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Sigmund ROMBERG (1887-1951)
Romberg conducts Romberg Vol.1
The Blue Paradise (1915) Auf Wiedersehen
Maytime (1917) Will You remember?
Blossom Time (1921) Blossom Time Waltzes; Tell me Daisy; Song of Love
The Student Prince (1924) Drinking Song; Deep in my Heart, Dear; Ballet; Golden Days; Serenade; Student Prince Waltzes
The Desert Song (1926) Riff Song; One Alone; Romance; Girls! Girls! Girls! (French March); Desert Song Waltzes; One Flower grows alone; Desert Song; Medley (Romance, Desert Song Waltz)
Lawrence Brooks (ten), Stuart Churchill (ten), Lillian Cornell (sop), Shirlee Emmons (mezzo sop), William Diehl (bar), Warren Galjour (ten), Lois Hunt (sop), Eric Mattson (ten), Genevieve Rowe (sop), Richard Wright (bar).
RCA Victor Chorus, Robert Shaw Chorale, Orch. Conducted by Sigmund Romberg
Rec. 1944-51, RCA Victor Studios, ADD
NAXOS Historical 8.110866 [74.35]

This is one of two Romberg discs of the same Naxos series, taken from recordings made between 1945-51. The Victor Record Company had decided they would like a definitive set of recordings by the composer while still alive, so between the ages of 67 and 71 he went back into the recording studio. The material was originally released on 78 and LPs in five volumes as 'Gems from Romberg Operettas' along with an instrumental album 'Waltzing with Romberg'. The Student Prince ballet was first issued as a 45 and later transferred to an LP entitled 'Dinner Music'

Sigmund Romberg was born in Hungary but where Kálmán held on to certain Bohemian characteristics Romberg left these behind when he started to compose for the stage. Whilst studying in Vienna he gained insight into theatre technique from an association with the Theatre an der Wien. After visiting the United States as an engineer in 1909 he returned to New York in 1913 where he turned to music and composed songs for a revue. He lost no time in writing his first operetta, The Midnight Girl (1914) and went on to compose scores for the Passing Show of 1914 (and others), working with Al Jolson on Sinbad (1918). Then in 1924 Friml's popular Rose Marie was eclipsed by Romberg's The Student Prince, which had been adapted from an earlier score, Old Heidelberg of 1903. The Student Prince took off, making Romberg a Broadway name. The musical was soon exported back to Britain and Europe in its new form.

The Student Prince opened very successfully on Broadway in 1924 with lyrics by Dorothy Donnelly who also wrote Blossom Time three years earlier. Stirring rhythms, enticing romance and an easy plot were its hallmarks of appeal. Set in Heidelberg, Germany, the show originally began with the title, Old Heidelberg which was changed after its try-out. In this version both the Students' Chorus and Golden Days are spoilt by an inappropriate dreamy 'Barber's Shop' style of presentation.

The Desert Song, written two years after Student Prince, with libretto by Hammerstein II, Harbach and Mandel, was launched with a good cast, much good music, colour and romance. It was destined to match the popularity of The Student Prince. Within six months it was also playing in London at Drury Lane. The operetta is set in North Africa in the 1920s against a background of discontent between the French colonials and local guerrillas, "The Riffs". A 'Valentino' style love story takes place between the French commander's daughter, Margot, and the Riff leader, Red Shadow (whose face nobody has seen). The score with its brilliant tunes and rhythms reflect the confidence now gained by Romberg from the success of The Student Prince. Numbers like One Alone and Romance were destined to become showstoppers.

Victor and Romberg assembled a good cast for these recordings, and the composer enjoyed a very responsive orchestra. It appears that he may have altered some of the early orchestration. Where these recordings score over the early transcriptions by Pearl is that we are able clearly to hear the detail in Romberg's orchestration. The singing is strong throughout. Gone is the 'flutter vibrato' and affected diction so fashionable in pre-war recordings and the electric xylophone which became tiresome in the London Victor recordings of the late 1920s.

Naxos might have offered more extensive notes as the ones provided give no detail about the stage circumstances surrounding individual numbers. Since one can hear echoes of Schubert in Blossom Time (an interesting pastiche by Romberg) it would have been welcome to have been told about the Schubertian content of this and the Lilac Time operettas. Purchasers today are not likely to know their content. However, they do provide a good account of Romberg's life, though sketchy in relation to his early background and influences. Details of the record matrices are given.

Raymond Walker

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