|About this Recording
8.111097 - LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 6 (1947, 1949)
Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976)
Lotte Lehmann made the interpretation of Lieder a significant part of her activity as she gradually relinquished stage rôles. By 1947, when the records included here were made, she was at the end of her operatic career, devoting most of the remaining years of her professional life (she retired in 1951) to song.
In the latter phase of her career, from 1935 onwards, she recorded an appreciable number of songs, mostly Lieder, from 1935 to 1940 with Victor in New York (available on Naxos 8.111093 and 8.111094), then with American Columbia from 1941 to 1942 (available on Naxos 8.111095, 8.111096 and 8.111244), then back to Victor for a final flowering from 1947 to 1949. Some titles, old favourites with the singer, were given a final outing, a few were new to her recorded repertory. All bear the inimitable Lehmann stamp of impulsive spontaneity and ability, above all, to communicate with us as much through the texts as through the music, and by this stage in her career, with the voice not as reliable as it once was, this emphasis on words became of the essence.
There is something about any and every Lehmann recording that provokes a gut reaction: this woman is peering into the very depths of her being and thus delving into the depths of her listener's pysche as she relives the emotions in hand. It is also as if she were recreating the song at the moment she is singing it. That is another way of saying her art and style were wholly individual in a manner equalled in our day only by Brigitte Fassbaender.
As she herself once put it: "I like to feel that my singing is not a finite thing in itself, but rather the means of communicating my personal convictions." All those who attended her recitals recalled those uniquely enthusiastic crowds that were Lehmann's audience and know that these people did not come to hear her voice, lovely as nature had made it, but to experience her personal communication. As far as the discs are concerned, it is amazing how she managed to carry those attributes with her into the recording studio.
Schubert's 'Ständchen' she had recorded on her days with Odeon back in the late 1920s but with one of those spurious arrangements for small orchestral ensemble that sentimentalises the original accompaniment and with most of the old ardour requisite for this favourite preserved. The use, now unfashionable, of portamento only enhances the urgency of Lehmann's serenade.
Brahms's Zigeunerlieder, written in 1887, were new to her discography. Obviously she wanted to commit to disc her wonderfully uninhibited rendering of these gypsy-inspired songs. Brahms was never so happy as when writing in this folk-like vein, here based on Hungarian originals, and Lehmann, with her faithful partner, Paul Ulanowsky, responds in typically wholehearted manner to their varying moods. 'Brauner Bursche' is a template of the whole set in Lehmann's reading. Over the fifty or so years since they were recorded, they have lost little of their immediacy of impact, the Lehmann warmth of tone and manner irresistible here as everywhere. To date the originals have had small currency, so their reappearance is doubly welcome.
Schubert's 'An den Mond', his setting of Hölty, not Goethe, was again new to the singer's recorded repertory: she enters delicately into its night-haunted mood. 'An die Musik' was, naturally enough, a regular of her recital programmes – she broke down when singing it at her farewell in Carnegie Hall in 1951. Again she had recorded it in her Odeon days with inappropriate accompaniment. Here, with Ulanowsky, she goes to the heart in praise of her own and Schubert's art.
Brahms's 'Feldeinsamkeit', a piece particularly suited to Lehmann's dark, velvet-like timbre, is another song she was tackling for the first time on disc, and she gives it a suitably warm reading. She does the same for much less familiar Lied by Brahms, 'Der Kranz'.In the graphic description of the eponymous blacksmith in 'Der Schmied', whose hammering is heard in the piano, Lehmann is at her most fulsome and free.
Like many great singers, yesterday and today, Lehmann liked to please the popular market. The famous German Christmas song 'Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht' was always in her song bag: this is her third and last recording. She also liked to show off her English, especially during her years in the United States. It was heavily tinged with a German accent, which makes her account of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' that much more endearing.
The next three short Schubert songs were fresh to the Lehmann discography. They are typical of late Lehmann in their renewed emphasis on telling a story, also for that joy in the very act of singing which now – near the end of her long career – she was keen to deploy on new material in recital and on the concert platform, for she was never one just to continue purveying old favourites. 'Der Erlkönig' is another matter. Her 1930 recording with orchestra sounds inauthentic now; able to record how she liked, she reverted to singing the dramatic ballad with the electrifying piano part – and Ulanowsky – in support. In broadcasts Lehmann liked to give an anticipatory introduction, telling her story in a melodramatic manner entirely appropriate to the fantasy of the song. Her interpretation, as you would expect from an opera singer familiar with the stage, is painted on a generous canvas, all four participants carefully characterized, consoling us for some squally moments in the vocal production.
'God Bless America', the alternative American national anthem, was obviously picked as a popular favourite and as a way of thanking her adopted homeland. 'The Kerry Dance', on the other hand, is one of those eccentricities even the best singers occasionally indulge in, way out of their regular world. The singing of the vocalised 'Träumerei' is an exercise in pure nostalgia.
Finally comes a reminder of Lehmann's interest in French song. She had already recorded 'Vierge d'Athènes', Gounod's subtle, sensuous setting of a translation of a poem by Byron, in 1935 (Naxos 8.111093). It is interesting that the composer/singer Reynaldo Hahn made a fascinating 78rpm disc of 'Vierge d'Athènes', and that it is to Hahn that Lehmann turned for two of her last six official records, made in May 1949. She catches the sensuous mood of 'L'enamourée' precisely and also the understated sense of utter betrayal in love so unerringly projected in 'Infidélité', one of Hahn's very best mélodies. She also goes to the heart of Duparc's inward 'La vie antérieure' and Paladilhe's fine song 'Psyché'.
But for the last official recordings of all she returned to her beloved Strauss. Once more her heart is poured out, this time in three songs that she had never committed to disc before. The sincerity and involvement of the singing is as it had been throughout the 35 years of her career in the studio, encompassing more than 450 recordings.
Ulanowsky was an Austrian, thoroughly conversant with the piano repertory. He was the Vienna Philharmonic's resident pianist for ten seasons before leaving for the United States in 1935 to act as accompanist to the mezzo Enid Szantho. Two years later he met Lehmann and immediately set up a rapport with her, as can be graphically illustrated here as he follows faithfully those rhythmic variations in which she indulged. Their rapport seemed instinctive.
© Alan Blyth
SCHUBERT: Schwanengesang, D. 957: No. 4. Ständchen (Leise flehen meine Lieder)
BRAHMS: Zigeunerlieder, Op. 103 (excerpts)
SCHUBERT: An den Mond, D. 193
SCHUBERT: An die Musik, D. 547
BRAHMS: Feldeinsamkeit, Op. 86, No. 2
BRAHMS: Der Kranz, Op. 84, No. 2
TRADITIONAL: Adeste fideles (O come all ye faithful)
GRUBER: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
SCHUBERT: Der Jüngling an der Quelle, D. 300
SCHUBERT: Die Männer sind méchant, D. 866, No. 3
SCHUBERT: Nacht und Träume, D. 827
SCHUBERT: Der Erlkönig, D. 328
BERLIN: God Bless America
MOLLOY: The Kerry Dance
SCHUMANN: Träumerei (vocalised)
BRAHMS: Wiegenlied, Op. 49, No. 4
DUPARC: La vie antérieure
R. STRAUSS: Die Zeitlose, Op. 10, No. 7
R. STRAUSS: Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op. 21, No. 2
Close the window