One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Mary Lewis – The Golden Haired Soprano

MARSTON 52047-2 [77.59 + 77.33]

1.Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
MANON: Je suis encore tout étourdie [3:47]
6 October 1924; (cc5181-1) DB800
2.MANON: Allons! Il le faut…Adieu, notre petite table [3:57]
6 October 1924; (cc5182-3) DB800
3.MANON: Suis-je gentille...Obéissons quand leur voix appelle [4:08]
7 January 1925; (cc5550-2) first published on HMB-176
4.THAÏS: Dis-moi que je suis belle [Scène du miroir] [4:08]
7 January 1925; (cc5552-1) DB810
5.THAÏS: Te souvient-il du lumineux voyage [4:14]
7 January 1925; (cc5551-2) DB810
6. Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
FAUST: Jewel Song [3:37]
12 September 1927; (BVE-40006-1) Unpublished
7.THAÏS: Te souvient-il du lumineux voyage [4:30]
4 January 1926; (CVE-34255-1) 6578
8.Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1858-1919)
PAGLIACCI Qual fiamma avea nel guardo...Che volo d’augelli [4:42]
20 January 1926; (CVE-34161-9) 6578
9.Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Danza [3:11]
26 March 1928; (CVE-42564-1) 6878
10.Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
Les filles de Cadiz [3:46]
26 March 1928; (CVE-42563-1) 6878
11.Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899)
Voci di primavera [4:30]
11 October 1927; (CVE-40297-3) Unpublished

The Second Minuet [2:45]
with Elmer Zoller, pianist; Lou Raderman, violinist
23 September 1927; (BVE 43584-3) Unpublished
Little bit of a fellow [2:54]
with Elmer Zoller, pianist; Lou Raderman, violinist
18 April 1928; (BVE-43583-3) Unpublished
14. Carrie JACOBS-BOND (1862-1946)
The hand of you [2:37]
7 March 1927; (BVE-38209-1) Unpublished
15.Charles Wakefield CADMAN (1881-1946)
From the land of sky-blue water [2:23]
with Clement Barone, flautist
4 January 1926; (BVE-34250-6) 1140
Little grey home in the west [3:02]
4 January 1926; (BVE- 34249-7) 1140
17.Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)
The old folks at home [3:35]
12 September 1927; (BVE-40007-3) 1345
Dixie [2:30]
26 March 1928; (BVE-42565-2) 1345
19.Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
EXULTATE JUBILATE: Alleluia [2:55] (MS 102438) 363
20.Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) - Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893) Ave Maria [3:03] (MS 03544) 339
21.Easthope MARTIN
The Holy Child [3:19] (MS 03574) 604
Elli Elli (arranged Schindler) [4:13] (MS 03542) 337
CD 1:
Accompaniment: Tracks 1-11; 14, 16-18 with orchestra; Tracks 12-13 with piano and violin; Track 15 with orchestra and flute; Tracks 19-22 with chamber orchestra
Languages: French [1-7, 10]; English [12-18, 21]; Italian [8-9, 11]; Latin [19-20]; Yiddish with Hebrew [22]
1.Franco FACCIO
Principe Hamleto (Franco Faccio) [3:43] (MS 03539) 334
2.Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
LE COQ D’OR: Hymn to the Sun [3:26] (MS 03540) 334
3.Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
LE NOZZE DI FIGARO: Deh, vieni, non tardar [5:27] (MS 03572) 430
4. Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
THAÏS: L’amour est une vertu rare [3:49] (MS 11552) 561
5.Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
L’ENFANT ET LES SORTILÈGES: Toi, le coeur de la rose [2:02] (MS 11551) 619
6.Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Wohin? [2:28] (MS 03540) 334
7.Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Die Lorelei [7:17] (MS 03574) 604
8.Du bist wie eine Blume [2:08] (MS 03572) 430
9.Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Wiegenlied, op. 41, no. 1 [4:25] (MS 011634) 494
10.Morgen, op. 27, no. 4 [3:05] (MS 03865) 357
11.Ständchen, op. 17, no. 2 [2:55] (MS 11634) 494
12.Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)
Si mes vers avaient des ailes [2:06] (MS 03543) 363
13.Josef SZULC (1875-1956)
Clair de lune [3:12] (MS 11634) 494
Carmen Carmela [[2:40] (MS 03866) 414
15.Ay, ay, ay {Traditional} (arranged Pérez-Freire) [1:59] (MS 03540) 334
16.My lovely Celia (Monro) (arranged Wilson) [2:50] (MS 03865) 357
17.Annie Laurie {Traditional Scottish} (Douglass-Scott) [3:25] (MS 03573) 355
James MOLLOY (1837-1909)

18.The Kerry Dance [2:08] (MS 03544) 339
Thomas MOORE (1779-1852)

19.Last rose of summer [3:37] (MS 03544) 339
20.Danny Boy (Traditional: Irish) [3:44] (MS 03542) 337

21.Still wie die Nacht [3:12] (MS 03866) 414

22.Wien, Wien, nur du allein [2:30] (MS 03539) 334
Eugene FORD

23.Rain [2:32] (MS 11554) 552
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)

24.My old Kentucky home [2:44] (MS 03572) 430
Mary Lewis (soprano)
With accompaniments as above, if known
CD 2:
Accompaniment: All tracks with chamber orchestra
Languages: Italian [1, 3, 16]; French [2, 4-5, 12-13]; German [6-11, 21-22]; Spanish [14-15]; English [17-20, 23-24]

Mention the name of Mary Lewis to dedicated vocal collectors and they will probably say one of two things; French repertoire or Vaughan Williams’ Hugh the Drover. In terms of the balance of her recordings that’s not unjust. She did record a deal of Massenet in particular and her major discographic undertaking was the abridged late acoustic 1924 set of Hugh, which she’d premiered shortly before, and where she partnered the clarion Welsh tenor Tudor Davies. That set featured a raft of vocal talent – Nellie Walker, Frederic Collier, Keith Faulkner and Trefor Jones amongst others - conducted (in his first recording) by Malcolm Sargent. It can be found on Pearl.

Mary Lewis was an American, born in Arkansas in 1897. From a tough background she sought an escape in singing, progressing through restaurants and vaudeville to the Ziegfeld Follies in the early 1920s. She sailed for further training in Europe and was soon cast in an impressive series of roles – it wasn’t every newly arrived, technically untried soprano who sang Marguerite in Vienna opposite Emmanuel List and Viorica Ursuleac under no less than Weingartner’s baton. She sang for Lehár but wasn’t to follow the operetta route, instead decamping for a spell in London. She joined the British National Opera Company, which is why she premiered Hugh the Drover, made records and then went to Paris. She sailed back to America and joined the Met in 1926, married (briefly, for the second time and explosively) Michael Bohnen, the celebrated German singer who was also at the Met, and then things started to fall apart. Her third marriage was to a millionaire, by which time she’d withdrawn from opera, though continued to make broadcasts and promote concerts. She died at an early age in 1941 from, it’s alleged, radiation poisoning from a radium-painted dress she’d worn for an "in the dark" theatrical song performance from much earlier in her career. If true it was a bizarre end to a strange career.

With Marston’s splendidly documented and transferred two CD set we can at last say that she has achieved a degree of restoration. Not only do we have the series of HMVs and Victors from 1924-1928, and some unpublished sides into the bargain, but we get a substantial collection of 25 transcription discs made between 1936 and 1939. She did give some concert performances in the later 1930s and recorded for the NBC Thesaurus series, from which these transcription discs derive. They were subjected to populist salon-style accompaniment from unnamed but clearly top-notch instrumentalists from the New York Philharmonic-Symphony. I wonder if the violinist wasn’t Mishel Piastro? These broadcasts expand our appreciation and understanding of Lewis’s art substantially. They find her in repertoire never previously recorded, in good forward well-preserved sound and revealing her increasing awareness of lieder. In every way then this is an important set for her collector admirers.

But even back in 1924, despite her rather on-off training, we can hear a fine voice and one perhaps influenced by Mary Garden and not only in repertoire. Her coloratura is fine though not outstanding in the Manon but we can hear how well supported is the voice in Allons! Il le faut. It was a voice that also projected what one can justly call charm – try her first Victor here, the 1927 electric Faust Jewel Song. She remade Te souvient from Thais in America electrically; the violin solo accompaniment is not as distinctive as the London recording but her registral work is better. Though she was famed as an exponent of the French repertoire her Pagliacci extract was famous and is a fine example of her art. In view of that it’s surprising that Victor proceeded to shunt her off into the Carrie Jacobs-Bond hinterland with over half of their recordings. I’m certainly not complaining that we have previously unreleased recordings here of such as The Second Minuet and Little bit of a fellow but Lewis was really worthy of finer stuff than this fluff. I can add one thing to the documentation. The violinist sans forename is Lou Raderman, an excellent player.

The range of items sung on the Transcription discs nevertheless increases the range of Lewis’ discography substantially. It shows us the directions in which she was moving in the mid to later 1930s which, though it included nineteenth century lieder and Richard Strauss, still invariably included a ration of Scottish, Irish, Yiddish and Spanish songs as well as an encroachment into the repertoires of Tauber and McCormack. She’s as much at home in the parlour sentiments of the Easthope Martin as she had been a decade earlier in her Victors but what strikes one is the deepening of her expressive potential; Elli Elli is a rather powerful case in point. There’s sometimes a certain strain and discomfort at the top of the register, as one can detect in the Faccio and Liszt but the rare example of her Ravel has an unforced simplicity of utterance that is immediately appealing. Her Ay, ay, ay is delightfully languid and she shows her versatility (and reminiscences of her earlier life) in the Siecynski, although her Wiegenlied is not ideally steady. True, the accompaniments have a lot of sugar – harp arpeggios, salon-sweet strings and the like - but the focus is on Lewis’s warmth and sensitivity and the diversity of her repertory as reflected in these rare survivals. They’re in excellent aural shape by the way.

So, in short, we have here a complete edition of Lewis’s acoustic HMVs and electric Victors. There are also a number of previously unissued sides to whet the collecting appetite, as well as the twenty-five radio transcriptions. The notes are splendidly informative and there are some welcome, very well produced, photographs as there are invariably are with Marston. This is a superior production and will earn a worthy place on the shelves.

Jonathan Woolf




Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.