> LEHAR conducts Lehar [IL]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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LEHÁR conducts LEHÁR
The Saarbrücken Concert of 28th June 1939
Overture: Zigeunerliebe
Wolgalied† from Derr Zarewitsch
Bin verliebt, bin so verliebt* from Schön ist die Welt
Hab’ ein blaues Himmelbelt † from Frasquita
Ballet music Suite de danse
All mein Füllen, all mein Sehnen*† from Friederike
Overture: Land des Lächelns
Liebe, du Himmel auf Erden* from Paganini
Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss * from Giuditta
O Mädchen, mein Mädchen† from Friederike
Lippen schweigen, ’s flüstern Geigen*† from Die lustige Witwe
Margret Pfahl* (soprano) and Marcel Wittrisch† (tenor)
Orchester des Reichssenders Saarbrücken
Conducted by Franz Lehár (1870-1948)
CPO 999 781-2 [58:58]

This delightful concert was not only broadcast in Germany (only weeks before the outbreak of World War II) but also by the British, Belgian, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Swedish and Swiss Radios. This digitally remastered recording that was preserved in archives, miraculously without damage in a Berlin bunker through the war, begins with an introductory announcement in French, English and German. The refurbishment is excellent considering its vintage: and most kind to the voices so that there is hardly any trace of distortion.

But it is the authenticity of Lehár’s readings of his own music that makes this album so important and fascinating. The conducting style is of its era with generous rubato and portamenti. Together with admirable attack and verve and judicious use of dramatic dynamics, the music carries a strong emotional punch. Just listen to the overture to Zigeunerliebe to hear what I mean. The overture to The Land of Smiles with its lovely ‘You are my heart’s delight’ refrain and its amusing oriental flourishes is equally appealing.

Lehár had written much for the vocal style of Richard Tauber, who, by June 1939, had been banned from performing in the Third Reich. Tenor, Marcel Wittrisch sounds like a clone of Tauber, remarkably similar in timbre and style of delivery if somewhat less refined in his voice control. Wittrisch, nevertheless, took over Tauber’s distinct mannerisms including the falsetto whispered in piano, the concluding flourishes and the fermatas seemingly held endlessly (listen to the ending of his O Mädchen, mein Mädchen, for instance). Margret Pfahl, formerly a coloratura soubrette, had earlier failed to impress Hitler in a production of The Merry Widow but Lehár stood by her. In the solos on this disc she comes across as a strong lyric soprano with a timbre that sounds youthful yet at the same time, paradoxically, mature. I felt that she could have been more sultry, more alluring in the Giuditta aria. Both soloists complement each other well in The Merry Widow duet that ends the concert.

A tuneful, exhilarating concert and an insightful experience for operetta fans. A must-have album for lovers Lehár’s delightful music.

Ian Lace

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