home country then Leander’s rivals Greta Keller and Lale Andersen were to prove powerful contenders to the mythic domestic crown. But Leander still strikes a visceral chord not least for recent revelations and contentions surrounding her actual role as the Nazi’s favourite film actress.

Leander was Swedish and the fact that she apparently had Jewish grandparents makes her ascent all the more astonishing. A film and singing career was strongly supported by the party, despite some high ranking opposition and the fact that she wasn’t German born, although if recent newspaper reports are true she led a covert life helping Jews and dissidents. Whatever the truth we can enjoy these examples of her early fame - which she reached via assiduous work in Stockholm and Vienna – the very earliest of which, the Lehárs made for Odeon in 1931, predate the ascendancy of National Socialism. They show what a vibrant and characterful singer-actress she was even then (not least because her German was a second language) and how confidently she bridged the operetta-film music divide. Her Benatzky is even more impressive, because it’s more her natural milieu and the range sits comfortably for her voice. We can hear the cigarette stained deep insinuation of Gebundene Hände and the Dietrich-like quality of her voice in Eine Frau von heut’ – although Leander’s voice is rather more flexible across the range. She relishes the Magyar exoticisms of von Buday’s Ich hab’ vielleicht noch nie geliebt! along with the solo violinist and brings an obvious sexual charge and insinuation to most of these pieces. Some of the orchestrations are rather showy in their big dance band ways with spiced instrumentation and Spanishry in Lothar Brühne’s Der Wind hat mir ein Lied erzählt.

Her conversational intimacy is best illustrated on the same composer’s Du kannst es nicht wissen – with piano accompaniment presumably by the composer himself. And the "mike voice" – light, with its admixture of popular sprachgesang – is heard to best advantage in Fenyes’ Sag’ mir nicht Adieu, Sag nur Auf Wiederseh’n. Here and throughout she reminds one yet again of her mobility and rightness in this repertoire, truly a voice that summons up a decade.

Jonathan Woolf

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