Lotte Lehmann League Newsletter Spring 1990: Volume II, No. 1
This issue is dedicated to Lehmann’s Der Rosenkavalier
Lehmann fans are well-aware that she created the definitive realization of the role of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier of Richard Strauss. Most followers of her career also know that she was the first to sing all three leading soprano roles in the opera. Norman Del Mar in his detailed book on Strauss writes: “…of all the great artists who have made their reputations in this most endearing and human of all operas it is surely Lotte Lehmann who has reached the greatest heights and won the most hearts with her creation of the great lady.” Although Lehmann was associated world-wide with this role, she reminded interviewers (me among them) of her devotion to singing Fidelio, her love for the role of Elisabeth in Tannhäuser or the humanity she found in Sieglinde in Die Walküre. But she did have a fascination with the character of the Marschallin and its detailed realization in sound and action. Sadly, we have only audio records of her Marschallin performances. These are of high quality and I only say “sadly” because of the consistent high praise she received for her acting. “She was every inch a princess—voice and gesture alike…” (Telegraph); “…an actress whose quiet ease is the perfection of the art that conceals art.” (Ernest Newman); “…nobility of style and a depth and variety of emotion…” (unidentified source).
When the “ideal” cast was gathered to record the opera in 1933, the result was critical as well as public approval. The original 78rpm album was available until the 1953 re-issue on microgroove (both 45 & 33rpm), followed by a long list of further re-issues, re-mastering, cassette and CD formats. A catalog number has been listed for some time for a “direct from metal master” CD from Références, but it isn’t yet available. The CD released by Pearl, made from shellacs isn’t as good as LPs, but is the only CD available [at this time]. During the past decades critics have consistently referred to the recording as the “classic Rosenkavalier” (David Hall: “precious heritage” and “impersonations that will be remembered as long as the opera is played” (Irving Kolodin).
The following article and discography are by Horst Wahl. Not only was he familiar with all aspects of recordings of that time, but he was also a personal friend of Mme. Lehmann. His dedication to Lehmann is evident in the care he has taken.
Larry Lustig, the new editor of the Record Collector magazine wrote to suggest that the extensive work of Floris Juynboll, which appeared in Alan Jefferson’s Lehmann biography, be combined with the non-commercial portion of my Lehmann discography. The resulting complete work might be offered as a special issue. Juynboll has access to much European data and the support of Herr Wahl, among others. He has been revising his work, as I have, so the combination could contain the latest CDs and other recent discoveries.
DER ROSENKAVALIER: The Classic Recording
by Horst Wahl
If ever in the history of opera there were an identification between a role and an artist it would be that of Lotte Lehmann as the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. It was a lucky strike that both this role and that of Sieglinde in Die Walküre were recorded in Lehmann’s prime. In 1932 it had been decided to produce the complete Der Rosenkavalier with the composer as conductor. But his price as well as that of Bruno Walter led to the selection of Walter’s protogée Robert Heger.
The effects of the Depression were not yet over, so cost cutting measures had to be considered. This included the “cuts” made in this long opera. 12 discs were originally projected, but finally 13 were released (26 sides) in which the choices allowed for connecting scenes of the high points of the opera.
Lehmann was the obvious choice for the Marschallin; Elisabeth Schumann as Sophie and Richard Mayr as Baron Ochs were almost as inevitable. In the happy choice of Maria Olszewska as Octavian, HMV found an aristocratic sounding mezzo whose sound was sufficiently different from that of Lehmann and Schumann, but who provided a complete blending in the duets and trios.
The recording was to take place in Vienna, thus the inclusion of the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus. It was financially feasible to record in the “Mittlere Saal” [Middle Hall], although the 1935 recording of Die Walküre demonstrates the acoustic superiority of the large “Musikvereins-Saal.”
The orchestra consisted of 10 first and 8 second violins; 6 violas, 5 ‘cellos, 5 basses, 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 3 clarinets, English horn, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 bass trombones, 1 tuba, 2 harps, tympani, drums, celeste and piano.
Members of the chorus of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra were conducted by Robert Heger.
The dates, matrix and take numbers are valid only for published takes. Because there were two cutting machines working at the same time during the recording sessions, each take produced two wax masters. The recordings of the first machine were unidentified in the matrix numbers; those of the second machine are shown by an “A” after the take.
Catalog numbers DB 2060-72 (matrix 2WX 581-606) were issued in England in December 1933 and in Germany in June 1934. They were issued in America on Victor 7917-29 (set M-196) which included matrix numbers CVS 81418-81443. The auto coupling set was AM-196 (7930-42), auto drop sequence coupling DM-196 (17119-31).
The following list [not included: see complete discography] demonstrates what an incredible confusion existed in the order of the recordings. Our wonder and appreciation for the highest artistic standards are awakened when one hears the development and connection that is achieved. If one imagines listening to the four minute “takes” that we hear unbroken on LP or CD, then one has a better appreciation for the level of identification the artists had with their roles and the situations.
The recordings began on the afternoon of 20 September 1933 and ended 4 1/2 days later.
The great number of “takes” does’t necessarily indicate artistic errors; the necessary combinations of solo and ensemble voices with orchestra demanded by the score forced the technicians to try various microphone placements [Remember only one microphone was used]. Both cutting machines produced the same number of possibly usable waxes, but far from all were saved and registered. Technical and musical reasons resulted in the destruction of many.
A total of 58 “takes” or 95 wax recordings, of which 2 were damaged during the trip to England, were quickly made into the album in time for Christmas sales.
Though it was disappointing that the “singer’s aria” was missing, nevertheless there was world-wide acclaim for the recording. Many enjoyed Beniamino Gigli in the role of the Italian singer, but his fee would have been too high. Later a German recording with Helge Rosvaenge was welcomed. [At this point Horst Wahl recounts the story, told to him by Mme. Lehmann and later recounted by her in various interviews, of how she missed singing the famous “Ja, Ja” at the end of the opera. Herr Wahl provides the precise historic data to document the evident confusion that recording such a huge work in four minute scraps must have caused. In the end Schumann sang the words produced on the recording, although Lehmann also recorded them. It was because of Heger’s decision of what length music should appear on the last disc, that Lehmann’s “take” wasn’t used.] [Herr Wahl’s Rosenkavalier Discography has errors and isn’t included here.]
REPORT FROM THE LEHMANN ARCHIVE
BY SUSAN BOWER
Almost all Lotte Lehmann commercially issued recordings have been dubbed for preservation onto both DAT and open-reel tape, and public-use cassettes prepared. These cassettes can now be heard in the UCSB Library’s Special Collections Department where a listening facility has been installed, as well as a videotape viewing facility which will allow the public to see videos of Mme. Lehmann’s TV appearances and master classes. Significant progress is also being made in the dubbing of non-commercial Lehmann recordings. Public use cassette copies of these recordings will also soon be available.
Efforts to acquire recordings not already in the UCSB Lehmann Archives continue with some success. A complete inventory of our holdings has been accomplished, and we have been able to borrow many as yet missing recordings so that we can provide tape copies until we are able to acquire the originals. Responses to our announcements and ads asking for information about the availability of Lehmann recordings have been encouraging. An effort is now underway to provide a catalog listing of the recordings in UCSB’s Lehmann Archives.
More on the Archives
James Ackerman, the Bauer Foundation Trustee, and I, visited the Lehmann Archives in early March to assess the progress made on the Lehmann Project funded by the Bauer Trust. It was impressive to see the data base prepared to provide scholars with cross-referenced information on all the Lehmann recordings. Further, the good organization of the back-up tapes as well as the public cassettes was a credit to the work of Assistant Archivist, Jim Stenger.
The cataloging of memorabilia, art work, letters (their deciphering and translation), photos, videos, books, etc, is under the supervision of Beth Witherell. Though much of it remains inaccessible, it is only a matter of time before the major holdings can be easily viewed.
Have Slides, Will Travel
Beaumont Glass, author of Lotte Lehmann, A Life in Opera & Song, has prepared several lively lectures on Mme. Lehmann, which he has given for various groups around the country. He is available to speak to your students, club or association as well. He has slides and cassettes all ready to go for three lectures: “Lehmann’s Biography in Words, Pictures and Music,” “Lehmann’s Concert Career”, and “Lehmann’s Winterreise in Song and Painting.” He also has a lecture titled “Women in Opera,” which includes Lehmann.
Glass, [former] director of opera at the University of Iowa, is happy to present his lectures for travel expenses and a modest fee. [Dr. Glass has passed away.]
CALLAS WITH MALICE
BY JUDY SUTCLIFFE
Lehmann’s delicious humor frequently found its way onto paper in both words and pictures. Witty captions with caricatures swiftly and spontaneously sketched spice her letters to kindred souls such as Arthur Goldberg, whose Lehmann correspondence was purchased at auction this past year by the Lotte Lehmann Archives at the University of California at Santa Barbara. A group of caricatures of Maria Callas by Lehmann was published in Opera Now, a British magazine, in December 1989. The sketches of Callas show her reacting with discomfit to a nasty review by Goldberg.
The February 1990 issue of Opera Now presents in thumbnail format Lehmann’s picture book story of Lohengrin, all in full color. The watercolor sketches and the typed captions both stray considerably, and very humorously, from the opera. I saw the two magazines at the Lehmann Archives recently and wrote down the address: Opera Now, 9 Grape St., London WC24 8DR; Tel: (01) 836-7131. The December 1989 issue contains “Callas with Malice”, the February issue contains “Lohengrin by Lehmann.”
Many thanks to…
Jens-Uwe Völmecke who sent a tape of rare Lehmann recordings which will help fill the gaps at the Lehmann Archive. We welcome such contributions and continue to seek interviews,
LEHMANN WITH MALICE ?
An article entitled “Lotte Lehmann a secret life?” appeared in a recent edition of Opera magazine. The writer is Alan Jefferson, the same author who so responsibly wrote a Lehmann biography in 1988. It is hard to understand the motivation for this article in which he reports on one Eugenie who purports to be Lehmann’s illegitimate daughter.
There is much speculation and though Jefferson himself admits having to discount her birthdate and place and though other aspects of the story are taken from the “mixed bag of ‘evidence’, some completely unacceptable, some feasible, some extraordinary,” Jefferson nonetheless presents the stories, not much more important than gossip, in a way that gives them credibility. The only piece of evidence he provides is that Eugenie had a copy of Lehmann’s will, to which supposedly only relatives have access. But I’ve been told that any historical researcher knows how to get copies of wills. Though it is often believed that getting into print is better than being forgotten, the tone of this article makes me doubt the maxim. There are many interesting and important things to write about Lehmann’s life: her opera, Lieder, teaching, and writing careers are all fascinating. It is wonderful to witness the interest in the positive and inspiring aspects of her life that is evinced in the many responses to these Newsletters. –GH
WE GET LETTERS
– Fanfare critic Ralph Lucano wrote: “It’s always a pleasure to hear Lehmann’s records, especially in these days of faceless interpreters.”
– Former Lehmann student Shirley Sproule sent tapes of master classes from 1953 at the Music Academy of the West. She wrote: “I am sure you will enjoy these bits of Lotte–such a truly remarkable, warm person, as well as an incomparable artist.”
– Former pupil, Martha Deatherage wrote an encouraging letter from Texas (where seldom is heard a discouraging word). “My friend and colleague Gérard Souzay and I often speak of our inspiring times with Lotte, as he calls her. (I call her Madame!).”
– From author and producer André Tubeuf we received a letter and a copy of his article “Lotte l’ardente” which appeared in a recent edition of Opera International. He lists the roles which Lehmann essayed (93!). Included are more than reported in Jefferson’s biography and these will be listed in the next Newsletter, as will excerpts from his article.
– From Vienna, Hertha Schuch wrote in response to our article on the Lehmann postage stamp recently issued in Germany. She had vigorously tried to get Austria to release a Lehmann postage stamp, but that won’t happen until 2001, the 25th anniversary of Lehmann’s death.
Autumn 1990: Volume II, No. 2
Lehmann’s Recording of the Rosenlieder
by Horst Wahl
To my great joy I have discovered that some of my earliest professional recordings, produced more than 64 years ago for the Odeon recording firm, have just been resurrected on a compact disk. Lotte Lehmann’s interpretation of the “Rosenlieder” of Count Philipp zu Eulenburg are on Pearl GEMM CD 9409.
Eulenburg (1847-1921) belonged to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s closest circle of friends and was elevated to the rank of prince in 1900. His hobby was the composition of songs in the folk tradition, and his “Rosenlieder” cycle enjoyed great popularity in the period just before the first World War. As it did not present great difficulties in its vocal, piano or violin parts, it was often quite satisfactorily performed during evening soirées by music-loving amateurs.
At the time the “Rosenlieder” recordings were made, on August 5, 1926, I was still quite a young man and had been employed a year and a half on the retail sales staff of Odeon. My acquaintance with Lotte Lehmann began in May of 1925 when the artist entered our retail outlet on Leipziger Street in Berlin one day to listen to a few new recordings of prominent sopranos. Although I was, of course, quite familiar with her appearance in photographs and on the Berlin Opera House stage, I did not immediately recognize her as she was wearing the latest rage in women’s hats of the period. It was rather a pot-like affair and covered her face down to the eyes. When she asked me which sopranos I would especially recommend, I replied with cool placidity and the deepest certainty, “Well, if you ask my opinion, madam, there is only one—Lotte Lehmann. She is the greatest of them all.”
You can well imagine how such a young coxcomb as I might have felt when from under the stylish helmet came the vigorous reply, “Thank you, young man, that is who I am.”
There have been few times in my life as perplexed and confused as those moments. I might as well have been struck by lightning. From this moment on began a deep friendship which lasted for ten years and which belongs to the most wonderful experiences of my long life.
I had at that time a sound studio in Berlin on Augsburger St., where for three years I had produced for the private use of my customers, acoustic recordings on zinc, acetate or other synthetic materials. Among my clients were such important singers as Joseph Schwarz, my neighbor; Meta Seinemeyer, Sabine Meyer, Hedwig Francillo-Kauffmann, Margarethe Matzenauer, Michael Bohnen and Alexander Kirchner.
When I mentioned this sideline occupation to Lotte one day, she immediately decided to test her voice on my equipment. Among the test recordings were duets which we sang together, (I had studied voice with Prof. Bernhard Ulrich), among them the “Rosenlieder” of which we were both especially fond.
As we listened to these recordings, the sound of her voice and also of the accompanying piano was so remarkably natural sounding by acoustic recording standards of the day, that she asked me if this lieder cycle might not be commercially produced by Odeon.
At that very time, a major technological change was rolling through all recording firms: electric recording. Odeon had already taken its first steps in this direction, and it appeared as if the “Rosenlieder” with its simple piano and violin accompaniment would be an ideal test.
During the first electric recording session with Lehmann on August 2, 1926, I was otherwise employed and not at hand. Three days later we (Lotte, Dajos Bela, Mischa Spoliansky, Georg von Wysocki, Odeon artistic director, and myself) listened to the sample recordings.
It was sadly obvious to all of us that the electric microphone had not done justice to either Lotte’s wonderful voice or Dajos Bela’s lovely violin. Both came over the loudspeaker with much too sharp a sound.
After a conference with the management of the firm, Lotte was able to get permission for me to record these songs acoustically, using my own methods. To this end I then brought to the Odeon studio my own large horns, one for the singer and one for both accompanists.
Whereas the Odeon Trichter [horns] were made of cloth, the horns I had made for myself were of metal wound with insulating tape to prevent self-vibration. The larger diameter of these horns allowed the singer to come so near the device that occasionally her head would project into it. Happily for me, the calm and not overly tempestuous nature of the music worked all to the good, and most of the danger of “blasting” was avoided.
Lotte Lehmann signed the release for publication of the “Rosenlieder” on December 14, 1926. This lieder cycle was first offered to the public in March of 1927 under the errant nomenclature “Electric Odeon Recording,” and in succeeding years, due to its high quality, it continued to be listed in all the catalogs as “electrically recorded.”
Mischa Spoliansky, like Lotte Lehmann, lived a long life, and even in his late 80s appeared on German television recounting incidents of his artistic life.
In these songs Lotte quite consciously used a short and frequent taking of breath as a medium for musical expression, evoking her passionate presence. Instead of the higher range usually found in her other recordings, her voice moved here within a quite enchanting mezzo range.
If I allow a little self-praise here, the reproduction of the original “Rosenlleder” belongs to the best of acoustic recordings and is nearly impossible to distinguish from early electrics. Voice and accompaniment are both well balanced. The clearly audible breath brings the singer to vivid life before us. The current reissue on compact disk presents the first publication of the “Rosenlieder” since they were issued on 78rpm shellacs.
Lotte Lehmann’s Recording of the Rosenlieder by Philipp zu Eulenburg
Recorded 5 August 1926 in Berlin for Odeon Records, piano accompaniment: Mischa Spoliansky
a) Monatsrose: Aus des Nachbars Haus trat mein Lieb’ hinaus
b) Wilde Rose: Bei dem Waldessraum im Wiesenhang,
0-8703/Am. Decca 25800. Violin accompaniment both songs Dajos Bela. (We’d probably say “Bela Dajos”.) In the first song, the major theme of Mozart’s violin sonata KV 296 is evident.
Weisse und rote Rose: Mein Schatz, der liegt auf der Totenbahr’ 0-8703/Am. Decca 25800.
a) Rankende Rose: Sagt, ihr weissen Rankröslein,
b) Seerose: Der Abend ist still und dunkel der See, 0-8704/Am. Decca 25801.
Heidenroslein: Sah ein Knab’ ein Roslein steh’n, 0-8704/Am. Decca 25801. Folk song by Heinrich Werner (18001833), not Schubert. Violin Dajos Bela (see above); piano Mischa Spoliansky.
—translated by Judy Sutcliffe
This newsletter includes the then growing list of Lehmann CDs, which is omitted because more complete listings can be found on this website.
• Many thanks to Robert Tuggle, Archivist for the Metropolitan Opera, for noticing an error in my translation of Horst Wahl’s article on Lehmann’s Der Rosenkavalier. In reference to the missing “singer’s aria,” the line “Many enjoyed Beniamino Gigli in this role, but his fee would have been too high” should have read “though many would have liked to have filled this role with Gigli, his fee would have been too high.” Gigli never sang this role, as far as we know.
• The well-respected record collector/discographer James Seddon wrote with corrections on Wahl’s discographical data “Side 6 was published from take 3A, not 2A, and the matrix numbers for sides 15 and 17 are transposed.” [Website users note: Wahl’s data isn’t included on this site. We provide the complete corrected version in the complete discography.]
Also, I must add, Side 17 should be listed as 2WX 599-1A, not 599-1 as in Wahl’s listing. I guess no one likes to proofread discographies, because no one caught my error in listing which matrices were recorded on which days. Matrix 586-2A was released on Side 24 (I listed it as both Sides 23 & 24 and also duplicated some matrices). I omitted matrices 592-3 and 592-3A from 24 Sep. ’33; neither of these were released.
On Wahl’s text, Seddon makes further corrections: “Only Strauss demanded an impossible fee; Bruno Walter had to refuse to conduct because of other engagements…The idea that the recording order displays ‘an incredible confusion’ is pure fantasy…for the recording of operas in non-sequential order of sides was standard practice and was used in order to deploy the forces available to best advantage…”
I believe that Wahl’s point was more that in spite of the jumble of snippets there was a wonderful cohesion of feeling and drama that was maintained.
Seddon continues: “Wahl, however, is unquestionably correct about a change of contents on Sides 25 and 26, but there is little, if any, real evidence as to what happened. My conclusion was that Hayes received from Vienna two sequences: 1. Side 25 take 1 with the ‘Ja, ja’ passage at the end but rejected in Vienna because the music overran the time limit for a 12-inch side; followed by Side 26 takes 4 and 5, without the ‘Ja, ja’ passage; 2. Side 25 take 2 (published) with the ‘Ja, ja’ passage excluded, followed by Side 26 takes 1 and 2 (2A published), and take 3 (with Lehmann but rejected), with the ‘Ja, ja’ passage included. But what about the description in the leaflet issued with the 78 rpm set? [There is an asterisk and footnote in red describing the start of Side 26 at ‘As they clasp, etc.’] This confirms more or less that Side 25 was made with two different sets of contents but it also suggests that the leaflet was printed before the recording was complete, and then had to be corrected when Hayes had assembled the final selection.
“In Wahl’s listing, for Side 25 to include Lehmann and Madin is misleading, as their names [voices] do not appear on DB 2072.”
Many thanks to our careful readers. —GH
In a recent Gramaphone magazine (referring to Lehmann RCA CD 7809-2-RG), J.B. Steane writes: “What the qualities are that ensure life after death as a recording artist, they were sure possessed by Lotte Lehmann…there is a largesse, a generosity of tone (never going flabby or wispy) and a gift of the the spirit that enrich life whenever they are listened to or called to mind. A wide repertoire adds to the appeal of the recital…”
Mr. Steane devotes a substantial portion of a chapter of his recent book: The Grand Tradition, 70 Years of Singing on Record, 1900-1970 to Lehmann’s performances of opera and song.
In the September/October 1990 issue of Fanfare, Marc Mandel writes about the two Pearl CDs released this year. “These two discs preserve treasures indeed…Lehmann’s uniquely characteristic warmth and conviction help bring each heroine vividly to life; she projects a keen awareness of Tosca’s situation, honest innocence in “un bel di,” touching plaintiveness in Mimi’s narrative, and apt wonderment at Turandot’s newfound humanity. For that matter, the Chénier aria..is equally persuasive, even as juxtaposed against the more standard Lehmann fare of Wagner and Richard Strauss. But to say ‘standard’ is unfair…this Liebestod remains more engagingly human and rapturously triumphant than any I’ve encountered (listen to the wonder conveyed in the words ‘Seht ihr’s Freunde?’)”
Christoher Hatch reviewed Beaumont Glass’ Lehmann biography in the Winter 1988-89 The Opera Quarterly: “Glass faithfully chronicles the chief events in Lehmann’s richly episodic life; everything from her meeting with Hermann Göring to her tours in Australia is included…The appendix alone–a Lehmann discography by Gary Hickling, encompassing all commercial and noncommercial recordings–makes the volume worthwhile. As for the main text, Glass’s contribution is particularly notable in telling much more about personal matters, loves and friendships, than the singer herself cared to disclose…The author’s account of Lotte Lehmann’s life shows…how self-absorption, self-indulgence, and ambition work in mysterious ways to nurture the highest degree of artistic discipline and enable a performer to subjugate self to a controlling musical and dramatic ideal.”
In the Autumn 1988 The Opera Quarterly Beaumont Glass wrote a wonderful 20-page summary of Lehmann’s life and an assessment of her art: “She had an uncanny ability to lose her own personality in that of the character to be portrayed. They were all utterly different. It was not Lotte Lehmann up there on the stage,…it really seemed to be another human being, the creature of the compose’s imagination suddenly incarnate in flash and blood. She found the perfect combination of the universal and the particular in every part, a three-dimensional credibility that preserved archetypal essence.”
Marilyn Horne remembers Lehmann
In an interview before her July 1990 recital in Santa Barbara, Ms. Horne said: “She had this unbelievable imagination and creativity within her…She really showed me what…a song can be. It’s a story within itself, from the first note of the piano to the last note of the piano. She showed me that a simple song, a small entity, has as much as a great huge scene or huge opera. It has a whole story to tell.”
Big job nearly finished
The project to create access to the audio material in the Lehmann Archive at UCSB is nearly completed. The hope had been to be able to report that it was, in fact, all done by the time this issue of the newsletter went to press. However, two 78 rpm sets remain to be dubbed onto public-use cassettes and the inputting, formatting, and printing of catalog data remains to be completed. Look for the final report in the next issue.