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Lotte Lehmann in Opera: Volume One - 1916–1921
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
1. Ozean du Ungeheuer [7 :59]
Der Freischütz
2. Der Freischütz: Act 2 Wie nahte mir der Schlummer...Alles pflegt [8 :40]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)
Le Nozze di Figaro
3. Act 2 Porgi amor [3:59]
4. Act 3 Crudel, perchè finora [3:07]
Don Giovanni
5. Act 4 Deh vieni, non tardar [3 :52]
6. Act 1 La ci darem [3:05]
Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849)
7. Act 1 Nun eilt herbei...Ha, ha, ha, er wird mir glauben [6:49]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
8. Act 1 Connais-tu le pays? [3 :45]
9. Act 2 Elle est là près de lui [4 :03]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
10. Act 2 Dich teure Halle [3:41]
11. Act 3 Allmacht'ge Jungfrau [3:58]
12. Act 2 Du armste kannst [4:08]
Die Walküre
13. Act 1 Der Männer Sippe [4.00]
Die Meistersinger
14. Act 2 Gut'n Abend, Meister!...Doch starb eure Frau [8:50]
15. Act 3 O Sachs, mein Freund [2:26]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin
16. Act 1 Letter Scene [3:34]
[all sung in German]
Lotte Lehmann (soprano)
rec. 1916- 1921

Experience Classicsonline

Lotte Lehmann was the premier lyric-dramatic soprano of her age. She did not sing the heaviest Wagnerian roles, making only one recording of the Liebestod and leaving Brünnhilde and Isolde to the foremost dramatic soprano Frida Leider, her compatriot and exact coeval. Both were born in 1888, enjoying long careers and long lives, Lehamnn dying in 1975 and Leider a year later. Lehmann excelled rather as Sieglinde, Eva, Elsa and Elisabeth, all of which roles are represented on this disc. Although she sang until 1951, these recordings are from her earlier years and find her in freshest, most youthful and flexible voice. Probably her most famous recordings are of Acts One and Two of ”Die Walküre” made mostly in Vienna in 1935 and completed in Berlin in 1938 with Lauritz Melchior as Siegmund and Bruno Walter conducting; I urge any Wagnerian unfamiliar with those most thrilling of accounts to acquire them forthwith. They are in considerably better, electronic sound than the primitive acoustic recordings here and give an even better idea of the splendour of Lehmann’s voice.
For it must be said that wonderful though these early recordings are, you have to be a voice-fancier who is tolerant of the poor sound quality here, typical of its era. The sources have been well cleaned up by Nimbus and presented in their customary fashion with some space around the voice and with the orchestra remaining fairly distant. The latter is par for the course and not a criticism; there is only so much which can be done by playing the originals on the equipment for which they were designed and providing some extra warmth deriving from the acoustic of the room. The accompaniments are as clear as one could reasonably hope.
But that voice! From the depth of the lower register to the ringing top C, it is a beautifully smooth and integrated instrument. Variety of tone and differentiation of character are sometimes wanting, but the security of Lehmann’s vocalisation is a marvel. She is remarkably versatile, retaining the delicacy necessary for Mozart in which she is ably partnered by the elegant Schlusnus. No matter what she is singing, she maintains exceptional steadiness and purity of line, her voice often taking on the almost disembodied, instrumental quality so common to singers of her era and rather at odds with more modern ideas of vocal production.
Everything here is sung in German as was the custom then, so the items from Mignon and the Mozart operas take a bit of getting used to, whereas listening to the Wagner arias is like coming home to the ideal realisation. Some fleeting and rare intonation lapses at the start of ”Connais-tu le pays?” prove that Lehmann is mortal. The longest track here is the result of combining two Polydor matrices to give us an extended duet between Eva and a Sachs sung by Michael Bohnen who gives us a relaxed, genial, smoothly vocalised portrayal of the cobbler, complete with avuncular chuckles. One especially regrets the remoteness of the orchestra here, but the voices emerge cleanly.
While vivid characterisation might not always be Lehmann’s strength, she creates a touching and youthful Tatyana in the concluding track, making telling use of portamento and that trenchant lower register in contrast to the bell-like top notes.

Ralph Moore







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