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Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, July 2007

On this, the fourth volume in Naxos’s series with Lotte Lehmann’s Lieder recordings, we meet her during five recording sessions and in spite of her being 53 at the time her voice is in mint condition and her insight is second to none. As before the songs are presented chronologically in the order they were recorded, except for the Wesendonck songs, which were split over two sessions and not recorded in the order they were published, but the producer, Walter Andrews, rightly wanted them to be heard together. For some inexplicable reason only two of them were published on 78 rpms and of the Wolf songs none at all. Having sung Wagner all her life she was better suited for these songs than most other sopranos and she sings them as well as any other recorded version I have heard. She also catches the varying moods of the Wolf songs to perfection, the nervously rushing Wer tat deinem Füsslein weh? perhaps the most remarkable.

Even better is her Brahms. Die Mainacht is dark and husky, the three songs from Deutsche Volkslieder (tr. 2, 7 and 8) light and warm and especially Feinsliebchen (tr. 2) is cajoled and coloured with obvious relish. An die Nachtigall is light, Auf dem Kirchhofe forceful and darkly brooding in the beginning, inward and filled resigned towards the end, sung with perfect legato. Wie bist du, meine Königin? is light and warm, Sonntag girlish and joyful, Wiegenlied simple and unaffected and, best of all, the beautiful contemplation on the moonlit nightscape of Ständchen.

The six Wiener Lieder, which conclude the disc, are sung with true affection and, having had to leave the Austrian capital three years earlier, the city, not of her dreams but of her life for so many years, there had to a large dose of nostalgia involved. Wien, du stadt meiner Träume, also a great favourite of Birgit Nilsson’s, who regularly sang it on her recitals, is sung with a light lilt and especially the reprise of the refrain is enticing. Unfortunately there is some distortion here and in the following song. Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume is lovely and she caresses the slow melody in Heut’ macht die Welt, which may be a totally unknown song by Johann Strauss but in reality it is the well-known first waltz theme from Kaiser-Walzer, which Nico Dostal has adapted and amended.

Some readers may already own this compilation, since it was previously released on Romophone. Those who didn’t buy it then shouldn’t hesitate this time and they should also start saving up for the next volume in this series which will be due before long.

In short: some of the best Lieder singing from a golden era and the charming Viennese songs are sung with just as much feeling as the rest.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2007

Lotte Lehmann was 53 by the time she recorded this series of lieder recordings, her famed opera performances now almost a thing of the past, yet in her new American home in Santa Barbara you sense a feeling of contentment in her performances, far from the turmoil of war sweeping her European homeland. Maybe the golden glow on her upper register has faded, but the lower end has a gorgeous quality. Add the innate feel she has for the music that mirrors her own statement that "you must yourself feel deeply what you are singing" while she brings meaning to every word, the sadness at the appropriate points coming without a hint of sentimentality? The one drawback is a general tonal quality that has to serve all of the composers, Wagner lacking a little of the weight I look for. Intonation is admirable, the slides between notes, that were much in fashion in her younger days, remains, but here used with good taste. For the final few tracks we move from lieder to music in lighter mood, Stolz and Johann Strauss well suited to her voice, while the nimbleness she still commanded is well used in Wolfe's Wer tat deinem Fusslein weh. The accompaniments from Paul Ulanowsky are always accommodating and move perfectly with the vocal line. You cannot really hide the passing years in sound quality, but the originals were more than serviceable. For Lehmann fans this is indispensable.

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