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