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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
The Best of Franz Lehár

Die Lustige Witwe (1905): Lippe schweigen [2.59]
Schön ist die Welt (1930): Frei und jung dabei [2.43]; Schön ist die Welt [2.43]; Ich bin verliebt [3.10]
Das Land des Lächleins (1929): Bei einem Tee à deux [3.18]; Dein ist mein ganzes Herz! [3.22]; Wer hat die Liebe [5.09]
Paganini (1925): Gern habí ich die Frauín gesküßt [3.11]; Niemand liebt dich so wie ich [4.56]; Liebem du Himmel auf Erden [2.28]
Der Zarewitsch (1927): Wolgalied [4.50]; Kosende Welien [3.43]
Friederike (1928): Warum hast du mich wach geküßt [3.23];
Der Graf von Luxemburg (1929): Lieber Freund [5.48]
Renate Holm (soprano)
Werner Krenn (tenor)
Orchester der Wiener Volksoper/Anton Paulik
Eva (1911): Wärí es auch nichts als ein Augenblick [3.40];
Zigeunerliebe (1910): Hörí ich Cymbalklänge [3.38]
Pilar Lorengar (soprano)
Vienna Opera Orchestra/Walter Weller
rec. Dec 1970 (cond. Paulik), Nov 1970 (cond. Weller), Sofiensaal, Vienna
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 2703 [60.02]

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Of all the developments in nineteenth-century opera, none has been more popular than Viennese operetta, of which Johann Strauss the Younger and Franz Lehár are the two most celebrated masters. Their works still hold the world's stages as the most potent evocation of the seductive nostalgia of Emperor Franz Josef's Vienna. Operetta developed from comic opera, and uses songs, choruses, dance music and spoken dialogue to sustain plots which are often both slender and charming.

Lehár was Hungarian by birth and after working in various minor theatres became an army bandmaster. From 1902 he made his career wholly in music for the stage. During the 1920s Lehár maintained his position in the musical life of Vienna and beyond. This he secured in part through his collaboration with the gifted lyric tenor Richard Tauber whose recordings proved immensely popular over the years.

The tenor voice of Werner Krenn follows in Tauberís distinctive tradition, an idiomatic artistry evident in every number in which he features (and it is in the majority among this collection). He combines pleasingly with his soprano, Renate Holm, and they make an effective partnership, very stylish indeed. But they also sing well individually, and in her case Ich bin verliebt from Schön ist die Welt is very pleasing indeed, a highlight among highlights.

These performances have been taken from a duet recital collection recorded by Decca in Vienna during December 1970, and they sound well in this remastering, though there might have been more bloom in the string sound than the recording has managed to capture. The final pair of items are taken from another recital with orchestra made that year, just the preceding month, by the Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar with Walter Weller conducting.

Although Lorengar has much less of the programme, she maintains the high standards set thus far, and the gypsy style of Zigeunerliebe is idiomatically captured.

The collection is boldly entitled ĎThe Best of Franz Lehárí, implying that what is not here is rather less than his best. This is plainly nonsense, since among the items omitted is his most famous and popular number, Vilja from The Merry Widow. Put that irritation aside, however, and this is a pleasing reissue, even if it does come without texts and translations.

Terry Barfoot


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