Baritone Hermann Uhde = HANDEL: Julius Caesar: “Aus der Brandung Gefarhen”; WEBER: Der Freischuetz: 2 Arias; VERDI: Rigoletto: 2 Arias; BIZET: “Euren Toast kann ich wohl erwiden”; D’ALBERT: Tiefland: “Hull’ in die Mantille dich fester ein”; WAGNER: The Flying Dutchman: “Die Frist ist um”; Lohengrin: 2 Arias; Die Walkuere: Wotan’s Farewell – Hermann Uhde, baritone/Rita Streich, soprano (Verdi)/Kurt Boehme, bass (Verdi)/Astrid Varnay, soprano (Lohengrin)/Ferdinand Leitner/Artur Rother/Joseph Keilberth/Hans Knappertsbusch conductors
Preiser 93471, 79:22 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Helden-baritone Hermann Uhde (1914-1965) added a special timbre to the voice of the New Bayreuth (1951-1960), his sweetly abrasive tone appropriated to both heroic and villainous roles, which he often embraced on the very same day! His characterizations as Wozzeck, Telramund, and Melot brought admiration and international success, yet he found himself often ignored in official retrospectives of opera-houses. Uhde favored morally ambiguous roles, such as Creon, Klingsor, and Wotan. That Knappertsbusch used him for The Dutchman and Mitropoulos selected him for his Wotan at the MET was enough to convince me of his innate nobility of line and his vocal flexibility and protean emotional range. This Preiser celebration of Uhde’s diverse musical sensibilities embraces roles he inscribed 1952-1957.
After a lyrical Julius Caesar aria with Ferdinand Leitner from 1952, the role of Kaspar from Weber’s Der Freischuetz (1954) permits Uhde a vocal impetuosity and authority we rarely hear today, rife with confidence and martial vigor. The sprezzitura alone would dismay most singers, but Uhde devours the leaps and slides with voracity and lung power to spare. Uhde’s Rigoletto (1953) exhibits authority, certainly, but more of vulnerability as he fears for his daughter’s virtue. Rita Streich’s Gilda provides the perfect lyrical foil to the Uhde-Boehme duo, her soaring innocence in contrast to the voices of bitter experience. The last pages sail into a fierce bolero rhythm, a promise of drunken sensuality and scathing loss at once.
With the German version of “Votre Toast,” Uhde delivers a terrific performance from Carmen (1952) under Leitner from Stuttgart. One must look back to Lawrence Tibbett for the combination of sensual virility and youthful swagger that Uhde projects. A rare moment of “Southern” serenade comes to us from Eugen D’Albert’s Tiefland (1953) under Rother, Uhde’s tessitura dipping into the bass range from which he first emerged in 1949.
The last four offerings, Wagner roles, illustrate the dramatic power Uhde conveyed, beginning with his 1955 Dutchman–who sings of his defiance in the face of fatal destiny–under Knappertsbusch from the Bayreuth Festival. Uhde’s Telramund under Keilberth (1953) is a viper, calling upon the King to punish Elsa. In Act II, he confers with Ortrud (Astrid Varnay) on the likelihood of restoring his power. The surging fury Uhde invokes could just as easily transfer to his characterization of Verdi’s Macbeth. At last, Uhde’s Wotan, bidding farewell to his Brunnhilde, a grand edifice of sound for baritone and orchestra, in which we look again to the artistry of Tibbett as an example, in the famed collaboration with Stokowski of 1934. We might consider the George London/Hans Knappertsbusch Decca recording a worthy rival, but Uhde’s natural abrasiveness attests to the moral insecurity of his position, his having stolen the Rhinegold from Alberich.
Critic Audrey Williamson has a germane comment on the art of Hermann Uhde: “On the opera stage the connection of intellect and passion is seldom. This is why stage singers like Hermann Uhde deserve the greatest appreciation: they uplift the opera to the highest level of musical drama."
— Gary Lemco