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Lotte Lehmann – Lieder Recordings, Vol. 2 (1937-1940)
Robert SCHUMANN (1810–1856)
1. Alte Laute, Op. 35, No. 12 [2:29]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
2. Botschaft, Op. 47, No. 1 [2:08]
3. Das Mädchen spricht, Op. 107, No. 3 [1:17]
49 Volkslieder:
4. No. 25 Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund [1:40]
Carl SJÖBERG (1861–1900)
5. Tonerna (Visions) [2:25]
CALCOTT (?-?)
6. Drink to me only [3:06]
Hugo WOLF (1860–1903)
7. Gebet [2:47]
8. Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen [1:55]
9. Frühling übers Jahr [1:45]
10. Auf ein altes Bild [2:24]
11. In der Frühe [2:14]
12. Auch kleine Dinge [2:18]
13. Und willst du deinen Liebsten sterben sehen [2:24]
14. Peregrina I [1:52]
15. Der Knabe und das Immlein [2:47]
16. Heimweh [2:51]
Robert SCHUMANN
17. Er und sie, Op. 78, No. 2 [3:48]
18. So wahr die Sonne scheinet, Op. 37, No. 12 [1:51]
19. Unterm Fenster, Op. 34, No. 3 [1:26]
20. Familien-Gemälde, Op. 34, No. 4 [3:31]
21. Ich denke dein, Op. 78, No. 3[2:39]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Winterreise, D 911:
22. No. 23 Die Nebensonnen [2:26]
23. No. 13 Die Post [2:07]
24. No. 18 Der stürmische Morgen [0:45]
25. No. 5 Der Lindenbaum [4:08]
26. No. 20 Der Wegweiser [4:14]
27. No. 15 Die Krähe [2:59]
28. No. 21 Das Wirtshaus [4:32]
29. No. 19 Täuschung [1:17]
30. No. 22 Mut! [1:27]
31. No. 17 Im Dorfe [2:46]
32. No. 8 Rückblick [2:32]
Lotte Lehmann (soprano)
Lauritz Melchior (tenor) (17–21); Ernö Balogh (piano) (1–6); Paul Ulanowsky (piano) (7–16, 22–32); orchestra/Bruno Reibold (17–21)
rec. 16 March 1937 (1–6), 6 January 1939 (7–16), 30 January 1939 (17–21), 26 February 1940 (22–32). ADD
NAXOS 8.111094 [78:50]

 


This volume follows on where volume 1 ended: in the middle of the recording session on 16 October 1937. In toto 18 titles were recorded on that occasion, evidence of Lotte Lehmann’s extraordinary stamina. There is no audible decline in her tone even in the last numbers. The highpoint is Brahms’ Botschaft where she challenges Hans Hotter’s famous reading from the mid-1950s. On the whole her Brahms is superb. Mein Mädel hat einen Rosenmund is initially sung with heavier accents than Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. The latter recorded all 42 solo songs from Deutsche Volkslieder together with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a set that has been my touchstone recording for forty years. Then Lehmann lightens the tone and is as delightful as her heiress.

Tonerna (literally “The tones”) was one of Jussi Björling’s favourite songs, which he recorded several times, both with piano and - in the late 1950s - with orchestra. It is a setting of Swedish 19th century poet and composer Erik Gustaf Geijer, one of the central literary figures of that era. The music is by Carl Sjöberg. As a composer he was mainly self-taught. He wrote a piano quartet and quite a number of songs but Tonerna, written in 1892 and not printed until the year after his death, is the only composition of his that has survived. He was a doctor, during the last six years of his life active in the little Swedish town Hedemora, about 40 kilometres south of Borlänge, the Björling’s birthplace. Lehmann sings it in an English translation and her legato is admirable. She invests it with more drama than Björling who, especially in his 1952 recording, is so magically inward and pensive, more in line with the introspective text. I googled in vain to get some information about Calcott to who Drink to me only with thine eyes is attributed. I have always regarded this as a traditional English folksong, although the words are by Ben Jonson:
 
Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not ask for wine. 

she sings with warm tone and noble phrasing. I believe though that after this long recording session she might have wished to fortify herself with something stronger than a kiss. 

During the next session, almost two years later, her voice is marginally warmer and the piano tone less tinny. In some songs, though, there is an edgy halo surrounding the voice. This is especially noticeable on Nun lass uns Frieden schliessen, where there is also some bacon frying in the studio; probably the reason why it was never published on 78rpm. In general however the recording catches the beauty of her voice better than on the 1937 sides. 

Among Elisabeth Schumann’s Lieder recordings from the same period there was hardly one song that was technically perfect. On the other hand everything was so alive that all criticism was at once silenced. By contrast Lotte Lehmann is as close to perfection as it is possible to get, without being lifeless. She may be the more thoroughly calculating of the two but she is not over-sophisticated. The whole Wolf section is marvellous. Der Knabe und das Immlein is the song that lingers longest in one’s memory. It is a thousand pities that her admirers in the 1930s were never privileged to hear it, since it also remained unissued until now. 

Lotte Lehmann’s Feldmarschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, as well as her Ariadne, placed her as the Strauss soprano of her time. She was also a leading Wagnerian and in that field she often appeared with the greatest Wagner tenor of all time, Lauritz Melchior. Their first encounter was in 1926 and their collaborations are memorably preserved for posterity on that legendary complete act 1 of Die Walküre with Bruno Walter. Here they are joined again, quite surprisingly, in five duets by Robert Schumann. The orchestral sound is fairly scrawny, the singing anything but. Melchior was no Lieder singer, even though he recorded numerous songs, primarily Danish ones. He also recorded some Schubert. Träume and Schmerzen from Wagner’s Wesendonk-Lieder he set down twice. He also recorded Sjöberg’s Tonerna. These Schumann duets are in effect little scenas and both singers enjoy themselves greatly, singing beautifully and softly in the folksong-like So wahr die Sonne scheinet. They are in really high spirits in Unterm Fenster. 

The last session was devoted entirely to Schubert: eleven songs from Winterreise. Intended for a male singer the songs are still well suited to a female voice. Lehmann was not the first woman to essay them on disc; Elena Gerhardt preceded her. One of the most gripping recordings of this cycle is Brigitte Fassbaender’s on EMI and though Lotte Lehmann’s soprano is lighter than Fassbaender’s deep mezzo she still has an altoish roundness in the lower regions of her voice that gives her reading a tragic undertone. She takes Die Nebensonnen - the penultimate song in the cycle - rather fast and though I prefer more measured she still brings forth the spirit of resignation. Since all the sides on these discs are presented in the recorded order one gets a somewhat peculiar feeling when jumping back and forth through the cycle, as when after Die Nebensonnen one expects Der Leiermann one instead gets the lively Der Post with the hooves trotting at rollicking speed. Forgetting momentarily the intended progression of the cycle, each of the songs is performed superbly. Lehmann’s insight sometimes makes listening almost unbearable through the intensity of her readings. Die Krähe had me grabbing the arm-rests of my chair due to her hushed intensity. Her readings are certainly dramatic but at the same time not overtly histrionic. In the main this is a classically balanced reading where Rückblick is so beautifully rendered that I momentarily forgot even Fischer-Dieskau’s (with Gerald Moore on DG) and Olaf Bär’s hitherto unbeatable versions. 

This disc is a must for every lover of German Lieder and the only possible hang-up is the quality of the recordings. Mark Obert-Thorn has done what it is possible to achieve to make them as listen-friendly as can be. In any event one soon forgets such a peripheral detail won over by the all-conquering singing. 

Göran Forsling 

 


 


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