Lotte Lehmann & Her Legacy: Volume 2

Look at the smile on Mme Lehmann’s face as she demonstrates some aspect of Lieder or opera in a master class. I believe that she would have been more than satisfied to have enjoyed the one career of teaching. Further, look at the joy on Paul Ulanowsky’s face. Though he didn’t live long enough to take part in many master classes, he certainly enjoyed the ones he gave himself, or shared with Lehmann. In the first audio track you’ll hear Lehmann set the boundaries for her teaching. Then you’ll hear her teach a master class student the light Hugo Wolf Lied “Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen” (You think you can catch me with a thread). Then I’d like you to hear the subtlety and detail that Ulanowsky urged his singer to provide on the same song (especially the ending words). Finally, you can hear Lehmann sing the Lied in a 1938 live Town Hall recording with Paul Ulanowsky, pianist.

Lehmann teaches interpretation, not voice. And no imitation of her.
Lehmann teaches Wolf’s “Du denkst…” in Boston, 1963.
Ulanowsky teaching Wolf’s “Du denkst…”
Lehmann sings Wolf’s “Du denkst…”

Lehmann gave her pupils meaningful singing experiences that would open possibilities of expression. But how does one come to such a famous, celebrity teacher and not imitate? She knew this and hoped to provide an environment in which their skill and knowledge would unite with the suggested interpretation needed to bring life to a song or aria. Anyway, how much can a student learn in a few minutes? Lehmann’s information or exploration could open up a revelation of, for instance, sub-text, humor, specific poetic or libretto words or phrases that can make a song or aria come to life. Sometimes the student would have to take Lehmann’s suggestions home and work on them. That is what Lehmann expected.

Listen to the following Lehmann students speak (or sing) about their experience.

Lois Alba speaks
Alice Marie Nelson speaks
Alice Marie Nelson sings “Von ewiger Liebe” by Brahms with Warren Jones, piano
Marcella Reale comes out of retirement to sing Puccini’s “Sole e Amore,” with Roberto Negri, piano

At this writing Lois Alba is still actively teaching in Texas. Alice Marie Nelson sang “Von ewiger Liebe” (Of Eternal Love) by Brahms with Warren Jones, piano. She is still giving recitals. Marcella Reale who until 2018 taught in Japan, came out of retirement to record this one Puccini song with Roberto Negri, the pianist. The song is “Sole e Amore” (Sun and Love) and it may remind you of La bohème, which Reale often sang.

When teaching, Lehmann enjoyed having the young students laugh at any reference to carnal love. She always felt that they were too prudish and often missed the essence of a poem or aria. See master class Volumes 3-5.

In the following video taken at the end of a master class, Lehmann admits to her joy in singing through her students, and after some applause bids her pianist, Gwendolyn Koldofsky, to share the bows. Koldofsky was a wonderful pianist, able to follow the wishes of a student without missing a note. She taught for many years the piano accompaniment classes at the University of Southern California. Many of her students have become sought-after pianists.

Lehmann sings through her students

The following recordings are from the Caltech master classes of 1952.

“Die Nacht” by Strauss
“Tu lo sai” by Torelli
Iago’s “Credo” from Verdi’s Otello
Hahn’s “D’une prison”
“Immer leiser…” by Brahms
“La flute de Pan” by Debussy
“Maman dites moi” by Anon.
“Gesang Weylas” by Wolf
“Chanson d’amour” by Chausson

I don’t know where this Fidelio master class took place, but Shirley Sproule (see below) was the singer. Lehmann’s demonstrations quickly let us know why she was so famous in the role.

“Komm Hoffnung” from Beethoven’s Fidelio
The fervent MAW student on the right is Shirley Sproule.