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Robert Hugill
MusicWeb International, October 2004

"Richard Tauber had an enduring link with operetta from his earliest days through to the end of his career. His concert programmes usually included a significant amount of operetta. In 1922 he sang the role of Armand in the first run (of 195 performances) of Lehár’s new operetta ‘Frasquita’, but Tauber was already mixing performances of staples such as ‘Die Fledermaus’, ‘Eine Nacht in Venedig’ and ‘Der Zigeunerbaron’.

In 1924 Tauber struck up a friendship with Lehár and the two of them worked on Lehár’s new operetta, ‘Paganini’. It was first performed in 1925 minus Tauber, who had other commitments. Initially a failure, it became a great success when Tauber performed the title role in Vienna. This was the start of a significant association between Tauber and Lehár. Tauber went on to sing in the first performances of ‘Frederike’ (1928) and ‘Das Land des Lächelns’ as well as giving the Berlin premieres of ‘Schön is die Welt’ and ‘Giuditta’ (the composer’s last work, first performed in 1934). It was his association with Tauber which re-vitalised and extended Lehár’s career as a composer.

This disc includes a single item from ‘Frasquita’ and a generous selection of items from ‘Paganini’. These latter include three duets with Carlotta Vancontini, a soprano with whom Tauber was briefly married. There are no items from the other Lehár operas which Tauber created; instead we get the waltz and the (soprano) Vilja Lied from ‘Die Lustige Witwe’ and items from ‘Zigeunerliebe’ and the lesser known ‘Der Rastelbinder’.

In his recordings, Tauber was quick to capitalise on the popularity of operetta (in the days before film musicals). So the disc includes the infamous ‘Im chamber séparée’ from ‘Der Opernball’ as well as the title song and ‘Indian love-call’ from Friml’s musical ‘Rose Marie’ (a great hit on Broadway in 1924). The disc also includes extracts from ‘Die Fledermaus’, including two with a cast which includes other luminaries such as Lotte Lehmann.

What these recordings give us is an almost definitive view of the last, golden age of operetta. Tauber lavishes on these songs just as much care as he would on a Mozart aria.. Tauber’s voice is never less than elegant, with a fine sense of line which brings out the best in the music. In some, he has a surprisingly baritonal timbre, but the stunning high notes, floated in his head voice, are everywhere apparent; in some of the earlier recordings he does have a tendency to over-emphasise these high notes for effect.

Naxos have presented the recordings in good, straightforward transfers, though in the acoustic recordings Tauber’s voice has a little too much pre-eminence. This is a highly recommendable recording. The songs respond to the care and attention that Tauber gives them and shine in a way which enables even an unbeliever appreciate them."

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group