Classical Reissue Reviews

Richard Tauber: Lehar & Co = Music of J. STRAUSS, LEHAR, KALMAN, O. STRAUSS, HEUBERGER & ZELLER – Preiser

The celebrated Austrian lyric tenor Richard Tauber enjoys a broad representation of his inimitable Viennese style in this generous selection of his art, 1924-1946.

Published on February 21, 2013

Richard Tauber: Lehar & Co = Music of J. STRAUSS, LEHAR, KALMAN, O. STRAUSS, HEUBERGER & ZELLER – Preiser

Richard Tauber: Lehar & Co = J. STRAUSS: Arias from Der Zigeunerbaron; Eine Nacht in Venedig; Die Fledermaus; LEHAR: Arias from Die lustige Witwe; Frasquita; Frederika; Das Land des Laecheins; Paganini; Der Zarewitshc; Giuditta; KALMAN: Arias from Graefin Mariza; Die Zirkuspprinzein; ZELLER: Aria from Der Vogelhaendler; O. STRAUSS: Aria from Ein Walzertraum; HEUBERGER: Aria from Der Opernball – Richard Tauber, tenor/ Vera Schwarz, sop./ Jarmila Novotna, sop./ Carlotta Vanconti, sop./ Franz Lehar – Preiser PR 90802, 76:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Some twenty years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of having sent the actor Henry Brandon (nee Kleinbach) a copy of a Seraphim LP of tenor Fritz Wunderlich, whom Brandon had not heard. Later, I received a Christmas card in which Brandon exclaimed, “Wunderlich is Tauber reborn!” In this case, the Preiser reissue of 22 Tauber selections provides us the voice of the master himself, recorded by the Odeon label, 1924-1946.  Tauber’s illustrious talent, his combination of “head and heart” in essentially Viennese repertory affords us a glimpse of a bygone age, of charm and grace, what Tauber himself characterized as “carefree youth, happiness, depth of feeling, and. . .sensuality. . .after staring death in the face. . .deep pain and renunciation.”

Tauber (1891-1948) won acclaim as among the greatest singers of the century, and this despite early setbacks and harsh criticism of his potential talent. But Tauber’s happy meeting with Professor Carl Beines proved serendipitous, and Tauber emerged at age twenty-two in the role of Tamino in Chemnitz, signed to a five-year contract as a Royal Court Opera Singer in Dresden. Even in the earliest of these inscriptions, “Treu sein, das liegt mir nicht” from A Night in Venice (1924 )and “Gruss mir mein Wein” from Graefin Mariza (1924), we can hear the long-held notes and subito diminuendo that would glorify his vocal art. The patter in “Also flotter geist” and the interchange between him and Vera Schwarz in Die Fledermaus testify to a quick, rhythmic acuity and personal charm that ensured Tauber’s popular appeal.

Crucial to Tauber’s career was his fateful teaming up with composer Franz Lehar, the Viennese “dream-team” collaboration. Tauber’s own predilection for the life-style of the bon-vivant, his taste for wine, women, and song, found in Lehar’s music the perfect expression of his free spirit. The nine selections from the various Lehar operetta repertory – especially the lilting arias (rec. 1932) from The Merry Widow – bespeak an ease of musical transition and glib legato coupled with an idiomatic rubato that prove irresistible. In 1926, singing “Gern hab’ich die Frau’n gekuesst” in Lehar’s Paganini, Tauber had to repeat the song five times in his gorgeous mezzo-voce, to his new bride Carlotta Vanconti, with whom he shares the an aria smoldering with passion, “Wellen. . .Warum hat jeder Fruehling” from the gypsy-style Der Zarewitsch in 1927. Fortunately, the Odeon collection includes the Paganini aria, inscribed in 1925. Tauber’s (and Wunderlich’s) signature song, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” from The Land of Smiles comes to us in two distinct modes: the first, in German, from 1929; the second, in English from an Evening Concert 5 June 1946. The affectionate splendor, the purity of sentiment, and the nuanced timbre of the renditions makes them immortal. Lehar’s late operetta Giuditta, proffers two inscriptions from 1934, of which the walz-lied “Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert” rings with an authority totally in thrall to Tauber’s heroic delivery. The ensuing duet with Jarmila Novotna conveys the same sensuality we experience when we watch Carole Lombard and George Raft dance the bolero.

The music of Emmerich Kalman stands second to Lehar in Viennese operetta mastery, both after Johann Strauss. The 1927 recording of the tango-rhythm “Wenn man das Leben. . .Zwei Maerchenaugen” from The Circus Princess reveals a deeper resonance of voice, a canny use of chest tone to project and control Tauber’s timbre. The remaining six selections – excluding the 1946 appearance with Lehar – offer a potpourri of Viennese Tauber bonbons, embracing music by Zeller (1928), Kreisler 1933), and Eysler (1928). The Kreisler gives us a sung version of his popular violin piece, Liebesleid. Equally tantalizing to our ears are the Oscar Straus “Da draussen im duftenden Garten” from A Waltz-Dream (1932), “Im chambre separee” from Heuberger’s The Opera-Ball (1931), and the love-letter to Vienna, Sieczynski’s “Wien, Du Stadt meainer Traeume” (1928).

This Preiser edition of Richard Tauber favorites has its competition in a series offered by Naxos Historical and several other labels. But for a lovely enchanting cross-section of Tauber’s operetta hegemony of style, this disc will serve us well.

—Gary Lemco

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