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Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Wiener Frauen (1902) - highlights from the operetta [46:53]
Overture: Der Göttergatte [4:19]
Overture: Wo die Lerche singt [8:36]
Anke Hoffmann (soprano); Anneli Pfeffer (soprano); Peter Minich (tenor); Thomas Dewald (tenor); Boris Leisenheimer (tenor); Elsbieta Kalvelage (piano).
WDR Rundfunkchor; WDR Rundfunkorchester/Helmuth Froschauer (Wiener Frauen); Curt Cremer
rec. Köln, radio broadcasts 2003-2005 (operetta highlights); 1971/72 (overtures)
CPO 999 326-2 [59:50]
Experience Classicsonline

Wiener Frauen was Lehár’s first operetta and was a great success at its première in 1902. Its heroine, the beautiful Claire had, some years previously, been in love with her piano teacher Willibald - not so much for his personal charm as for a waltz song which he could sing irresistibly. But Willibald had gone to America, and Claire heard he had drowned. Now she is set to marry the wealthy Philippe, but she is perturbed when she hears the tinkle of a piano being tuned and Willibald’s waltz song from the next room. Claire instinctively knows Willibald is alive, and seeks him out. Confusion reigns but ultimately Claire and Philippe end up together, while Willibald finds consolation with Claire's maid, Jeanette.
Lehár’s trademark catch style and melodies are already in evidence in Wiener Frauen, the most famous of which is the stirring ‘Nechledil March’ and the lovely ‘Paradise Waltz’. This album’s Wiener Frauen highlights are (as stated, untranslated, in the notes): ‘Overture’; Jeanette’s Song; Philippe’s songs: “Zwei müssen sein” and “Schöne Frauen”; Willibald Brandl’s entry: “Die Häser baun sie himmelwärts”; Claire’s entry: “Aber trotz ach und weh”; ‘Brautchor’; Duet - Claire and Philippe: “Endlich allein”; ‘Quadrille’; Böhmisches Lied: “Wo die Moldau”; Duet: Claire and Philippe: “Ist gutter Will auf beiden Seiten”; Spanische Romanze (Claire): “Schöne Rose”; Duet – Jeanette and Willibald: “Aber es geht nicht”; and the ‘Nechledil’ March.
Bearing in mind that this was Lehar’s first operetta, the 10-minute-or-so Overture must have made the first-night audience sit up. It brims with attractive melodies including the march and the gorgeous quite well-known Paradise Waltz which is featured in a lengthy piano solo within the overture. The subtly expressive soprano, Anke Hoffmann, as heroine Claire touches the heart, with her rendition of that waltz “Aber trotz ach und weh”, while in another waltz song “Schöne Rose”, she romances captivatingly. Opposite her, Thomas Dewald, a bright-voiced tenor in the mould of Nicolai Gedda, is romantically ardent as Philippe in his two waltz songs, “Zwei müssen sein” and “Schöne Frauen”. The first of the duets between them, the passionately romantic, “Endlich allein”, decorated by dreamy birdsong-like woodwind figures, is ardently delivered. The second duet they share, in a faster tempo, “Ist gutter Will auf beiden Seiten” suggests some discord between the two lovers. Anneli Pfeffer and choir open the proceedings with Jeanette’s bright and breezy song; she is a pleasing lyric soprano, whimsically coquettish in this number. Boris Leisenheimer sings nicely in character as the dubious Willibald in “Die Häser baun sie himmelwärts”; and he joins Jeanette in the duet “Aber es geht nicht”, this number anticipating the duets of Camille and Valencienne in The Merry Widow. Leisenheimer is also the featured soloist in the ‘Nechledil’ March. Peter Minich shines in the patter song, “Wo die Moldau”; and the choir nicely catches the glow of the lovely sentimental ‘Brautchor’ number.
This album is completed by two additional appealingly tuneful Lehár items: the invigorating Overture: Der Göttergatte, part glittering waltz (gorgeous at 2:56) and part bracing march with tinkling tubular bells; and another more extended overture, the atmospheric and bracing Wo die Lerche singt which includes all the attractive music associated with Lehár: the heart-stopping romantic melodies, the martial material and gypsy dances. The less-than-sparkling notes for this album give no detail about these two additional items.
Captivating early Lehár.
Ian Lace


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