The Washington Post
, May 2001
"With the major, old-guard classical music record labels lapsing into irrelevancy, Naxos looks poised to take over the world. ...Today it's gotten into the reissue business, putting out budget editions of essential recordings like Casals's Bach Cello Suites, concertos from Heifetz and now historic opera reissues. Richard Tauber, Vol. 1, belongs to the label's Nostalgia Series, which covers a range from John McCormack to Maurice Chevalier.
"This first Tauber disc is a pure delight. Most of the music is familiar, standards from the Viennese operetta literature, all of it lilting and melodious and as gracious as it gets. Songs of Franz Lehar predominate, but there are plenty of wonderful curiosities, like excerpts from "Rossini in Naples" conducted by Josef Krips, and some wonderfully intimate tracks of Tauber singing and accompanying himself at the piano.
"Tauber's voice was never huge, but it could dance like Fred Astaire, scrappy and elegant for a little guy. Tauber can pinch a tone without making it sound pinched, tightening the timbre, intensifying the sound to subtly underscore the grammatical essentials of the melodic line. Tauber was a master of a singing style that would eventually solidify into something static and schmaltzy, but here, in recordings made from 1927 to 1939, the gestures have a freshness and joy to them. The use of head voice to give loft to the top of a melodic arch, the free and continual rubato, the backing off a tone to suggest coyness - from Tauber they are all believable, remnants of an earlier era.
"The recording quality reflects the age of the 78s, from which these selections are taken. The transfers, by David Lennick, are almost free of surface noise, and what little there is reassuring: 78s transferred without a little of this sepia toning are always suspect. The sound, however, is small and rewards listening with good headphones.
"The Austrian-born, English-naturalized Tauber's career encompassed far more substantial repertoire than these adorable trifles. He was a gifted Mozartean and sang for years with the Dresden Opera. But unlike so many singers who satisfy commercial demands by singing the execrable crossover repertoire of today, Tauber isn't slumming in this music. The elegance of vocal line is as sure in his Lehar as it is in his Mozart (which is not included on this disc). Musical values are paramount. He has no cultural or political points to make with operetta, and no debts to settle; it simply flows from him as effortlessly and innocently as a waltz from Johann Strauss. Complete satisfaction and, at six bucks, cheaper times 10 than a ticket to the opera."