Lehár went into the Zurich studios
in June 1947 to record a total of eighteen sides to be issued on 78.
At seventy-seven he had managed to survive the War relatively unmolested
despite having spent four years in Vienna with his Jewish wife, Sophie.
It is a testimony to the competence of the Zurich Tonhalle, to the affection
in which the composer was held, and to his own skill that the majority
of issued sides were take ones. Of all of these pieces, recorded between
17th and 25th June 1947, only the overture to
Zigeunerliebe, the Waltz-intermezzo from Der Graf von Luxembourg and
the first part of the overture to Wiener Frauen relied on second takes.
Lehár died the following year and these, his last recordings,
are performances of such ardour and lyricism that one can only be grateful
that Decca had the foresight to catch him in time. They are generally
more leisurely than those earlier famous discs when he was the conductor
for such Lehár vocal titans as Tauber, Esther Réthy (fellow
Hungarian and a Lehár stalwart), Novotná (whod studied,
as had the composer before her, in Prague.
He studied harmony and counterpoint with Fibich and Dvořák) and
the equally excellent Maria Reining.
The disc actually begins with the relatively rare four
sides of Musikalische Memoiren recorded in Vienna in 1940, a sort of
dramatic pot-pourri and sixteen plus minutes of richly orchestrated,
luxuriantly played confection. The Zurich sides must be sufficiently
famous now to need little comment except to note they have a leaner
orchestral palette but no less of a sense of occasion and affection.
Lehárs increasing slowness is never ponderous; on the contrary
he brings marvellous zest and lyrical sweep to, say, the Overture to
Das Land des Lächelns. Wiener Frauen features an extended piano
interlude one of the characters is a piano tuner - and there is a
palpable zest and zing to the playing throughout whilst the waltz curls
and coils with insinuating beauty. The Waltz from Eva is tinged with
a certain melancholy nobility whilst Zigeunerliebe displays massed violins,
swaying rhythms and a Gypsy quintet writ large magnificent peroration
as the orchestra returns to the initial surging massing theme. If you
want to hear the subtlety of the orchestral principals sample the waltz
from Der Graf von Luxembourg where they are on top form and the violins
and cellos phrase with lilting charm.
Notes are succinct and transfers resonant and full
of clarity much like Lehárs conducting. This was last around
minus the 1940 Viennese discs on a Beulah CD I think. Some may be
resistant to Lehárian charm. Not me as ever and always I loved
every second of it.