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Carl Braun
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
O Isis und Osiris - Die Zauberflöte [3:11]
In diesen heil´gen Hallen - Die Zauberflöte [4:11]
Jacques Fromental HALÉVY (1799-1862)
Wenn ew´ger Hass, glühende Rache - Die Jüdin [4:11]
Ihr, die ihr Gottes Zorn - Die Jüdin [3:07]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Hier im ird´schen Jammertal - Der Freischütz [1:45]
Schweig, schweig - Der Freischütz [3:00]
Albert LORTZING (1801 - 1851)
O, ich bin klug und weise - Zar und Zimmermann [4:43]
Auch ich war ein Jüngling - Der Waffenschmied [4:18]
Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812-1883)
Lasst mich euch fragen – Martha [2:29]
Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849)
Als Büblein klein - Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor [3:19]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Mein Herr und Gott nun ruf´ ich Dich – Lohengrin [3:06]
Das schöne Fest - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [4:16]
Abendlich strahlt die Sonne - Das Rheingold [3:09]
Was keinem in Worten ich künde - Die Walküre [8:21]
Nicht straf´ ich dich erst - Die Walküre [3:21]
Hier sitz ich zur Wacht – Götterdämmerung [4:00]
Wie aus der Ferne - Der fliegende Holländer [3:51]
Mögst du, mein Kind - Der fliegende Holländer [3:34]
Mein Herr und Gott – Lohengrin  [2:45]
Wilhelm HILL

Das Herz am Rhein [3:38]
Carl Braun (bass)
Unidentified accompaniments
rec. 1911-23
PREISER 89687 [74:25]

 


Rhineland-born Carl Braun (1886-1960) studied in Berlin in 1904. It’s a measure of the faith placed in him that he was singing Fafner at Bayreuth a mere two years later, returning in 1908 and 1909. His career launched he sang widely – at the Hofoper in Vienna and at the newly established Deutsches Opernhaus in Berlin and in Amsterdam. His Bayreuth success had established him as a Wagnerian and Bayreuth claimed him repeatedly, though there was a gap of over a decade between 1912 and 1924 because he was contracted by the Met in New York between 1912 and 1917. He then suffered being interned in 1917 on the United States’ entry into the War and only managed to return to Germany in 1919. He was still securely on the international circuit in 1931 – usually singing Wagner – but in 1933 he turned to his old stamping ground, the Deutsches Opernhaus, as singer/director. By 1937 he was a concert agent, though he was only fifty-one. He died in Hamburg in 1960.

Braun’s period in the recording studios was actually very brief. The period 1911 to 1923 is right but tells only part of the story, the bulk of recordings having been made between 1911 and 1914 and then in 1923. He made a few sides for American Columbia in 1916 of which one, Wilhelm Hill’s stirring Das Herz am Rhein is presented here. It was the War and his period at the Met which limited his opportunities in the studios. It would have been good to have heard him electrically but by then he had been overtaken by his contemporaries. His main claim to discographic fame is that he was the first to record Wotan’s narrative from Act II of Die Walküre and it’s this and the other Wagnerian sides that offer the greatest rewards and alert us to his important place at Bayreuth and beyond.

His was a noble voice, but one perhaps more static than colouristic in the Mozart extracts. The technique is quite adequate across the range. He was called on to sing two extracts from Halévy’s Die Jüdin – sung in German of course – and whilst it’s certainly unusual to hear him in this repertory, and whilst the voice is once more dignified and well supported, his phrasing lacks imagination. His Weber shows strong evidence of his characterful bass and the flecks of humour are welcome, if sometimes he can be a touch gruff and stolid. The Lortzing should have been much more his thing but I find he blusters unmercifully in O, ich bin klug und weise.

But it really is Wagner that is the centre of gravity here. There are deficiencies. He shows some weakness at the top in the 1913 Odeon Lohengrin extract and his monochrome delivery – at least as it comes across on this 1914 disc - is a demerit in his Rheingold. The famous Die Walküre extract is sonorous, imposing and masculine but lacking rather in variety of tone and colour, a besetting sin of his. The later 1923 sides show the voice having darkened and deepened but it’s still the same virile if rather immobile instrument of old. I find actually that the Vox 1923 Lohengrin shows him in an artistically superior light to the earlier 1911-14 sequence. Maybe the voice is not quite as steady as of old but the artistry has gained insight. It’s a pity we have to leave him at this juncture – he was only thirty-seven when he made his last recordings.

I’ve happily pillaged Preiser’s customarily good and concise biographical notes. The transfers are unproblematic and sensitively done and there are three evocative postcard reproductions as well. In all this is a fine salute to an important artist.

Jonathan Woolf

 


 


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