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 Tauber’s 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.
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 ‘The Best of Franz Lehár’,
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.