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Josef Herrmann (1903-1955)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Fidelio (1814) - Ha, welch ein Augenblicka [3'00].
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Euryanthe (1823) Kein Schlaf gibt Ruhe meinem wildenb [8'39].
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Die Meistersinger von Nürnbergc (1868) - Was duftet doch der Flieder [6'10]; Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn! [7'00]; Verachtet mir die Meister nicht [6'49]. Die Walküred (1850) - Leb' wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind [11'59].
Hugo WOLF (1860-1903)

Der Corregidor (1896) - Nicht geschlossen?d [9'37].
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)

Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919) - Sie haben es mir gesagte [7'32]. Salome (1905) - Wo ist er, dessen Sündenbecher jetzt voll ist?f [4'10].
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Otello (1887) - Ich glaube an einen Gotte [5'29].
Josef Herrmann (baritone); fChristel Goltz (soprano); fRudolf Dittrich (tenor)
Staatskapelle Dresden aChorus and abOrchestra/afJoseph Keilberth, bdKarl Elmendorff, eKurt Streigler; cBavarian Radio Chorus; cMunich Philharmonic Orchestra/Ferdinand Leitner.
Rec. afMitteldeutcher Rundfunk, ac1945, f1948, bdeReichsender Dresden, be1943, d1944; c1954.
mono ADD; from cDGG 19047
PREISER 93445 [76'56]

Issued in 1995 in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Herrmann's death, this disc acts as a timely reminder of the stature of a wonderful, and occasionally great, artist. The recording dates and the title 'Reichsender Berlin' might alert the reader to the wartime provenance of some of these recordings. But we are here to discuss the music and its interpretation, and for those that can bear to peek between the Dark Curtains, there are many musical rewards.

Herrmann's major period of activity was at Dresden from 1939 to 1945. Classified as a 'Heldenbariton', he excelled in the Wagner-Strauss repertory - in the latter's case, especially Jokanaan and Barak. He even sang the title role of Wozzeck - initially at the Salzburg Festival in 1951.

Certainly Herrmann's authority is evident right from the start of the Fidelio excerpt (Pizarro's aria). Drama is to the fore here there is almost Sprechgesang at one point! Herrmann sets out, clearly, to portray the insane aspects of Pizarro's self-delusion. The chorus is there (uncredited), while the orchestra provides tons of fire.

Herrmann's diction is noteworthy in the extended Euryanthe excerpt, as is his variety of expression. Elmendorff projects the orchestral fire well - a pity the recording loses some detail towards the end.

Herrmann's Sachs is supremely human, his Fliedermonolog rather interior - a superb expression of what Spring means to the German poetic sensibility. The Wahnmonolog contains even deeper feelings ... and how Herrmann floats 'Johannistag'! - the orchestra responds wonderfully to this, too. In contrast, 'Verachtet mir die Meister nicht' contains massive hope although the chorus sounds curiously unconvinced.

The humanity of Herrmann's Sachs is present also in his Wotan. The orchestra struggles with the trickier moments - especially the very opening of the excerpt - yet this is worth hearing for the heart-breaking 'Lebwohl's and the broad feeling that suffuses this. One really does feel that one is there with them at the end of a long work. Herrmann's tuning is exemplary, and the sheer beauty as he kisses the Godhead from Brünnhilde is infinitely touching.

The Wolf is interesting, and clearly attests to the acting side of Herrmann. Almost spoken, this emerges as a stream of consciousness. Interestingly, it works superbly well after the Wagner. This is a long excerpt, but Wolf is endlessly fascinating.

The Strauss items show another Herrmann speciality. He sits in this repertoire as if born to be there. The orchestra is simply lovely, and Herrmann glows along with it. There is infinite tenderness here, in direct contrast to the more extrovert Salome section. There is such authority to Herrmann's opening question, 'Wo ist er?' - Christel Goltz is an excellent partner here.

Finally, Verdi in German. Iago's 'inverse' Credo to a cruel God is not the best way to end a disc that holds so much. Herrmann sounds half-hearted some of the time. True, one can still enjoy the refulgence of this voice, but it is rather like stepping down a league.

Don't let that put you off this is a disc to treasure.


Colin Clarke



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