Use this page to stay current on news about Lotte Lehmann. I try to post the news as it arrives. As you scroll down the page you’ll find items that came in as far back as 2011.
• There’s a PDF version of Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy at Lehmann Documents. Note that it doesn’t offer audio or video.
• Herr Peter Clausen of Vienna has once again added to our knowledge of Lehmann’s Chronology. In the following announcement, it includes Lehmann, not in an opera or recital, but singing in a staged performance of Goethe’s Egmont with Beethoven’s music in celebration of the 100th year since the composer’s death. You’ll find her name at the bottom as performing “Klärchen-Lieder” with Felix Weingartner conducting.
• A Detective Story: Searching for Lehmann Live
A young Frenchman living in Lyon has spent years searching for the fabled Lotte Lehmann Winterreise broadcast of one of Lehmann’s last Town Hall recitals of 1951. Christophe Pizzutti’s quest was rewarded when he uncovered a wire recording, (yes, when a tape recording wasn’t available wire was used) that purported to be of this very broadcast. After considerable time, M. Pizzutti was able to procure this rare recording which could have been lost or destroyed without his intervention. He has been able to verify that the reel of wire that he received was indeed of the historic concert. M. Pizzutti writes: “the original media was fragile and unstable (wire recording is something of a nightmare, if the wire broke during the process, the sound is irreversibly lost).” In the end, it seems to be in excellent sound and almost complete. There may be some cuts due to the radio’s time limitations. A dedicated and sincere Lehmann fan, M. Pizzutti considers this culmination of his epic quest to be “one of the most beautiful” of his life.
The result of M. Pizzutti’s research has unearthed the only known live performance of Lehmann’s ground breaking Winterreise. She was the first female to attempt the Schubert cycle and, although many women have since then performed and recorded it, Lehmann’s venture was in her time deemed an affront to the wishes of Schubert and the poet, Müller. But even during World War II both RCA and Columbia regarded her Winterreise undertaking worth recording (in excerpts).
What will happen with this rare document? Some enterprising recording engineer, transfer specialist, or other techie will definitely want to work on the fragile wire copy of this Lehmann masterpiece and make it available to Lehmann fans.
Here are some of the reactions to excerpts from this find: “All your patience and good efforts have borne fruit. You must be thrilled. It’s a wonderful accomplishment. And with excellent sound too!” “My heart beats so much on the last verse of ‘Gute Nacht.’ So human. ‘Der Wegweiser’ is also impressive. It’s as if Lehmann is sharing something very secret and important to her.” “For me, one of the most beautiful moments in the history of sound recording.” “A musical and human great discovery.” “The quality of sound was a marvelous surprise. I never imagined that wire could have such a great sound.”
• Franz Schalk was one of the most important conductors in pre-World War II Vienna. From 1918 to 1929 he was director of the Vienna State Opera, a post he held jointly with Richard Strauss from 1919 to 1924. He was later involved in the establishment of the Salzburg Festival. During Lehmann’s most important years in Vienna Schalk was her mentor and almost a father figure. She was the chosen soloist in his Memorial Service. The rare program of this event was uncovered by Peter Clausen who sent the original to me. I share this antique, important memorial thanks to him.
• Many thanks to Peter Clausen in Vienna for the rare treasure of the opera announcements that include Lehmann.
• We have obtained many new Lehmann photos.
• Here is a personal review of Marston’s latest Lehmann box by Henning Bert-Biel, a German who has lived most of his life in France.
I had time enough to listen to all the 6 CDs of the Lehmann-Box that is really a miracle. The presentation is extraordinary. Good articles and a lot of wonderful photographs, with many detailed explanations. One can’t give a better homage to Lehmann.
This wonderful soprano will be forever in the memory of humanity. It is important to edit CDs like that because our époque easily forgets great things.
I know well the records of Lehmann. When I compare the first discs to the records of 1927-33, I dare say that I love them all. The first group gives all the splendor of a unique voice, the second gives the maturity of a voice with an intelligence of musical expression and pronunciation. The timbre of Lehmann is unique. I like her especially in the German roles (Agathe, Rezia, Elisabeth, Elsa, Eva, Marschallin, Ariadne, Arabella). But that doesn’t mean that the other sides of her repertoire don’t please me. Her Rosalinde is great. Technically Schwarzkopf or Güden are perhaps a little bit more adapted to the great aria of Rosalinde, but none has this natural charm and sensuality of Lehmann. The Italian roles are wonderful. It is regrettable that she didn’t record them in Italian. I was every time astonished that Lehmann didn’t sing more Verdi. I imagine Lehmann as a wonderful Amelia (Ballo in Maschera).
The records of Lieder are sensational. I prefer it when they are accompanied only by piano, but even with the little orchestras Lehmann manages to give an outstanding interpretation. The two Christmas-Songs were for me a revelation. Very often opera singers don’t manage very well to sing those Weihnachtslieder. Lehmann is unbelievable. She sings the songs with simplicity and reveals all the charm, all the magic of those melodies. It sends me back to my childhood and I had a great emotion. It is one of the great marks of Lehmann –this simplicity which in fact is not simplicity. There is no sophistication like Schwarzkopf, but it touches me more. (In spite of that Schwarzkopf is with Grümmer one of my darlings).
The Marschallin of Lehmann is a miracle. She is a woman who knows love, who is sensual and at the same time sensible, ironic, with a good heart and a good sense of reality. Her monolog from the first act is the best interpretation I know.
For me there is another role I cherish about all: Sieglinde. The records of acts 1 and 2 with Walter are monuments. Often I dream that –without Hitler and the Third Reich– they would have been a complete record of Die Walküre with my dream-cast: Lehmann, Melchior, Schorr, List, Leisner (or Branzell) and my beloved Frida Leider.
There are yet so many things to say: The “Wiegenlied” of Strauss, “Der Nussbaum” of Schuhmann, and, and, and…. It’s a pity that “Der Erlkönig” should have sung so quickly (even like this– Lehmann managed it well)…
The songs of her era are interpreted with a lot of charm. I understand that people loved those records. Unterhaltungsmusik (light music) is very difficult to interpret. Many singers do too much; Lehmann or Tauber do just what is necessary for those songs.
I could speak hours and hours about Lehmann and for sure I will read once more her autobiography and the other books I own: My Many Lives and More than Singing. The book by Wessling is interesting, but I prefer the other books.
Gary, you have accomplished a great thing. All my congratulations!!! If there is a life after the dead (I don’t believe it) Lehmann will be happy about this wonderful edition.
• Christopher Nupen, best known for his many videos of classical musicians at work has written a book: Listening Through the Lens. Its longest chapter is all about meeting Lotte Lehmann in 1955 as a 19 year old. It was she who influenced him in the direction of the arts when he was still a young man. The book is available at Amazon. Please let us know how you like it and we’ll publish your review.
• Dalton Baldwin, one of Lehmann’s greatest fans and an important pianist in the art song world, died in December 2019. He and Souzay coached with Lehmann at her home in Santa Barbara. Here’s the New York Times obituary.
Dalton Baldwin, an Eminence Among Accompanists, Dies at 87
By Anthony Tommasini Published Dec. 24, 2019 Updated Dec. 26, 2019
Dalton Baldwin, an American pianist and recording artist who was acclaimed for nearly six decades as a recital accompanist to major singers, including Elly Ameling, Jessye Norman and especially the French baritone Gérard Souzay, died on Dec. 12 in Kunming, in the Yunnan Province of China. He was 87.
His death, a week before his 88th birthday, was announced by Ben Turman, the vice consul of the United States Consulate in Chengdu. Mr. Baldwin had recently completed three weeks of performances and coaching sessions with students in Japan and was returning from a short trip to Myanmar to visit Buddhist temples when he collapsed on a flight to Tokyo. The plane made an emergency landing in Kunming, where he was taken to a hospital and died.
He had performed on five continents and made more than 100 recordings over his career.
Although Mr. Baldwin was an eminence among accompanists, he was not fond of that word. Like many of his colleagues, he preferred to be called simply a pianist.
Critics affirmed that he was no mere accompanist. While consistently praising the refinement, sensitivity and technical command of his playing, they routinely described him as an equal partner to the singers he performed with.
In a review of a 1978 recital by Ms. Ameling at Alice Tully Hall, John Rockwell of The New York Times wrote that Mr. Baldwin “was worthy of a review all his own.” This was “piano playing of a lyrical and dramatic sympathy and a rhythmic energy that superbly partnered the singer,” Mr. Rockwell concluded.
Writing about a 1968 recording of songs by Francis Poulenc, featuring Mr. Souzay and Mr. Baldwin, the Times critic Allen Hughes observed that “the two performers work together so superbly that their interpretations are almost inseparable into individual elements.”
Mr. Baldwin was 22 when he met and first worked with Mr. Souzay, who was 13 years older and already an admired interpreter of song. Their professional relationship grew into a personal one, though they remained discreet about it; they built a home together in Antibes, on the Riviera, where Mr. Souzay died in 2004 at 85.
The important singers with whom Mr. Baldwin partnered on concert tours inevitably attracted more attention than he did, as he wryly noted in a 1983 interview with The Times. Speaking of a recital at the Salzburg Festival with Ms. Ameling, Mr. Baldwin said that his name was as large as hers on the poster, which gave him “a good feeling” — though, he added, “of course, I didn’t get anything like her fee.”
“Accompanists are underrated in every respect — financially, acclaim,” he said. Once, he said, a critic even referred to him in a review as someone else: Gerald Moore, the distinguished British accompanist.
In another Times article, from 1996, Mr. Baldwin was quoted as explaining that being an accompanist required not just musical talent but also a flair for ad hoc psychiatry, because “singers are such vulnerable people.” Mr. Baldwin clearly handled this element of the relationship sensitively; some of the major singers of his era were tenaciously loyal to him.
Dalton Baldwin was born on Dec. 19, 1931, in Summit, N.J., to Dalton Graf Baldwin, who worked in the insurance business, and Helen (Cahill) Baldwin. He is survived by a sister, Martha Baldwin Nelson. Another sister, Anne Baldwin Kurtosi, died before him.
Mr. Baldwin was drawn to music early. As a high school student, he attended a recital in Morristown, N.J., by the great English contralto Kathleen Ferrier that proved pivotal.
“You know immediately when a singer has a personal message,” he said in the 1996 interview. Ferrier “had lovely rosy cheeks and an enchanting way, and there again was a message, introducing me to the world of song.”
After studying at the Juilliard School, he attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, where he received a bachelor of music degree. In Paris he studied with the renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, began his association with Mr. Souzay and was coached by several composers, including Poulenc and Frank Martin.
Mr. Baldwin is best known for his performances and recordings of French art songs. His extensive discography includes the complete songs of Poulenc, Debussy, Faure and Ravel. He also won high praise for his performances of Schubert and Schumann. And he introduced a number of new works, including, with Mr. Souzay, the 1969 premiere in Washington of Ned Rorem’s “War Scenes,” a cycle of five songs with texts from Walt Whitman’s “Specimen Days,” dedicated by the composer to “those who died in Vietnam, both sides.”
The illustrious singers he worked with also included Marilyn Horne, Nicolai Gedda, Jennie Tourel, Frederica von Stade and José van Dam. He began his long association with Ms. Ameling in 1970 and, a few years later, began working with Jessye Norman (who died in September).
Mr. Baldwin was a teacher and coach to young pianists and singers and regularly gave master classes at the Salzburg Mozarteum, the national conservatories of Paris and Madrid, a summer academy in Nice and elsewhere. In recent years he taught at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, N.J., and had a home near the campus.
Though he also performed with leading instrumentalists like the violinist Henryk Szeryng and the cellist Pierre Fournier, Mr. Baldwin said he liked working with singers best.
“I worship the human voice,” he said in 1996. “There’s nothing like singing; it’s a romance when you share the music and the poem. The voice is God’s instrument. I want them to enjoy music making. That’s what it should be about: la joie.”
• In the November/December 2019 issue of Fanfare magazine Raymond Beegle reviews a new art song CD of baritone Stéphane Degout and makes several complimentary references to Lehmann. “Like Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Lotte Lehmann, this French baritone found in the songs he chose to sing both words and music that were already in his heart, and that he seems ineluctably compelled to express.…” [Beegle refers to the fact that this is a live recording which adds to its intensity. He then writes:] “It brings to mind Lehmann’s last recital [actually there were a handful that followed], and though Degout is far from the end of his career, his artistry is undeniably equal to hers.…[T]he artists seem to say, ‘Here I am, why shouldn’t I tell you the truth?’ and in each case, the audience members, unified by what was given them, falls into rapt silence, as well they should. What they were hearing were performances of a lifetime.…[Toward the end of the article Beegle expresses his negative reaction to the sound engineering of Degout’s performance, writing…] that makes it considerably less satisfactory than the sound of Lehmann’s 1951 recording.”
• Some new opera posters have arrived. Note the famous co-stars.
• Thanks to Michael Hardy we now can view Lotte Lehmann’s recital program from her Queen’s Hall appearance of 25 February 1930.
• This final section of the Lehmann Queen’s Hall program serves as a perfect transition to the new (2019) 6 CD set of Lehmann’s Odeon electric recordings made from 1927–1933 and available now from Marston Records.
• Robert Greenberg posted the following nice article remembering the anniversary of Lehmann’s death:
“She had only to walk on stage to reduce the audience to a melting blob”
On August 26, 1976 – 43 years ago today – the German-born soprano, opera star, lieder singer, movie actress, internationally renowned teacher, music historian and author, published poet, painter and illustrator Lotte Lehmann died in Santa Barbara, California at the age of 88.
In 2004 and 2005, I had the honor of speaking at The Music Academy of the West in Montecito, California, just east of Santa Barbara. The Academy, which was founded in 1947, is one of the great summer music conservatories and festivals in the world. It is also among the most beautiful music facilities anywhere. Perched on over ten acres of beachfront property in the beyond-toney enclave of Montecito, the Academy occupies the former site of the Santa Barbara Country Club. (For our information, along with The Music Academy of the West, other residents of Montecito include Drew Barrymore, Patrick Stewart, Rob Lowe, Al Gore, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges, Gwynwth Paltrow, and Kirk Douglas. The median price for a house there is a cool four million dollars. Heaven knows how much those ten-plus acres on which the Music Academy sits are now worth!)
My presentations at the Academy took place in the main concert hall, a 300-seat theater called Hahn Hall, and the post-lecture receptions were held in a magnificent, Mediterranean Revival-styled room called Lehmann Hall. I inquired as to the name of the room and was told that it was named for one of the principal founders of the music academy, the soprano Lotte Lehmann. My brain preceded to short-circuit in a manner unusual then but rather more often today, and I responded on the lines of, “Wow. A performance space named for Rosa Klebb!” (“Rosa Klebb” was the SPECTRE agent in the second James Bond film From Russia With Love, a Soviet bloc harridan who killed her victims with a poisoned blade that would emerge from the toe of her right shoe. She was played by the Vienna-born Tony Award-winning singer and actress Lotte Lenya. Lenya rose to fame playing Jenny in the original Berlin production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, with music composed by her husband, Kurt Weill.)
With great tact, the lovely lady with whom I was talking gently observed that the room in which we were standing was named for Lotte Lehmann, and not, marvelous though she was as Agent Klebb, Lotte Lenya.
The founding mothers and fathers of the Music Academy of the West were an impressive bunch, and include along with Lehmann the conductor Otto Klemperer, the violinist Roman Totenberg, the pianist and harpsichordist Rosalyn Tureck, the operatic baritone John Charles Thomas, and the composers Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud, Roy Harris, and Arnold Schoenberg (Schoenberg was the Academy’s first composer in residence). Impressive, yes, though not a one of them has a hall named after him or her except Lehmann. That’s because Lehmann was instrumental (no pun intended) in the founding of the Academy; she was a resident of Santa Barbara and after her retirement from the stage in 1951 she taught there for many years. How this German-born diva got to Santa Barbara, and what she accomplished along the way, should be an inspiration for all of us.
She was born on February 27, 1888 in Perleberg, in the northeastern German state of Brandenburg, midway between Berlin and Hamburg. Trained in Berlin, she made her operatic debut in Hamburg in 1910, at the age of 22. In 1916 she joined the company of the Vienna Court Opera (later the Vienna State Opera), where she quickly established herself as one of the premiere singers of her generation. She sang everything: Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Bizet, Gounod, Massenet, Puccini, Mascagni, Richard Strauss, Korngold; the list goes on; I shall not. She sang everywhere and with everyone; such was her fame (and the affection with which she was held) that she appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on February 15, 1935.
Lehmann was not just a great singer but a great actress as well, someone who appears to have been universally admired by her peers (no small thing for an operatic diva). When Enrico Caruso heard her sing for the first time, he embraced her and delivered what was, for him, the highest possible compliment:
“Ah, brava, brava! Che bella magnifica voce! Una voce Italiana!” (“Ah, wonderful, wonderful! What a beautiful, magnificent voice. An Italian voice!”)
Lotte Lehmann was Richard Strauss’ favorite soprano, hands down. Her most famous Strauss role was the world-weary Marschallin from Der Rosenkavalier. Of Lehmann’s portrayal of the Marschallin, Harold Schonberg – the often-curmudgeonly music critic of The New York Times – wrote:
“Talking about it, strong men snuffle and break into tears. They discuss her with the reverence of a legal mind talking about Justice [Oliver Wendell] Holmes, or a baseball connoisseur analyzing [Rogers] Hornsby’s form at the plate, or the old?timer who remembers Toscanini’s Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera. In short, she was The One: unique, irreplaceable, the standard to which all must aspire. . . She generated love, [and] had only to walk on stage to reduce the audience to a melting blob.”
The American journalist and novelist Vincent Sheean was haunted by Madame Lehmann:
“The peculiar melancholy expressiveness of her voice, the beauty of her style in the theater, the general sense that her every performance was a work of art, lovingly elaborated in the secret places and brought forth with matchless authority before our eyes, made her a delight that never staled. She was like that Chinese empress of ancient days who commanded the flowers to bloom—except for Lotte they did.”
A great story. In August of 1936, Lehmann was in Salzburg, [where she regularly sang in the Festival] looking for a villa to rent. During the course of her search, she overheard children singing in the garden of a nearby home. Stunned by what she heard, she knocked on the door, and in doing so discovered the Trapp Family Singers, who would be made famous by The Sound of Music. She told the children’s father that his family had “gold in their throats” and strongly suggested that they enter the Salzburg Festival contest for group singing the following night. However, the father – Baron Georg von Trapp, every inch the haughty aristocrat – told her that performing in public was beneath the dignity of a von Trapp and was thus out of the question. But this was Lotte freakin’ Lehmann he was talking to and her enthusiasm won the day. The Baron relented, and the Trapp Family performed in public for the first time the following day.
Lehmann made her American debut in 1930 and thereafter returned to the United States every year. In 1937, sickened by the rise of Nazism (Michael Kater’s excellent biography of Lehmann is entitled Never Sang for Hitler), she emigrated to the United States and became an American citizen in the early 1940s.
In 1948 Lehmann made her film acting debut in a movie called Big City, which starred Danny Thomas (who was born Amos Alphonsus Muzyad Yakhoob, the child of Lebanese immigrants, who in the movie plays a Jewish Cantor), Robert Preston, George Murphy and Margaret O’Brien. In the movie, Lotte Lehmann – a Christian Prussian – plays Danny Thomas’ Jewish mother, a character named “Mama Feldman.” Ah, Hollywood.
(For our information, Lehmann’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1735 Vine Street is marred by a misspelling: “Lottie” Lehmann.)
Later in her life Madame Lehmann said that: “there was no art form that was safe from me.”
Truer words were rarely spoken. She was a prolific writer, whose first collection of poetry was published in the early 1920s; whose novel, Eternal Flight, was published in 1937, and whose first memoir was published in 1938. Among her many additional publications were books on song and operatic interpretation, a memoir of Richard Strauss, and a second book of poetry, published in 1969.
Lehmann was also a skilled painter and illustrator, and a loving and passionate teacher, who numbered among her many, many students Grace Bumbry and Marilyn Horne.
She was a true polymath, by any standard.
We close with a story from Alden Whitman’s New York Times obituary of Lehmann, an obit that appeared on August 27, 1976, the day after her death:
“It was at a lieder recital in [New York City’s] Town Hall in 1951 that Lehmann announced her retirement as a singer. Stepping to the footlight at intermission, she said, ‘This is my farewell recital.’
‘No! No!’ the audience cried.
‘I had hoped you would protest,’ the soprano continued when the shouting had abated, ‘but please don’t argue with me. After 41 years of anxiety, nerves, strain and hard work, I think I deserve to take it easy.’
Then, referring to the aging Marschallin, who gives up her young lover in Der Rosenkavalier, Mme. Lehmann said:
‘The Marschallin looks into her mirror and says, ‘It is time.’ I look into my mirror and say. ‘It is time.’’
Many in the throng wept.
Later, backstage, she remarked:
‘It is good that I do not wait for the people to say: ‘My God, when will that Lotte Lehmann shut up!’”
• You may have learned of the death of André Previn (February 28, 2019). His only connection with Lotte Lehmann was when he met her during the filming of the MGM movie Big City. I’ll let him describe the event. Previn on LL and Big City
• Go to YouTube and you’ll find a new item with Lotte Lehmann in it: a 14 September 1933 performance (in excerpts) recorded live at the Wiener Staatsoper. Besides LL, you’ll hear a splendid Franz Völker as Siegmund and an almost comical Brünnhilde of Maria Jeritza. Clemens Kraus conducts. The sound is variable: from excruciating to almost bearable. But certainly historic!
• The first day covers for Lehmann’s German stamps have two issues: one for Bonn (the capital of West Germany at the time) and one for West Berlin.
• Here are the Lehmann-related portions of the August 16, 2018 issue of The New York Review of Books. Ian Bostridge wrote the review.
Singing in the Age of Anxiety: Lieder Performances in New York and London Between the World Wars by Laura Tunbridge
“…One of the most striking scenes conjured up in Laura Tunbridge’s new book, Singing in the Age of Anxiety, a study of lieder singing in New York and London between the wars, is a coda, Lotte Lehmann’s tearful farewell recital in New York, nearly six years after the end of World War II, in February 1951. Born in 1888, Lehmann had been one of the great singers of the age. In the field of opera she was particularly associated with the works of Richard Strauss, who declared, in words that could have come straight out of a Schubert song, that “she sang, and the stars were moved.” Strauss was the last of the great lieder composers, and it was as a lieder singer that Lehmann ended her career. The speech she gave before her performance is a rhetorical bridge to an earlier age, echoing one of the most famous of lieder, Mendelssohn’s “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges” (On Wings of Song—another Heine text). “You were the wings on which I soared,” she told her pianist and her audience, “a flight into beauty and another world.” As was widely reported at the time, Lehmann broke down during her final encore. Here is Life magazine’s account:
She had sung these words of Schubert’s immortal song “To Music” (“An die Musik”) hundreds of times before, but this time was different. As the statuesque soprano came to the final lines her eyes began to fill with tears. She broke down with a sob and covered her face with her hands. The piano finished alone.
Tunbridge is aware of the “element of showmanship” involved in the soprano’s farewell: the involvement of her PR agent Constance Hope; the Life photo-story, complete with its picture of Lehmann “head bowed, face behind her fingers, as the pianist carried on.” But she also finds listening to Lehmann’s breakdown (a recording was made and can be found on YouTube) “deeply moving…mak[ing] one contemplate how to write about expressive surplus in performance, as well as aging and failing voices.”
Listening myself to Lehmann I hear this—though some of the supposed vocal failings of age can equally be heard as stylistic choices (portamento, short breaths, the persistent wobble)—but I am also struck by a Romantic continuity that Strauss’s tribute to Lehmann and Lehmann’s own tribute to her pianist and audience have already suggested. There is no sense from the recording that Lehmann is overwhelmed and cannot continue, no sense of something being stifled or of a rising emotion finally taking the singer by surprise (and it is remarkable that so much of the lied is about tears but that tears make singing utterly impossible). Instead she stops almost deliberately. Du holde Kunst (“you holy art”), she sings, enunciating that final t of Kunst, leaving the words ich danke dir (“I thank you”) that complete the poem to echo only in the mind as the pianist continues playing. And he does not in fact finish the song; the piano postlude is left unplayed, which reinforces a sense that this is a performance as much about the singer as the song.
There is something deeply Romantic about Lehmann’s lachrymosity, but also about her artful caesura. …Lehmann’s performance of “An die Musik” crystallizes one of the central paradoxes of lieder singing: a lyrical form with an emphasis on individual subjectivity is at the same time necessarily performative and, in the best sense, mannered. The effect is very often of intimacy and of natural expression, of authentic access to the heart. But the means are calculated by composer and performer, not a mere spontaneous overflow of emotion. The artful conspires with the artless.”
I (Gary Hickling) wrote the following to the editors of The New York Review of Books:
Regarding the Ian Bostridge review of Singing in the Age of Anxiety: Lieder Performances in New York and London Between the World Wars by Laura Tunbridge, there is one point that needs clarification. When writing about Lehmann’s final Town Hall recital in which she breaks down at the end of Schubert’s hymn to music, Bostridge leaves us with the impression that her crying was staged. “…she stops almost deliberately.” In Volume I of my iBook Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy I provide ample evidence to the contrary with the actual voice of her pianist, Paul Ulanowsky, commenting on the occurrence. He said, “…it was only after she had said ‘I will try to sing “An die Musik,”’ that may have been the psychological cue for her that there was an attempt to do something which would include so much personal emotion for her in singing this, you might almost call it theme song, for the last time in Town Hall, that prompted her to abandon this discipline, this control, just a few seconds before the end of her singing when she broke down. I’d like to say that this was not a studied thing. She didn’t expect it to happen, and as she went from the piano out the [stage] door of Town Hall, she said to me ‘This is terrible; an artist with that much experience should have the discipline not to let this happen.’ So this was entirely impromptu. I think that you ought to know that.”
Further, as you can hear in Lehmann’s recorded master classes found in Volumes III-V of the above mentioned iBooks, she always counseled her students against sentimentality or crying. She wanted her student singers to cause their audience to cry. By the way, when I make the references to my own iBooks it isn’t to enrich myself. They are all offered free.
• Laura Mullen sent these Lehmann cartoons drawn about her very active grandmother Esther Bear. She was married to Donald Bear the founding director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; after his death in 1952 she built a house in Montecito and opened a gallery there in 1965. She ran the gallery for a decade. Here’s a link to information about Esther Bear’s gallery.
• Dalton Baldwin on Lotte Lehmann:
On April 9, 2018 Dalton Baldwin wrote to me in answer to my questions about how he and Gérard Souzay came to coach with Lotte Lehmann. Here’s his reply: “Gérard Souzay and I had a recital in Santa Barbara and Lotte came backstage afterwards–thus began her infatuation with a handsome French baritone! We stayed at her Hope Ranch Park home several times–Lotte coached him in Lieder. We spent evenings listening to her recordings especially Winterreise. She came to our Carmel [California] recital and introduced us to Noel Sullivan…[1890-1956, an amateur singer, patron of the arts, and philanthropist. Since Sullivan died in 1956 this means that the coaching that Baldwin refers to occurred before that.]
The greatest thrill of all was when she flew over for our recital in Munich–the audience went wild. She painted a kind of comic strip scene where she, as Salome, holds the head of John the Baptist (Souzay) only to be thwarted by an angel (me [Dalton]).”
He spoke, on a poor recording, that “there’s no one who’s ever come along who could equal Lotte in deep, spontaneous expression. I’ve never, ever come across anyone who can equal her in my 65 years of career. Of course Gérard is an exception; also he sang in so many different languages…” [Baldwin goes on to speak about the great Salzburg Fidelio that Lehmann sang with Toscanini. He reminds us that Toscanini fell in love with Lehmann and wrote her many pornographic love letters…] What was it that attracted him? This Italian guy with a mustache to this oversized German prima donna…It wasn’t just her body. It was the totality of her expressiveness…just overwhelming. He was crazy about the woman!”
• The audio tracks from many of Lehmann’s master classes are now available right on this site: Opera Arias & Scenes; Individual Art Songs and Song Cycles. These are condensations of the Apple iBooks Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy Volumes I–V. The iBooks are available without charge.
• Jerry Minkoff has sent some wonderful Lehmann reviews from the 1930s. 1935 01 02 – Bori in Boheme, Lehmann in Tannhäuser; 1935 01 05 – Rosenkavalier with Lehmann; 1935 02 24 – Sunday column – Rosenkavalier and the Marschallin; Lehmann’s portrayal; 1935 03 22 – Lotte Lehmann as Tosca; 1937 02 28 – Critics Disagree – Lehmann reviewed – 2019; 1937 02 28 – Critics Disagree cont. – Lehmann reviewed
• As of 4 August 2017 you may now hear a new Lehmann CD called “Lotte Lehmann Sings Light Music” on the Jube label (JUBE1414). Here are the contents of this 81 minute remastered CD:
Da draußen in der Wachau
Ich muss wieder einmal in Grinzing sein
God Bless America
Wiegenlied, Op. 49 No. 4 (Lullaby)
Es gibt eine Frau, die dich niemals vergisst
Frühling ist es wieder
The Sacred Hour
Sanctuary of the Heart
Wär es auch nichts als ein Traum vom Glück (from Eva)
Ich hol’ dir vom Himmel das Blau
Wien, sterbende Marchenstadt
Der Duft, der eine schoene Frau begleitet
Lieder (3), Op. 21: No. 2, Das Zauberlied
The Kerry Dance
Eine kleine Liebelei
Wenn du einmal dein Herz verschenkst
Kinderszenen, Op. 15: Träumerei
Wien, du Stadt meiner Traüme
Im Prater bluh’n wieder die Baume, Op. 247
Strauss, J, II:
Mein Herr, was dächten (from Die Fledermaus)
Klänge der Heimat (from Die Fledermaus)
Herr Chevalier, ich grüße sie (from Die Fledermaus)
Er ist Baron (from Der Zigeunerbaron)
Ein Furstenkind, ein Wunder ist gescheh’n (from Der Zigeunerbaron)
Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437 sung as ‘Heut’ macht die Welt Sonntag fur mich’
• Many thanks to Brian Hotchkin for sending the wonderful program that accompanied the elaborate celebration of Lehmann’s 80th birthday in 1968. Notice all the famous names associated with the event.
• You can now obtain technologically advanced sound for the acoustic recordings of Lotte Lehmann (plus some wonderful electrics) from Marston Records. Here’s what Ward Marston wrote:
Lotte Lehmann is today revered for her stellar portrayals of Sieglinde and the Marschallin with commercial recordings and Metropolitan Opera broadcasts giving testament to her in those roles. These highly regarded historic documents have been continuously available together with her no less admired performances of lieder. But most of the recordings now available of this great singer were made during the second half of her forty-year career, by which time she was no longer in her absolute vocal prime. Lehmann is sometimes now remembered as a consummate interpreter and musician, but one with a less than perfect vocal technique. Such judgments are incorrect: In her early recordings we can discover the ease and beauty of her vocal production, her voice fresh and youthful. Lehmann’s earliest records also give us a better idea of her extensive repertoire during the first half of her career. As noted in Dr. Jacobson’s essay, Lehmann sang a large range of roles during her years in Hamburg and Cologne. We are fortunate to get a glimpse of those portrayals through her acoustic recordings, made for Pathé, German Grammophon, and Odeon, between 1914 and 1926.
Lehmann’s first records were made for Pathé—just two sides recorded in 1914. In a hand-written letter from Lehmann to the Pathé administration in February 1915, she confirmed the extension of her contract until February 1916, also requesting payment of 400 Goldmarks. If Lehmann made any additional Pathé records, none were released. In fact, more than three years would pass before Lehmann would again make records. This lone Pathé disc is surely one of the most elusive of all records; in my forty years of collecting, I have never seen a copy offered for sale. We are grateful to Christian Zwarg for making a transfer of this great rarity available for this compilation.
With the outbreak of war in 1914 came a huge upheaval in the record industry in Germany. Relations between the German branch of the Gramophone Company Ltd. and the parent company in London ceased, but the German company continued to make records using the Gramophone Company name. During the first months of 1917, however, the company officially severed all connection to the Gramophone Company, reconstituting itself as the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. The new company began recording operations in September 1917 with Lotte Lehmann as one of their first artists. DGG also claimed the right to continue selling any Gramophone Company recordings made before the separation. In 1917, DGG began assigning new numbers to each disc, not only to their newly-produced discs, but also to any earlier Gramophone Company discs. This is why one finds Deutsche Grammophon pressings of records of artists such as Melba, Battistini, and Chaliapin with newly assigned numbers. To make matters more confusing, DGG continued using the old Gramophone Company catalog number system, printing these numbers on the record labels together with their new order numbers. Sometime in 1920, however, they stopped using the old catalog numbers, replacing them with new numbers that began with a letter prefix that denoted the city of location. Therefore, Lehmann’s later DGG discs all bear catalog numbers that begin with the letter B for Berlin. For this compilation, we have listed three numbers for each of Lehmann’s DGG recordings: first, the matrix number is given in parentheses; next is given the DGG order number followed by the company’s internal catalog number in brackets. The first three DGG sessions use the old Gramophone Company catalog numbers, while the fourth, fifth, and sixth sessions use the new DGG numbers.
Many of Lotte Lehmann’s DGG records were issued as single-faced discs, but by the early 1920s, all of her forty-six issued acoustic DGG records were coupled on double-faced discs with new order numbers. These later pressings are preferable because of their quieter background noise. For this compilation all transfers were made from such late pressings.
Lotte Lehmann’s acoustic Odeon discs were issued only in double-faced format, but pressings dating from the late 1920s sound far quieter than the earlier pressings from 1924–1926. We have made every effort to locate late pressings, but they are scarce and, in some cases, we had to use earlier, slightly noisier pressings. For the Odeon recordings especially, the choice of stylus was critical in bringing Lehmann’s voice into focus. In remastering all of the discs, obtrusive clicks, pops, and undesirable noises have been eliminated, and we have made an attempt to remove the harshness caused by horn resonance. The electric recordings chosen for the appendix are all available in beautiful, quiet copies with almost no restoration necessary. We hope that interest in this set will permit us to continue the Lotte Lehmann series with a second volume of her complete electric Odeon recordings.
• The following announcement is interesting because both the Music Academy of the West and UCSB have Lehmann connections:
The Music Academy of the West and the UCSB Library have renewed a partnership to preserve and digitize the Academy’s archive of open reel tapes and transfer the organization’s paper archives to the UCSB Library, where they will be available for research, teaching, and personal enjoyment. Located in nearby Montecito, the Music Academy of the West has been developing “the next generation of great classically trained musicians” through its summer conservatory program and festival since 1947.
In fact, the Music Academy and the UCSB Library have intersecting histories. Legendary soprano Lotte Lehmann, one of the founders of the Music Academy, also served as a longtime leader and supporter of the Friends of UCSB Library.
“UCSB Library is an international leader in historic sound preservation and digitization,” said Denise Stephens, University Librarian, “and we are honored that the Music Academy of the West is entrusting their archives to us so we can ensure their accessibility for future generations of scholars, teachers, performers, and the greater community.”
The Music Academy’s recordings of concerts, recitals, and masterclasses from 1961-2001 have been housed in the UCSB Library’s Department of Special Research Collections and available for public research access since 2007. Four hundred of the earliest and most fragile recordings will now be digitized for their 70th anniversary, including special performances by Lotte Lehmann, Marilyn Horne, and Jerome Lowenthal. The Music Academy will be releasing select recordings on their new website launching this spring and through social media.
“The Music Academy is delighted to partner with UCSB Library to preserve the written and musical archives we have compiled over seven transformative decades,” said Scott Reed, President and CEO of Music Academy of the West. “The opportunity for us to align with a team with such tremendous expertise is an enormous opportunity and one that has fortuitously arrived as we celebrate our 70th anniversary.”
The Music Academy of the West’s archives join UCSB Library’s robust collections in the performing arts, including the Lehmann Collection, which contains letters, scrapbooks, manuscripts, photographs, video cassettes, art works, and sound recordings relating to the life and career of Lotte Lehmann.
• You may read the interview and reviews of my Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy that appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Fanfare magazine.
• For the Lehmann fans who want every note that she sang, here’s a rarity: An excerpt from a 1944 “Command Performance” radio broadcast aimed at the American troupes overseas. You’ll hear Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra kid around and then Lehmann sings an English translation of Brahms’ Lullaby.
• Many thanks to Mr. Kai-Uwe Garrels for the following letter.
Dear Mr. Hickling, thank you very much for your fascinating web site about Lotte Lehmann. This really is a labor of love and I very much appreciate that you share your work with the public. I only have a tiny bit to contribute to this huge amount of precious information. As I happen to own the 78 record “Odeon-Parade”, I can fill in that the Lotte Lehmann selection on side B is from “Dich, teure Halle” (No. 169 in your discography), combined with excerpts from Frieder Weißmann, Berliner Philharmonisches Orch.: Rienzi-Ouvertüre; Elisabeth Rethberg: O habet Acht (Der Zigeunerbaron); Gregor Piatigorsky – Cello, Karol Szreter – Piano: Träumerei and Lehmann at the end. The excerpts with Alpár, von Sauer and Tauber are on side A. Be 9912 is not the correct matrix, but Be 10110-5-0 (the fifth take of a re-recording). The actual mixing with live commentary by Paul Nikolaus took place on January 3, 1933, after the first four takes from December 1932 were rejected. The (German) order number was Odeon O-11756. (Nikolaus committed suicide less than three months later in Swiss exile.) paul-nikolaus_-odeon-parade-alpar_-lehmann_-tauber-etc-_-1933 Please keep up your great work on Lotte Lehmann, thanks again and best regards from Austria, Kai-Uwe Garrels
• Below are excerpts from an article about the sculptor and his Lotte Lehmann bust. Here’s a photo of it in its location in Perleberg, Germany, with people from the Lotte Lehmann Woche.
The sculptor, Bernd Streiter, who has also made statues of former German Chancellors, was commissioned by the city of Perleberg [the city of Lehmann’s birth] to create a bust of Lotte Lehmann [which he manages to do based on photos]. The bronze cast was made by Klaus Cenkier, based on the silicon form made by Streiter. The necklace on the bust contains the crest of the city of Perleberg. On the sculptor’s website he writes that he seeks to bring out the personality in his interpretation of the portrayed person.
• There’s a new movie out that includes Lehmann. Here’s some background: The von Trapp Tamily – A Life of Music includes the mention of Lehmann. The story is told through Agathe von Trapp: “She develops her beautiful voice and stimulating musical talent together with her family and with the support of the famous singer Lotte Lehmann (opera singer Annette Dasch).”
• The iBooks, Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy, Volumes I–VII are now available from Apple. You can download it free. Really, no charge! You need to have an iPad or iPhone that’s recent enough to work with iBooks. You can also use an iMac, but it must also be of recent vintage. Just tap or click on the title above and you’ll be taken to the Apple store. When you see the book, don’t bother with the “Sample” just click “Get” because it’s free. It will allow you to start downloading immediately. This will take approximately 8-10 minutes depending on your download speed. There’s a lot to enjoy, be careful not to overdose. By the way, it is designed to be viewed in the “Portrait” mode (up and down) not the “Landscape” mode (sideways). I welcome your feedback and impressions. I’m working on Volume II and would like to make it as good as possible.
• How does the 50th anniversary of the movie “Sound of Music” have a Lehmann-connection? TIME magazine is revisiting its 1947 story on the Trapp Family: “As a novice in a Salzburg convent, Maria Augusta began to get “bad headaches,” she says, and her superiors decided to give her a vacation helping care for the seven children of the widowed Baron Georg von Trapp. Maria Augusta married the baron, bore him three children. All the Trapps sang and in 1937 Soprano Lotte Lehmann heard them at it. She insisted that they enter choral competition at the Salzburg Festival that year. They took first prize, but never sang at Salzburg again; ardently Roman Catholic and ardently anti-Nazi, they left home just before Hitler seized Austria.” And as they say, the rest is history.
• Here’s a nice press release from Hawaii Public Radio “e-scape” which keeps listeners informed.
Gary Hickling, host of HPR-1’s Singing and Other Sins, the only radio program in the world focused on art songs, will be delivering the lecture at this month’s meeting of the Vocal Record Collectors’ Society in New York City, entitled “Lotte Lehmann: Legendary & Unknown.” Gary was a friend of Madame Lehmann (pictured above), and is the creator and maintainer of her discography. He is honored by this invitation and grateful for the technology that allows him to be spared travel to NY’s current wintry clime — his presentation will be only the second in VRCS’s history to be delivered long-distance (via CD).
• Philip Ulanowsky sent an excerpt from an interview his father gave with Studs Terkel in which Lehmann’s Town Hall Farewell Recital was discussed. You can hear that interview as well as expanded information on that Farewell Recital.
• Philip Ulanowsky sent a tribute to his father that was broadcast shortly after his death in 1968. You can find excerpts from this memorial.
• The renowned New York City sound engineer and vocal expert Seth Winner has informed me of an unknown Lehmann Town Hall recital of 2/4/45.
• Another photo of the young Lotte Lehmann:
• Fanfare magazine reviewed the Lehmann Music & Arts box set:
LOTTE LEHMANN: A 125th Birthday Tribute • Lotte Lehmann (sop); various pianists; various conductors; various orchestras • MUSIC & ARTS 1279 (4 CDs + CD ROM: 295:05) Producer Gary Hickling, a friend of Lehmann’s, the creator and maintainer of her discography, and a generous enthusiast of her art, approached Music & Arts to issue 19 previously unreleased recordings of the singer. This is the result. In all honesty, there’s nothing revelatory about the fresh material, here. The unissued live selections, in particular those recorded at a Los Angeles school auditorium in 1949 and parts of Town Hall recitals from 1943 and 1946, are a delight to hear, but not mandatory in the sense that they shed new light on her gifts, expertise, or repertoire. Indeed, two of the 19 are short speaking excerpts by Lehmann and Bruno Walter, while a third has Lehmann reading a poem of hers. But for the completist it provides yet further examples of the soprano’s intensity, radiant voice, and exceptional interpretative skill. And of course, by being extended to four very full discs, it not unintentionally furnishes an excellent entry point for the new listener curious about the singer.
The emphasis is not on opera, though we do get one selection a piece from Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos, Lohengrin, and Tosca. (Hickling’s web site is the place to go to sample much more opera, from a rapturous “Alles pflegt schon längst der Ruh’” [Der Freischütz] of 1929, to a delightfully flirtatiously “Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir” [Die Fledermaus] of 1931.) Instead, there’s a great deal of Wolf, Schubert, Brahms, and a fair amount of Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Given that there’s so much of Lehmann available, Hickling was able to focus on some of the very best: “Der Doppelgänger,” “Wenn ich in deine Augen she’,” a remarkable “Der Wanderer,” and Mendelssohn’s “Schilflied” in a performance that demonstrates a careful expending of breath to create a seamless legato—not a usual feature of this passionately expressive artist. We also get some choice rarities, including a test pressing of Beethoven’s “Wonne der Wehmut” from 1941 that was never released on 78s, a “Vissi d’arte” in Italian from a 1938 radio broadcast, and an early 19th-century nationalistic song, Groos’s “Freihart die ich meine,” which the Thousand Year Reich revived in an entirely new context.
Both Music & Arts and Hickling deserve praise for their willingness to place texts and translations on a fifth disc as part of a PDF file. This saves on the cost of what would be a fat and rather awkwardly managed booklet, as well as allowing the producer the luxury of adding numerous Lehmann images and a plethora of personal observations. Curiously, the lengthy biography preserves a myth about Lehmann’s interaction with Goering started by the singer herself, and corrected in an essay on Hickling’s Lotte Lehmann League web site. The late author of the notes may not have been aware of the detective work that assembled an accurate picture of the events, but those errors of fact could have been reasonably edited out without affecting the considerable quality of the rest of the material.
It is not relevant to the wealth of musical content on this set, however, or indeed to anything in Lehmann’s art and her legacy of recordings, students, and her extremely insightful book, More Than Singing: The Interpretation of Songs. Both Hickling and Music & Arts deserve praise for this excellent set, in very good sound, that is clearly a labor of love. Enthusiastically recommended. Barry Brenesal
• Lehmann coached the already successful opera singer Mildred Miller in the 1960s. She was proud enough of her student to fly from California for Ms. Miller’s Carnegie Hall recital. Mildred Miller was kind enough to provide interview material (which we recorded by phone) for two programs celebrating her 90th birthday in December 2014. You can find those programs on the Singing and Other Sins archive. Now, Ms. Miller has sent us a photo of her with Mme. Lehmann.
• You can’t believe everything you read. This appeared in the Neue Freie Presse of 20 January 1924. In English: Tomorrow (Monday) Lotte Lehmann’s single concert [we’d call it a recital] at 7pm. At the piano: Professor Ferdinand Foll. Miss Lehmann appears as Lieder singer before the Vienna public for the first time in several years. Her program contains songs of Brahms, Schumann, Cornelius, Marx, and Strauss. In this concert, Miss Lehmann takes leave of the Vienna public for a longer period of time, because only a few days later she travels to Italy for several months, where she first appears as a guest singer for two months at La Scala, Milan. Remaining tickets…..The recital information is correct, but Lehmann never sang at Italy’s La Scala. Rather, in this case, she traveled to Berlin, first to record on 13 February and then to sing opera there with Georg Szell, among other conductors at the Berlin Staatsoper, where she remained, making records and singing opera until 21 May 1924 the date she sang her first Marschallin in London under Bruno Walter’s direction. She continued singing opera (Ariadne auf Naxos, Der Rosenkavalier and Die Walküre), not returning to Vienna until the next season when on 9 September 1924 she sang in Faust. As usual, many thanks to Peter Clausen for the clipping.
• A wonderful connection leading to Lehmann’s 1939 Australian tour has evolved. Lyndon Garbutt writes: “During the 1939 tour Madame Lehmann insisted she have her own flats or apartments to stay in at each of the capital cities. In one of the articles, she mentions how she wanted to feel as though she were at home – even if it were only for a few days. One of her assistants would set up photographs of her loved ones in each apartment to give it a personal touch. [Her husband Otto had died earlier in the year.] I presume this is why she ended up staying in our apartment, as opposed to some leading hotel. And here’s the photo of her practicing in that apartment.
Lyndon Garbutt has also led me to the large on-line source of the National Library of Australia where I found one of the rare photos taken during a recital.
• Many thanks to recording specialist Ward Marston for sending seven hitherto unknown Lieder performances of Lehmann in live radio broadcast recitals from 1943 and 1948. They will be added to my VRCS presentation, “Lotte Lehmann, Legendary and Unknown” on Friday, February 6, 2015, in New York City.
• I had hardly written the notice below before another email came from Herr Clausen with the missing information. Lehmann was indeed scheduled to sing in the “Great Concert Hall” and the pianist is none other than Professor Ferdinand Foll. He was a former friend of Hugo Wolf and knew what a recital should be. The composers included Brahms, Schumann, Cornelius, Marx, and Strauss.
• Once again, Peter Clausen in Vienna, has unearthed another recital date to be added to Lehmann’s Chronology. This concert is on 21 January 1924 and the “Gr. K-S” must refer to the large concert hall…Sadly no reference to a pianist or the program contents.
• Thanks to Jen Ferro, Reference and Instruction Librarian at the Lane Community College Library, we’ve learned of another Lehmann student: Nitza Niemann, dramatic mezzo, born in 1927 and still alive and living in Los Angeles. I’ve entered her name on the list of Lehmann students (which grows and grows!).
• Judith Sutcliffe sent a wonderful photo of Lehmann posing for her statue with sculptor Frances Rich. Many thanks!
• Thanks to the alert reader of the Chronology for noticing the repeat of the “Recording in Berlin” on two of the same dates: 24 March 1924. I will correct it when I upgrade the Chronology.
• Thanks again to Peter Clausen for uncovering this announcement in the 28 December 1923 Neue Freie Presse. The Vienna newspaper proudly notices that Lehmann sang (as guest) at the Budapest Opera as Elsa, Desdemona and Margarete with great success. On the occasion of the last role, critics praised ”the magic of her, through her distinguished art, ennobled voice, her gesture and complete personality”. Here’s the original German: “Lotte Lehmann hat an der Budapester Oper als Elsa, Desdemona and Margarete mit großem Erfolge gastiert. Die Kritik lobt anlässlich der letzten Partie “den Zauber ihrer durch vornehmsten Kunst geadelten Stimme, ihrer Bewegung und ganzen Persönlichkeit”. By the way, two days later she was back on the Vienna stage singing the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos.
• Some new information about Lehmann’s Die Meistersinger performance at Covent Garden on 12 May 1926. The Hans Sachs was the highly respected Emil Schipper, Fritz Kraus sang Walter and Hans Clemens, David.
• Simone from Perleberg, Lehmann’s birthplace, has sent us an absolutely astonishing photo of Lehmann as the Marschallin from 1939. I’m not sure anyone has seen this photo since that time. Certainly, I haven’t.
• The following review that speaks for itself has come to my attention. Take the time to read it through to understand the level of artistry that Lehmann had reached by 1943.
New York Times 25 January 1943
LEHMANN IS HEARD IN SCHUMANN SONGS
Soprano is assisted by Paul Ulanowsky in Program at Town Hall
By Olin Downes
A very distinguished recital of songs and song cycles by Robert Schumann was given by Lotte Lehmann yesterday afternoon in Town Hall. The capacity of the hall was brought out by an exceptionally attentive and appreciative audience days in advance of the event. There was no fuss about that either. The audience was practically all seated when the singer came in. The program began by Mme. Lehmann’s inviting the audience to sing the national anthem with her. Then she and her excellent accompanist, Paul Ulanowsky, began their task of communicants with the songs.
These were sung with a matchless simplicity, with an art that concealed an art now fully developed and shorn of every excrescence or superfluity of style, and the interpretation proceeded directly from the heart.
Mme. Lehmann sang these reveries and avowals with a fineness of style and a sense of proportion that had no slightest savor of exaggeration or less than utter sincerity, and her performance said plainly that if this was sentimental the audience could make the most of it. She believed what she sang. She herself was moved by it.
The “Dichterliebe” cycle permitted a wider range of expression and a greater variety of color. But the same simplicity, the same warm poetry and perfect proportion remained. Nor are the postludes of the piano to be forgotten. That is to say that there was complete unity of intention between the two performers, and that Mr. Ulanowsky with rare taste and sensibility completed the poetic thought of interpreter and composer.
One remembers those earlier years when Mme. Lehmann’s own nature swept her away and this resulted in prodigal and at time explosive outburst of tone, or disproportionate emphasis of phrase. All that is of the past. The thoughtful expenditure and shaping of tone, the maximum of communication with the minimum of effort, an intensity of emotion that requires no noisy heralding spoke more eloquently than any description could do.
Mood was established so completely that there was comparatively little demonstration till the end of the recital. For that matter the two cycles were sung without opportunity for applause between the songs that make them. But it is doubtful if in any case there would have been such a sign. There was the rapport between the artist and her listeners made possible by her achievement and also by the proportions of the hall. At the end the audience was loath to leave. Mm. Lehmann wisely refrained from an encore. To the best of her ability she had done a complete thing, and what she had done will long be cherished by those who heard her.
• Lehmann shared the stage with many famous singers (Melchior, Slezak, Piccaver etc.) and instrumentalists such as Heifetz, Arrau, Rubinstein, Szigeti etc., but until now, I hadn’t seen Horowitz listed in a joint recital. This “Aeolus” program of 12 May 1932 shows a very prestigious house concert! Here’s the contents of the program: Lehmann began with Brahms: Von ewiger Liebe; An die Nachtigal; Sandmännchen; Botschaft; Vergebliches Ständchen; Schumann: Der Nussbaum; Alte Laute; Ich grolle nicht; Widmung. Usually she’d sing an encore or two as well. And after intermission Horowitz continued with 32 Variations, Beethoven; Adagio (from Toccata in C Major), Bach/Busoni; Rondo in Eb Major, Hummel; Capriccio in E Major, Scarlatti; Four Walzes Op. 39, Brahms; Two Mazurkas in C# minor, Chopin; Etude in F Major, Chopin; “Petrushka” Semain grasse, Dance Russe, Stravinsky. Not a shabby concert!
• From the Pariser Tagezeitung of 8 April 1938, Peter Petersen has sent the following article, which I translate: LOTTE LEHMANN SINGS NO MORE IN THE THIRD REICH; Lotte Lehmann, the great singer famous even at the Casino Theater in Desuville, who yesterday returned to America, stated the following to a French journalist: “No, I haven’t been driven from Germany. I am Arien and so is my husband.”
“Why are you leaving your homeland, you who just last year, was celebrated as no other artist, in Fidelio under the direction of Bruno Walter and Toscanini; you who give the artistic fame to the Vienna Opera and who experiences such triumphs from your too seldom Paris appearances?”
“Why? Because I don’t feel free in my homeland, because I can’t live freely and have the right to choose songs by Mendelssohn, Hugo Wolf or [Joseph] Marx. This is why I have left my homeland, but I have left freely…Certainly, nothing in the world is more important than freedom. Thus, I will seek American citizenship.”
• On 24 November 1936, two days after one of the few performances of Die Walküre in which both Mmes. Lehmann and Flagstaff sang, I find that Lehmann gave a recital in the Oakland Auditorium Theatre.
• A nice announcement in the 14 June 1939 “Current Entertainment” section of the Evening Post in Wellington, New Zealand during Lehmann’s second Australian/New Zealand tour.
• Peter Clausen, sent this 7 December 1923 Lehmann clipping from Vienna’s Neue Freie Presse, which I’ll try to translate: Yesterday the State Opera singer Lotte Lehmann needed to undergo a small operation for a neglected infected spot on the mouth proven necessary by Professor Dr. Lotheisen, assistant to Dr. Zifferer. The artist suffered violent pain already on the day of Piccaver’s Farewell Concert, but postponed the operation to avoid canceling. Miss Lehmann will withdraw from artistic activity for about two weeks. [I wonder if this is the cause for the endearing drooping lip that Lehmann displayed so much of her life?]
• I have updated the Vienna years and the US years of the Lehmann Chronology, as of October 2014.
• Many thanks to the staff at UCSB’s Special Collections (Lehmann Archive) for a large number of 78rpm rarities that have not been heard outside of that format. You can listen to these newly acquired recordings at: The Lehmann Recordings. The way you can recognize these recent acquisitions is by the label that I’ll insert.
• At the point that the critic concerns herself with the acting abilities of a soprano in the review of a live 1962 performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the September/October issue (38:1) of Fanfare magazine, Lynn René Bayley lapses for a parenthesis into a negative appraisal of Lotte Lehmann’s acting abilities. (“[Her] recordings and live performances show nothing despite her high reputation”). I wrote a “letter to the editor” with a few of the many high praise words that Lehmann’s live and recorded performances elicited.
• I’ve never seen the actual program of Lehmann’s Town Hall debut of 7 January 1932. If anyone has it, please let me know. I understand that she sang Schubert songs, “Von ewiger Liebe” and other Lieder by Brahms, Schumann’s “Ich grolle nicht,” as well as songs of Strauss, Hahn, Chausson and Fauré. Her pianist was Kurt Ruhrseitz.
• The author/photographer Simone Ahrend sent us one of her articles on Lehmann, written in 1996. Click on it to see it full size.
• Some new post-card photos of an early Lehmann role, as well as some studio recital portraits have been received from an anonymous donor. Many thanks!
• Shortly before he died, Fred Maroth of Music & Arts sent me some wonderful glossy photos of Lehmann as Tosca at two points in her career. He also sent a “candid” one of Lehmann at her 80th birthday celebration at the San Francisco Opera. She’s seen viewing the “Lehmann” exhibit which they’d assembled for the occasion. I believe they performed Der Rosenkavalier on her birthday as part of the tribute. Lehmann was vain enough to have abhorred the photo, but it’s a treasure for those of us who only knew her as an old woman.
• You’ll find the Lotte Lehmann League Newsletters (1989-1994) available now on this site. They had lost the link to the now mostly defunct Lehmann Foundation site.
• The Pristine company recently offered this Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und -leben at a 25% discount. Contact them directly for the current price.
• Corny? I had always assumed that Lehmann’s recordings of various religious pieces with organ were dismissed in her time as just pandering to a particular audience and without artistic consideration. There was also a hint that both she and Parlophone/Odeon (the record company) were just out to make as many Marks as possible, especially around holidays. So it has come as a huge surprise to read a serious critic, Herman Klein in Gramophone, even bothering to acknowledge the releases of these chorales and Marienlieder, much less to recommend them.
He is perceptive enough to deplore the “orchestration” of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, while delighting in Lehmann’s “careful study not only of Schumann’s wonderful music but of Chamisso’s intensely sentimental poem…she has brought to bear…both the light of her artistic intelligence and ripe experience.”
So it was a surprise for me to discover what he has to say about 122 and 123 (see below): “The vocal Christmas gifts enshrined in these…records are quite well worth purchasing—the sacred because they are old German hymns that the children will love…”
122 O du Fröhliche (Traditional); Be 7187; O-4810; 1)RO 20098; 3)23052; (J.: Brazil A 3122; 8)AR 150); chamber orch.; LP: none; CD: Pearl: GEMM CDS 9234; O, du Fröhliche
123 Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Gruber); Be 7188; O-4810; 1)RO 20098; 3)23052; (J. Brazil A 3122; 8)AR 150); chamber orch.; LP: none; CD: Pearl: GEMM CDS 9234; Stille Nacht
Of the following recordings, Klein writes: “Here is Mme. Lehmann’s annual contribution to her store of German Christmas music (for German it certainly is, durch und durch, words, tunes, singing, and everything else). The hymns belong probably to the modern rather than the ancient category…given out with all possible earnestness and vigour by singer and organist alike.”
“A ready sale, both here [England] and in Germany, of the records of sacred pieces sung by this artist has evidently encouraged a further search in the same direction, and for other religious seasons beside Christmas. With Easter at hand there should be abundant opportunity for utilizing two Kirchenlieder (Church hymns with organ accompaniment) so beautifully sung as these. In form and character they recall nothing so much as the Lutheran chorales of Bach’s Passion or his cantatas, the tune of course, being limited to a solo voice, with harmonies supplied ad libitum by the organist—in this instance a very good one. The words Christi Mutter stand in Schmerzen will be recognized as a German translation of the opening line of the Stabat Mater, and it indicates at once the source whence the text of this particular hymn is derived. The words and tune of the other [O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden] are no doubt equally traditional, and the recording of both cannot fail to satisfy the most exigent listener.”
139 O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Bach); 28 Feb. ’29; (J.: 26 Feb. ’29, speed 76 RPM); Be 8038; O-4811; 1)RO 20215; 3)20336; 8)AR 220; organ; LP: none; CD: none; O Haupt
140 Christi Mutter stand in Schmerzen (Trad.); Be 8039; all other data see 139; Christi Mutter
141 Geleitet durch die Welle (Marienlied); Be 8040; O-4803; 1)RO 20205; 3)20337 8)AR 203; with organ; LP: none; CD: none; Geleitet durch die Welle
142 Es blüht der Blumen eine (Marienlied); Be 8041; O-4803; 1)R0 20205; 3)20337; 8)AR 203; with organ; LP: none: CD: none; Es blüht der Blumen eine
• The Lotte Lehmann Chronology is constantly updated by various means. I recently found this program for a 15 May 1931 joint recital that Lehmann and Elisabeth Schumann gave as part of the series given by Lady Cunard. These private concerts at 7 Grosvenor Square must have been well attended by London’s high society.
• In connection with the Lotte Lehmann Woche (the Lotte Lehmann Week of singing and master classes that takes place each summer in Lehmann’s birthplace), there was a radio program broadcast, which we can listen to. (It’s in German).
• For those of you interested in knowing how Lehmann and Melchior divided their joint recitals, I have the complete (without encores) program of their Constitution Hall performance of 18 November 1941.
• Thanks to Karl Moschner, the President of the Troy Chromatic Concerts, in Troy, New York for sending the information of Lehmann’s recital there (February 23, 1933), as well as the program and a review.
• Here you can read Lehmann’s article for the 1937 Theatre Arts Magazine: “A Singing Actress Attacks Her Part” which includes some “live” on-stage photos. On Lehmann’s miscellaneous writings page, not only have I added this, but also the Sieben Lehmannlieder, and a silly sarcastic piece in forced rhyme by Lehmann…..
• As it has the past few years, this summer (2014), The Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival will offer Vocal Masterclasses and Recitals in tribute to Lotte Lehmann.
• In a November 1938 interview for the Vassar College newspaper: When asked which she preferred, opera or concert singing, Mme. Lehmann replied, “When I return to the stage after having left it for a while, I always feel as though I were coming home, but then when I go back to concert singing, I have the same warm feeling of home-coming. It is really wonderful to be at home in two worlds. However there is still another world in which I live, for my writing is more than just a hobby. It is my third means of self-expression in this world of ours.”
• This article of 17 October 1938 was news to me: Lotte Lehmann’s Records Banned in Austria: The Austrian authorities have announced a ban on records by Lotte Lehmann, Metropolitan Opera soprano. (She recently took out her first citizenship papers in the United States.)…
• “Sieben Lehmannlieder” by Thomas Passatieri were commissioned for the Lehmann centennial in 1988. Both the premiere performance and the booklet which accompanied it can now be heard/viewed on another page. Lehmann’s student Judith Beckmann sings and the composer accompanies.
• The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival on the Big Island of Hawaii featured a two day workshop with Lehmann’s last student, Jeannine Altmeyer, as the coach/clinician. Called “Lotte Lehmann Workshop with Jeannine Altmeyer” it was well attended and by all accounts, the young singers performed well. You can view a PDF of the Friday, July 12, 2014 class. Here are more photos.
• The typed-manuscript (on Lehmann’s own stationery) of her silly poem about presenting her trained dog to sing at the Met is now available, with my somewhat questionable English translation.
• I have added the typed-manuscript of Lehmann’s recounting of her meeting with Goering. You can find Dr. Kater’s response there as well.
• Here’s a review of the Lehmann Music & Arts box set from the Grammophone magazine. Just click on it to make it large enough to read.
• I continue to add excerpts from Lehmann’s writing.
• You can listen to more of Lehmann’s master classes, which I’m posting at this time. Because it doesn’t fit with the master classes, I’ll offer the short talk that Kurt Schuschnigg gave at the end of a master class. Schuschnigg For those of you not familiar with his name and importance, here’s the Wikipedia bio: Kurt Alois Josef Johann Schuschnigg (14 December 1897 – 18 November 1977) was Chancellor of the First Austrian Republic, following the assassination of his predecessor, Dr. Engelbert Dollfuss, in July 1934, until Nazi Germany’s annexing of Austria, (Anschluss), in March 1938. He was opposed to Hitler’s ambitions to absorb Austria into the Third Reich. After his efforts to keep Austria independent had failed, he resigned his office. After the invasion he was arrested by the Germans, kept in solitary confinement and eventually interned in various concentration camps. He was liberated in 1945 by the advancing United States Army and spent most of the rest of his life in academia in the United States.
• I have added more to the Lehmann Recordings page; the only “illustrated” discography that I know.
• Photos have arrived for the presentation of the World of Song Award to Richard Hundley. Just scroll down to the bottom of that page.
• The 4 CD set of rare Lotte Lehmann recordings (with a 5th CD ROM containing notes, texts, and translations) is available for purchase at Music & Arts. It represents almost three years of research, editing and finally producing. (Full disclosure: I am the producer). Some background: In July 2013 I finished working with Lani Spahr, who was the restoration engineer for this Music & Arts Lehmann CD set that features her live performances and other rarities. It was amazing to listen to the improvements he was able to make on some of the noisy radio broadcasts of the 1930s and 40s. And of course, Lehmann never fails! I do believe that the audience brought out even more intensity in her interpretations. That implies that some of these tracks contain material that Lehmann recorded in the studio, which is true. But there is also a huge amount of music that she did not record. And a total of 21 items never heard before in any format! In November 2013 I had the pleasure of working with the graphic designer, Mark Hamilton Evans. The set is called “Lotte Lehmann: A 125th Birthday Tribute.” Besides the four CDs of Lehmann’s singing, there’s a fifth CD that holds the liner notes, which includes the article “The Life and Art of Lotte Lehmann” by the late Beaumont Glass. There are also many photos, my short article, as well as the texts and translations, all total: 111 pages!
• There’s a sort of “second” take on the 1935 Lohengrin with Lehmann, Melchior, Lawrence, Schorr, List, et al, from Immortal Performances. Better sources and, of course the meticulous restoration work of Richard Caniell, make this recording one to really enjoy. Some of the problems associated with such private recordings still persist, but there is MUCH to appreciate. This release is, as the company states, “superior sound to all previously released CD albums by various labels, though it still is afflicted with the compressed 1935 transmission characteristics. Our restoration is taken from the original transcription, with broadcast commentary and curtain calls, and offers a booklet containing extensive articles about the performance, singers and composer, together with rare photos.” Lehmann never disappoints. She sounds young and innocent (she was 47 years old at the time!) in her two major arias that occur in the first act. And Melchior can sing sweetly as well as fervently. The surprise for me was the strong acting/singing of Marjorie Lawrence as Ortrud. All the high expectations you may have for Friedrich Schorr as Friedrich and Emanuel List as King Henry are happily satisfied. And there is a lot of good playing from the Metropolitan Opera orchestra under Artur Bodanzky’s direction. There are two bonuses on the third CD: first the excerpt from the 1939 live performance of Lehmann and Melchior in the first act of Die Walküre (from Winterstürme through Du bist der Lenz and Wehwalt heist du für wahr) in amazingly clear sound. And the set concludes with the Robert Schumann duets that Melchior and Lehmann recorded in 1939 (with orchestral accompaniments). These recordings (as well as the whole set of three CDs) are worth hearing again, in this new improved sound, even if you already know them. The company has discovered new sources and now provides (at no cost) replacement CDs for the second and third ones.
• Peter Clausen, my research connection in Vienna, has sent a wonderful report that Lehmann wrote about her important opera tour in South America in 1922. It appears in the Neue Freie Presse of 3 November 1922.
• Though certainly peripheral to Lehmann’s life, it is interesting to note the news that the oldest daughter of the von Trapp family, Maria, died recently at the age of 99. Lehmann’s connection: she heard the family sing when she was in Salzburg and recommended a professional career to them (which they accomplished!).
• At the end of year I like to recognize the passing of some great classical musicians during 2013. Though famous names such as Van Cliburn, James DePreist, Janos Starker, Colin Davis, have no real connection with Lehmann and need no elaboration from me. But there are two great artists that do: Risë Stevens, 99 and Lotfi Mansouri, 84.
Stevens sang Octavian to Mme. Lehmann’s Marschallin and was a great admirer. She studied with her and they became dear personal friends. In the year 2000 I interviewed Stevens about their relationship and she had consistently positive things to say. There was one amazing thing that she couldn’t understand Lehmann saying. Evidently, she thought that Stevens (a mezzo soprano) should study and sing the role of Fidelio. This seemed like a mistake and Stevens did not follow her advice. Stevens also tried to forget the details of Lieder that Lehmann had taught her. Stevens’ husband said that she sounded like she was only imitating Lehmann.
Lotfi Mansouri was best known for his years as opera director and especially as General Director of the Canadian Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera (1988-2001). He introduced surtitles to the opera house and for the Lehmann Tribute CD he spoke a wonderful reminiscence. He had, after all, studied (as a tenor) with Lehmann at the Music Academy of the West. Here is what he had to say: Lotfi Mansouri Speaks He also wrote about Lehmann in his book, Lotfi Mansouri: An Operatic Journey. “she taught me to look deeper into the material, the atmosphere, the substance of the work.”
• You can hear the HPR Art Song Contest winners in a Singing and other Sins recorded broadcast from December 1, 2013. The winners’ websites are also linked to their names on that page. One of the winners, Christine Steyer, studied the role of the Marschallin with Beaumont Glass using the notes that he’d made in his score while working with Mme. Lehmann. Once again, Lehmann’s influence continues through her students, colleagues, and of course her recordings. You can hear her speak about her studies with Beaumont Glass, just click here. The 2014 Art Song Contest is open, so encourage your friends and students to enter. No charge! No age limit!
• Many thanks to Peter Clausen for the historic Turandot Vienna premier review. Turandot – 1926 Heft 102 Die Buehne
• Also from Herr Clausen, Lehmann in Intermezzo, Ariadne auf Naxos and Frau ohne Schatten. You can click on the image to see it larger or here, to see full-size. And now, from 1927 a photo of Lehmann in Fidelio.
• Here’s a complete 1935 Lehmann recital program.
• A tumblr exists for Lehmann, with nice photos, recordings and quotes.
• When Lehmann first came West to live with Frances Holden, they moved into the “Knapp Castle,” which soon burned. Here’s a blog with photos of the burned remains as it looks today.
• For those of you interested in reading Lehmann’s earliest book of poetry, I’ve begun to upload that. It’s called Versa in Prosa.
• I’ve just added a page for the World of Song Award, that will be revived after a few year hiatus. The Award for 2013 was offered to Christa Ludwig and accepted. Her dedication to Lieder is legendary. Her recordings a testament to her life of song. The calligrapher Denis Paul Lund has completed his work and you can see a copy of the award on the World of Song page. The 2014 World of Song Award was given to the art song composer, Richard Hundley. You can view his award on this same page.
• Music & Arts has released a recently restored 1936 Die Walküre (Act II) with Lehmann, Flagstad, Melchior, et al. Conducted by Reiner. From new sources! A copy arrived and I compared it to their earlier (1999) version. This one is much less raw, (better source material) and easier listening. Some may prefer the first publication for its primitive, slightly more exciting edge. But for me, this 2013 release, still with surface sound, is a joy. As I listen to more of these older live recordings, the importance of a good conductor becomes more apparent. Reiner fills that requirement. And the singers are uniformly as good as their reputations would predict. Since it’s Act II Lehmann only sings for a short time, but it’s dramatic, powerful and believable in its dramatic intensity.
• This photo of a painting of Lehmann as Manon was taken many years ago in the Lehmann Hall of the Music Academy of the West. It often stuns people to realize that she sang this role more often than any other.
• Here is a photo that I took of the wonderful portrait of Lehmann as Fidelio in Beethoven’s opera of that name. It hangs in the lobby of the Music Academy of the West. It is almost life size, so it’s as if Lehmann/Fidelio is stand right there!
• The painting of Lehmann in the role of the Marschallin from Der Rosenkavalier can be found in the Lehmann Hall of the Music Academy of the West. In that very room she gave her master classes in both song and opera, including excerpts from that role.
• In the various Lehmann biographies one can read glowing reviews of Lehmann’s performances. I’ve finally found one full of negative comments and a second one with mixed thoughts. These are English critics. The first, acknowledges Lehmann’s success at Covent Garden and the enthusiasm of the Queen’s Hall audience (probably of 25 Feb 1930), as well as the “insinuating beauty of her voice–perhaps the loveliest one has ever known” and “her quick and warm response to poetic suggestion.” Then he begins with his problems: “There was a streak of the maudlin in her programme that proved rather too much for a modern English audience. We accept nothing more gladly than German songs from Mme. Lehmann, for we know the sort of thing she excels in, but her scheme to-night would have been better for a little more spice. One or two Schubert songs, Brahms in one of his irascible moods, or some of the acid of Hugo Wolf would have made all the difference, and none of these masters was represented at all. Beethoven sounded a little meagre, though the two “Egmont” songs were an interesting revival, and Schumann was shown in his wan and tearful manner, except in the enthusiastic “Frühlingsnacht,” which surged magnificently to the singer’s most jubilant tones. It was this song one wanted to hear a second time, not the once incredibly overrated “Ich grolle nicht,” which nowadays seems not so much a song as a smear. For the Liszt songs there were two excuses–that they really represented the composer adequately, if unflatteringly, and that much of their cloying perfumery was made tolerable by the persuasive beauty of the singing.” Of the same performance another critic wrote, “Last night she really convinced a large audience that she is a brilliant exception to the general rule that opera singers are not at their best away from the stage. She does not sing Lieder as if they were dramatic scenes, but with her perfect feeling for curve and phrase she sings those German sentimental love songs that are so dear to the heart of the Teutonic maiden with a rare lyric eloquence. Her generous programme last night composed songs by Giordani, Monteverdi, Gluck, Beethoven, Liszt, Marx, and R. Strauss. Naturally certain songs in her list were more closely suited to her ability than others, but to them all she brought a clarity and precision of technique, an earnest approach, and a sensitive understanding which were matched only by the charm and spirit of her delivery.” He goes on to list the songs he likes and then: “…she was not quite so successful with the Beethoven group and she certainly should not sing ‘Freudvoll und Leidvoll’, [which the above critic praised!] which she screams at the top notes.”
• I have discovered this rare “live” photo from a Rosenkavalier performance with Lehmann. One can imagine that such photos are rare! How were they even taken during performances? Perhaps a dress rehearsal?
• Here’s a wonderful “interview” with Mme. Lehmann in 1959 for the “castaway” radio program from Britain.
• In April 2013 I received an email from Ulrich Peter: “I was in Berlin last week, on business, but I had a day off and so I discovered the city by bicycle. What a breathtaking city, a real Weltstadt, sprudelndes Leben everywhere. When I came to the center, at the Berlin Dom and famous Lustgarten, right next to the Brandenburg Gate, Lotte Lehmann jumped into my eye. It is an open air exhibition called ‘Zerstörte Vielfalt,’ the ‘Litfass-Säulen’ show many courageous people who turned against the Nazis in the years between 1933 to 1938 and 1945. The Lehmann text says: 1933, Opernstar Lotte Lehmann kehrt dem NS-Staat den Rücken/Opera star LL turned her back on the Nazi state.”
• One of the other Lehmann-related sources has been Richard Caniell of Canada’s Immortal Performances. First, he completely re-worked the 1939 broadcast from the Met, of Rosenkavalier. This was an important performance because it includes a lot of material missing from the HMV recording of 1933. The Met performance has a good cast, including the young Risë Stevens, as Octavian. To me, the orchestra portions still sound boxy, but when Lehmann sings, it’s quite natural with plenty of detail. Lehmann’s diction is apparent, as is her complete command of the role. It’s worth the price just to hear the Marschallin sections. By the way, there are extensive “liner” notes with unusual photos, as well as two interviews (in English) with Lehmann and non-Lehmann Act III recordings from 1928. I was in email touch with Richard Caniell and in a P.S., Richard writes: “Immortal Performances was also the source for the Naxos release in 1998 when that company formed its Historical label around our work. Their issue of it was disastrously denigrated in its sound and this was one, of many such occurances, that led us to resign from the project. Anyone who has the Naxos set deserves apologies. I am glad, at last, to be finally associated with something listenable of this broadcast.”
The next project that Richard is working on is the “Dream Ring” which many Wagner and Lehmann fans will remember was released a few years back on the Guild label. The main draw was to combine various off-the-air performances of Die Walküre to meld a dream performance with Flagstad and Lehmann (among others). Let me here, quote Richard again: “[it] will be re-issued in improved sound as part of our re-mastered release of our Dream Ring under a grant by the Getty Foundation. Hope to see it emerge by April-end if not sooner.” On the CD sample he sent me, scenes from the first act really bounce strongly into the ear. Lehmann’s vitality and expressiveness once again assures me that the audience drove her to greater heights. Once again, I quote Richard: “The re-pitch of Act I and other improvements put Lehmann’s incomparable Sieglinde into still better focus…I’ve put a huge energy into re-mastering the Ring re-doing transitions, heightening the tone, balance and dynamics. Wonderful to get the chance to do it. As a non-profit society we could never have afforded to redo the whole thing; given the fact that those who had great interest in it had already purchased our Guild edition. Hats off to the Getty Foundation for making it possible.”
• The other Lehmann-related object of my attention is the recently published book on Lehmann’s teaching called Lotte Lehmann in America: Her Legacy as Artist Teacher, with Commentaries from Her Master Classes by Kathy H. Brown. I’ve just finished reading the book. It’s thankfully mostly free from typos and factual errors (though Lehmann didn’t sing in Salzburg in 1917 and she wasn’t the first opera prima donna to appear on the cover of Time magazine). There are a lot of photos and nice summaries of Lehmann’s life and career before she made America her home. There is a large section of Lehmann’s suggestions on art song taken directly from recordings of master classes and private lessons. Often, only Lehmann’s translation appears, which though accurate and charming doesn’t offer that much information that can’t be found in other sources. There’s a smaller section on opera arias. The original core of the book was Dr. Brown’s questionnaire that she sent out years ago to 29 of Lehmann’s students. Their responses on Lehmann’s teaching methods is informative. And throughout the book we’re treated to Lehmann’s humor and insight. An accompanying CD of actual lessons or masterclasses might have added immediacy and authenticity to the book, but I can imagine that would add too much cost.
There are two appendices, the first one Lehmann wrote for a magazine on “The Joy of Singing at Home” is just ok. Much more interesting are Lehmann’s detailed descriptions of American in “Three Impressions.”
Both vocal students and Lehmann fans will enjoy the book.
• It’s appropriate to remember the many great artists we lost in 2012. Some of them gave mightily to opera and art song: Elliott Carter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (there’s a page devoted to him on this site), Dave Brubeck, Ruggiero Ricci, Richard Adler, Ravi Shankar, Zvi Zeitlin, Eduard Khil, Jacques Barzun, Hans Werner Henze, Roman Totenberg (chairman of the string department of the Music Academy of the West, where Lehmann was a founding member, in 1947), Edward Shanbrom, Marvin Hamlisch, Maurice Sendak, Evelyn Lear, Grigory Frid, Nan Merriman (who had been coached by Lehmann), Jonathan Harvey, Gloria Davy, Paavo Berglund, Alexis Weissenberg, Maurice André, Gustav Leonhardt, Mihaela Ursuleasa, Charles Rosen, Galina Vishnevskaya, Lisa della Casa, and Richard Rodney Bennett.