From the book Herman Klein and The Gramophone edited by William R. Moran, we have a chance to read what this vocal expert had to say about Lehmann’s recordings as they were released between 1925–1934. At the bottom of all of Klein’s reviews I’ve added a short bio on the Englishman.
You’ll be able to hear the very recording that Klein is reviewing. But before the reviews of the recordings, here is what Klein had to say upon hearing Lehmann as Desdemona at Covent Garden: “…this brings me to Lotte Lehmann’s exquisite delineation of the gentlest and most persistent of wives, the sweet generous lady whose anxiety for the welfare of Cassio proves her downfall and destruction. I may have seen in this opera a Desdemona as sweet and as gentle; but never before have I heard a singer of Verdi’s music so ideally perfect, so completely and utterly satisfying. Individual comparisons with other Desdemonas would be uncalled for, even untimely; but it is as I say –and I have heard nearly all of them– the performance of Lotte Lehmann will remain a fragrant and delicious memory. The Salce may have been as beautifully sung by Albani, by Melba, by Emma Eames at their best; I assert naught to the contrary. But the Salce is not everything, nor are the duets with Otello beyond the easy reach of sopranos such as these. It was in that most difficult scene of all, the elaborate ensemble that follows after the Moor has struck Desdemona before his whole court – it was in this tying episode that Lotte Lehmann did so magnificently both as singer and actress, that she rose to heights never attained here before, at least in my experience.”
In another review of Covent Garden appearances, Klein writes: “…the gifted Lotte Lehmann lived up to her exalted reputation in the fullest degree. She is the ideal Elsa and Eva of our time, and those who heard her in either part are not likely to forget the treat that her accomplished vocal art afforded. The tones of her higher register as they soared above the other singers in the wonderful quintet of Die Meistersinger will haunt the memory for many a day.”
Writing about a Rosenkavalier performance conducted by Beecham, Klein had complaints about several singers, but then wrote that Beecham “had an even finer Marschallin than Margaret Siems [who premiered the role!] in Lotte Lehmann. Comparisons may be futile in a sense, but to a certain extent they are unavoidable. Lotte Lehmann is one of those great artists who satisfy as completely whether seen and heard or heard only without being seen. She is an extraordinarily good actress; therefore in order to appreciate and enjoy her embodiment of the Marschallin in the fullest degree, one must see her in the part.” [Klein remarks on other cast members and then writes]: “The real joy of the evening was the Marschallin. It will dwell in the memory as a classic.”
Now for the individual recordings:
“Two delightful Mozart duets…we know them best, of course, by their Italian titles as La ci darem and Crudel perchè; but for the Polydor they are respectively given (in German) as Reich mir die Hand and So lang hab’ ich geschmachtet. This does not really affect their charm, because they are sung here with admirable refinement, grace, and sense of their dramatic significance. The voices blend well, too, and the diction of both singers is irreproachable. For the careful recording praise is due…This was not, of course, a specimen of the wonderful new electrical recording [using a microphone], which has only lately been adopted by the Polydor Company. But the method was, sui generis, of the best; and the two voices were as delicately balanced as the style of the singers was pure Mozartian.” The baritone is Heinrich Schlusnus.
The following reviews are of electric recordings…….
The following recordings being reviewed are: Mendelssohn’s Auf Flügeln des Gesanges and Von ewiger Liebe by Brahms. The other one is Puccini’s Turadot arias: In questa reggia and Del primo pianto.
“Not even Goethe’s Charlotte…could have spread the butter on her bread more smoothily and finely than our favourite Marschallin has spread her mellifluous tone over the surface of the Lieder records which I am here permitted to review. The heavenly melody of Auf Flüglen des Gesanges is quite divinely phrased, i.e., without the slightest seeking after effect, sustaining it with a clarity and steadiness of tone that puts something of unwonted charm into Mendelssohn’s immortal song. Again, in that of Brahms perfection is attained through simplicity, fervour, sincerity, and true sense of contrast. In the Turandot pieces one notes great depth of sentiment, growing passion cleverly brought out, irreproachable intonation, and a noble style throughout.“
Listed as Weber’s Ocean, though mighty monster from Oberon, Lehmann sings of course in the original German: Ozean, du Ungeheuer. Klein writes: “I approached this latest record of Ocean, though might monster in the critical spirit of one who heard the great Tietjens sing it at least half-a-dozen times. It was one of her fomous chevaux de bataille. The greater, therefore, was my pleasure when I found myself listening to the finest rendering of Weber’s glorious air that has come my way in modern days. It is the more wonderful when one remembers that Lotte Lehmann’s voice, smooth, silken, lovely in quality though it be, is not that of a powerful dramatic soprano in the literal sense of the term. Tietzens’s was nearly twice as big; Ternina’s probably half as big again. But for all the requirements of the noble scena from Oberon, Lotte Lehmann here proves herself a more than adequate interpreter. Her declamation, superb in its dignity, intelligence, clearness, and dramatic vigour, could not be surpassed. From the opening apostrophe, Ozean, du Ungeheuer, to the exciting climax where Rezia perceives and cries out to Sir Huon, it affords a magnificent example of this romantic school of singing, admirably supported as it is by the orchestra and exhibited to the best advantage by the electrical process of recording.”
Next to be reviewed is a single disc with both a Lied Murmelndes Lüftchen (Jensen) and Madeleine’s aria Von Blut gerötet war meine Schwelle, from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. “The gifted soprano displays her admirable art in one of Jensen’s best-known Lieder – one, moreover, that is seldom perfectly interpreted. Her tones are modulated with consummate skill and good recording bring them out in all their native purity. In the German version of La mamma morta, from Andrea Chénier we get the dramatic Lotte Lehmann of Rosenkavalier, and who could desire anything finer than that? The phrasing of the big passages is broad and noble, their sweep most impressive.
The following recording is from Puccini’s Tosca in which Lehmann is joined by tenor Jan Kiepura in Qua l’occhio al mondo from Act I and Amaro sol per te m’era il morire from Act III. “These duets are respectively from the church scene and the final tableau at the Castle of St. Angelo in Tosca. They are welcome because not too hackneyed, both well sung and splendidly recorded. The soprano voice is pre-eminently superior throughout, but for sheer volume the balance is nicely maintained, even in the concluding unisonal passage, which winds up the duet – and the opera.” There were two takes of the first aria and both were published, so there’s no way of knowing which one Klein heard. We offer both. Unusual for the time, this is sung in the original Italian.
Klein next reviews three Lieder recordings: Schubert’s Ave Maria and Serenade; An die Musik and Du bist die Ruh’; Sei mir gegrüsst and Auf dem Wasser zu singen, all with orchestra arrangements. “I note with sincere pleasure the increasing attention that this accomplished singer is giving to Lieder. It is as much her métier as opera, for she is very nearly, if not quite, the equal of Elena Gerhardt both as vocalist and interpreter, and to say that is to pay the highest tribute in my power. In any case this is the psychological moment for re-recording Schubert. The electrical process and the centenary year alike demand it, and I predict that this selection of gems will so be selling “like hot cakes” both in German and English-speaking lands; and, happily, a gramophone record is one of those cakes that form an exception to the rule. One can “eat” it and still have it! These are all presented with orchestral accompaniment, and the ineffable An die Musik rather profits by the arrangement; much more so than Du bist die Ruh’ where the harp and violin are aggressively loud. The singer’s lovely medium notes impart a wonderful charm to the Ave Maria, and it is long since I have heard An die Musik rendered with such exquisite tenderness and beauty of expression.”
Next, Klein reviews Beethoven’s Komm’ Hoffnung aria from Fidelio; Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding from Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss; and Heil’ge Quelle reiner Triebe from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. “The amazing versatility of this artist reminds me of famous bygone sopranos such as Lilli Lehmann, Klafsky, and Ternina. They could have gone, as she does from the great Fidelio aria to the Porgi amor (sung in German here) from Figaro, and then to the scene from the first act of Rosenkavalier– had it been composed. The omission of the wonderful recit. “Abscheulicher,” is to be regretted, but the air is magnificently rendered; and there is no need to describe how Lotte Lehmann sings the music of the Marschallin. Her tone and the orchestral effects are faultessly recorded.” There were two takes issued of the Mozart aria, and since we don’t know which one Klein heard, we offer both.
The following Schubert Lieder, Geheimes and Death and the Maiden, are reviewed by Klein. “Here, surely, in the singing of these two Schubert gems, is the model for the artistry that I was referring to above. ” [In an unflattering review of a soprano who will remain nameless, Klein writes: “The singing of the Schubert lied is a study that requires especial care in every direction. When British singers attempt the task they should bear in mind what it imposes upon them and not treat it lightly. A pretty voice is only the beginning; the artistry is the thing. Here is a method that has neither artistry nor the thought that should inspire it….”] Back now to Klein’s review of LL: “Note the purity and simplicity that reigns in every bar, the meaning and distinctness in every syllable, the neatness and elegance that distinguishes every phrase. The combination of these qualities enables you to get to the heart of the song whilst you are revelling in the music and the exquisite tone of the singer. My sole criticism is that the rich low notes required for the utterances of Death in Der Tod und das Mädchen are not possessed by Lotte Lehmann; and the words alone do not suffice. Perhaps, after all, the song were best left to the contraltos. But the other example – Geheimes – is simply delicious.” Both of these songs have orchestrated accompaniments.
The next recordings that Klein reviews contain the Schumann Lieder Der Nussbaum and Aufträge, both with piano and violin instead of an orchestra accompaniment. “Not even a hopelessly metallic pianoforte can altogether counteract the charm of such singing as may be heard in these records of two of Schumann’s loveliest Lieder. The Nussbaum is dainty and delicate; its whispered secrets are full of fascinating mystery. The Aufträge, which no English soprano dares apparently to attempt, is simply exquisite in its breathlessness, its sense of impatience, the love and longing “writ large” on every phrase. Yet nothing disturbs the even flow of tone, with every word distinct, not so much music and voice as atmosphere and a message wafted in deepest confidence. The ending is espeially delightful.”
Next, Klein has the opportunity to weigh in on Lehmann’s recordings of two chestnuts: Bach/Gounod Ave Maria and Handel’s Largo, Ombra mai fù. “None but the rabid highbrow will object to the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria as heard through the lovely voice of the popular German soprano; and the sole blemish to be noted in the Handel Largo is the excessively quick speed at which it is taken. Both are beautifully phrased.”
Two Richard Strauss Lieder are the subject of Klein’s next review: Morgen and Mit deinen blauen Augen. “There is really nothing to be said about this rendering of Strauss’s Morgen that would not smack of “painting the lily.” Everything on the subject has been written already. If the reader is desirous of hearing a beautiful song sung just in the way that it should be, let him or her procure this specimen. The other song may be on the “other side,” but it is on the same high artistic level.” When Klein writes about the other side, it’s to point out that usually the 78rpm shellac recordings had a featured item on the first side. The accompaniment is with piano and violin.
The Schumann song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben is the focus of Klein’s review. “This is in every way a vast improvement upon the first recording of Schumann’s song cycle. Frauenliebe und Leben, issued by Parlophone and reviewed by me in this magazine in September, 1927. Without entering into minute comparisons that would serve no practical purpose, I may say definitely that I prefer Lotte Lehmann in this music to Emmy Bettendorf; and I would by far rather put up with a fussy orchestral accompaniment (which the composer did not write, of course) than the tinkling of a wretched piano such as offended our ears in the version of two years ago. A great advance has been made in every direction since then (the new electrical process had only just been introduced), and albums sung or played by a single artist are no longer a novelty. It may be remembered that the whole plan was first advocated in these columns, and so far as cycles of songs are concerned, had never been thought of until it was suggested in my articles on “The Singing of Lieder” earlier in the same year. I am glad to think that it has taken such a hold upon the grammophone public; it affords only one more proof of the extent to which their artistic perception have gone forward.” A rare second paragraph follows.
“In the present Parlopone version one feels throughout – what is most needed – the all-pervading charm of the singer’s art; the pleasant sensation that nothing of it is obscure or made less beautiful in the course of transmission. Every sound stands out in bold relief; every syllable, every murmur, every tiny utterance, down to that particular sound whereof one would willingly hear less – I mean the constant hiss of the intake of breath – the only blemish upon the perfection of an exquisite achievement. Obviously, Mme Lehmann has made a careful study not only of Schumann’s wonderful music but of Chamisso’s intensely sentimental poem, and she has brought to bear upon both the light of her artistic intelligence and ripe experience. Fortunately the music does not lie too low for her, seeing that her middle and lower notes have recently acquired a new depth of richness and capacity for expressing profound emotion. Those who have heard her bring out the full intensity of such moments in, let us say, the closing monologue as she sits before her mirror the first act of Der Rosenkavalier, will readily understand how she has contrived to impart the same lovely mezza voce quality, the same intimate effects of delicate, half-whispered secrecy to passages such as those in Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben and Süsser Freund, du blickest. The broader tone is easily available, of course, for Er, der herrlichste von Allen and Du Ring an meinem Finger; but more remarkable, because reserved for quite the end, is the complete change of colour and feeling in the final number, Nun has du mir, with its restrained outburst of disappointment, grief, and inconsolable misery. These are the touches to which you can listen with unqualified pleasure. And don’t be angry with the meddlesome obbligato violinist – he is not to blame!”
The next set of Lehmann recordings offers two Richard Strauss Lieder: Ständchen and Traum durch die Dämmerung. The review covers these as well as religious and Christmas songs. “The vocal Christmas gifts enshrined in these four records are quite well worth purchasing – the sacred because they are old German hymns that the children will love, the secular because if there is any modern composer whom our ideal Marschallin sings beautifully it is Richard Strauss. Otherwise there is not much to say except to praise the nicely-restrained orchestral accompaniments and the recording, which is excellently done.
Wagner’s Träume and Schmerzen are the focus of Klein’s review. “Wagner’s “studies” on Tristan are unquestionable the most beautiful of his none too numerous songs. And here they are quite beautifully sung –as, indeed, only a true Isolde could sing them; [LL never sang Isolde, except the Liebestod.] with all the requisite sense of pent-up emotion and restrained passion, even to the very intake of breath whose sound you would seriously object to in anyone but a Lotte Lehmann or a Gerhardt. There is a subtle difference of timber here between the Träume and the Schmerzen; a contrast of qualities that sounds just right for each. In one the singer suggests her impatient yearning; in the other the deeper, mezzo-like tones of one to whom love has meant a full measure of suffering. The vocal technique in either instance is suprely fine, the control absolute. On second hearing they sounded even more exquisite than before. The accompaniments are well-played.”
Next Klein reviews two Schumann Lieder: How like a flower thou bloomest [Du bist wie eine Blume] and Widmung, Dedication. “The accomplished Berlin soprano is continuing to record her well-chosen series of Lieder. This month she gives us two of Schumann’s shortest and most popular favourites, both with orchestral and obbligato trimmings of the usual ad captandum order. Du bist wie eine Blume has a long prelude for violins and horn which does nothing beyond anticipating the singer and lengthening out the record. The Widmung, taken a trifle slower than usual, restores some of the piano accompaniment, and is all the better for it. Both Lieder are exquisitely sung –the first with a tender, wistful expression, the second in a vein of warmer passion and a very effective contrast in the E major passage, while the richness and depth of the low notes is quite surprising.
Two of Elsa’s arias from Wagner’s Lohengrin are the topics of Klein’s reviews. “For their perfect rendering Elsa’s two solo demand the exercise of a high order of vocal art, in conjunction with tone possessing great natural beauty. Qualities such as these they unquestionably obtain in the present instance, and I need say no more to recommend to gramophonists one of the very finest Lohengrin records that it has ever been my lot to listen to. Happily, too, the breathing is freer than usual from “inspiratory murmur,” while every note is exquisitely in tune.”
This next set is of two Wagner arias, the first from Die Walküre, Du bist der Lenz, and the second, the Liebestod, from Tristan und Isolde. “Every Wagnerian excerpt recorded by this accomplished artist has a special value of its own that will one day be treasured as a precious model. Verb. sap (Would that some of her gifted predecessors, half forgotten now, I fear, had enjoyed the same privilege!). Of these two sides, I declare a slight preference for the Sieglinde, which is an unrivaled and unique specimen. The Isolde is good too; but i have heard it equally well done.”
The following review covers Lehmann’s recordings of an aria from Gounod’s Faust, There once was a King in Thule or in Goethe’s original words, Der König in Thule and another aria from Mignon by Thomas called in English Know’st thou that Land, or again in Goethe’s words, Kennst du das Land. “The accompaniments in this, as in the above and the next items, [this was not the only review Klein was writing.] have to be credited to Dr. Weissmann and his Berlin State Opera Orchestra, who between them always achieve well-balanced and highly finished results. Not for a long while have I heard a record by Mme. Lehmann that I like so well as this. Only when hurried is the intake of breath audible, while the phrasing throughout denotes the highest intelligence and artistic feeling. Seldom, indeed, does one hear the much-sung King of Thule ballad endowed with the mystic charm, the romantic poetry, that here prefaces voice and words from the first moment of the recitativ. Such beautiful singing is indeed a pleasure to listen to. The same wonderful mezza voce, with occasionally a round, fuller quality of voice, is discernible in the Mignon, and it is charged with a rare measure of deep, restrained emotion. Oddly enough, the lines of Goethe, as re-translated from the French back into the German, are altered here and there so that they do not unite perfectly with the tune.”
Two arias from Wagner’s Tannhäuser are the focus of the two reviews by Klein. Dich teure Halle (Greeting) and Allmächtige Jungfrau (Prayer) are the two sides of this record. “All who may care to possess what may be termed ‘classical’ renderings of Elisabeth’s two solo pieces will find them on this disc. I find in them no loophole for adverse criticism. Even the sound of the intake of breath is not constant enough to trouble the meticulous listener, and it is only very slight when it is perceptible. On the other hand, the positive merits are very great indeed, seeing that they embody all that is precious in the art of this admirable singer. I note that both Greeting and Prayer are transposed down a semi-tone; that is, unless Dr. Weissmann had dropped his Berlin pitch since I last heard the State Orchestra. In any case it does not matter a bit, provided the descensu Averni proceeds no farther. You must not attempt to correct the disparity by raising the figure of your ‘speedometer.’ That might spoil the tone.” [The two arias are sung at the original pitch. Dr. Klein’s phonograph may have been spinning at a slower speed.]
Klein reviews the recording Lehmann made of the major soprano aria for Ariadne from Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss Es gibt ein Reich. “Ariadne auf Naxos has been heard in London at most half a dozen times; it is the opera of Richard Strauss with which we are apparently least anxious to renew acquaintance. Mounted at His Majesty’s Theatre during the Beecham season of 1913 – that is, barely a year after its first production at Stuttgart – it was again given in a new version in May 1924, when Mme. Lehmann sustained the title-role and that delightful soprano, Maria Ivogün, made her début as Zerbinetta. Happily the elder artist has bethought her of the charming air in which Ariadne gives expression to her feelings when longing for the return of Bacchus to the desert island of Naxos, and she has here recorded it for the benefit of her thousands of admirers. The music suits her to perfection, and as it consists for the greater part of pure melody and graceful yet characteristic phrases elegantly turned, I need scarcely say with what pleasure it may be listened to in the hands of this gifted artist. I have gone over it more than once without being able to distinguish a flaw either in the voice or the recording. Even the exacting passage just before the end is comfortably managed and the whole piece beautifully done, including the important work of the Sate Opera House, Berlin. I should add that it occupies both sides of the disc.” (There were two takes issued and since we don’t know which one Klein heard, we’ll offer both versions. Note that they begin at different points of the aria.)
Two arias from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr. make up the following review. “It was inevitable that sooner or later we should have these songs from Die Fledermaus sung by their most ideal living interpreter. To the best of my knowledge she has never recorded them before; though why not, is something of a mystery. Anyhow here they are, ready to serve as a model for all willing imitators who execute these pieces to English words in the fond belief that they are doing so in the manner that Johann Strauss intended them to be sung. The art of Lotte Lehmann distinctly proves that is is not merely, as so many imagine, a matter of voice plus energy and dash, and no more. On the contrary, you will find that in every bar you get, not only perfect management of tone, but the real Viennese rhythm, so indescribably subtle in its national individuality, together with the clearest possible diction, true purity of accent, and the right undercurrent of satirical humour where wanted, as in the Mein Herr, was dächten Sie. Above all, you recognize in these records the characteristic contrast between the haut ton of the mistress and the insolent perkiness of the maid, otherwise the inimitable Viennese soubrette. Again, in the Klänge der Heimat, the lassan and frischka of the real Hungarian tune, as embodied by Liszt in his famous Rhapsodies, are vocalised with the grace and spirit of an accomplished singer. Too seldom can you hear this music rendered in such fashion.”
Next we’ll read what Klein has to say about Lehmann’s recordings of two arias from Mignon by Thomas, the Styrienne (A gypsy lad I well do know) and There with him is she now (Dort bei ihm ist sie jetzt). “We ought to be grateful in these days for any attempt to get out of the rut of hackneyed operatic pieces. The Styrienne sung by Mignon when she dresses up as a boy in the naughty Filina’s room is one of the gems of Ambroise Thomas’s opera, and in bygone days, when the famous Christine Nilsson trolled it forth in her own inimitable manner, her audiences would go wild with delight. Hers was just the true Tyrolean though (though she was a Swede) that it required, and Hinnie Hauk (the great Carmen) imitate her nearly enough to please most people. The only previous record of it that I can trace is one by Garaldine Farrar (pre-electric, of course) which, however, I have never heard. And now comes the gifted Lotte Lehmann with her own entirely novel reading of this quaint folk-song of the Eastern Alps – novel because she mysteriously half-whispers the first part of the tune and reserves her full voice for the jodelled [yodeled] refrain. The effect is charming, like a girl telling her childish secret and therefore the greater contrast to the subsquent outburst (reverse side) [remember that Klein is dealing with a 78rpm shellac disc] when the jealous Mignon, a woman at last, perceives her Wilhelm Meister in close converse with the flirtatious Filina. Altogether a most welcome record!”
Two disparate songs, one by Schumann, Ich grolle nicht, and the other by Weber, Cradle Song (Wiegenlied), both with instrumental trios. Remember when reading Dr. Klein’s opinions, that he was writing in 1930 when limits were expected. “Here is a record worth having for the sake of one side of it alone, counting the other as what the bakers call “make-weight.” Dealing with the latter first, I protest against the choice by so accomplished a soprano as Lotte Lehmann of a song like Ich grolle nicht, written by Schumann for a man’s voice, and that man a baritone. The most divine singing to be heard out of heaven could not make it suit her. On the other hand (meaning side) [other side of the disc], Weber’s Wiegenlied may be placed among those exquisite things of beauty that are “a joy for ever.” On no account ought it to be missed.”
Two very different arias, the first from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Pamina’s Aria, Ach ich fühl’s and then from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Butterfly’s Entrance. “Butterfly, slowly approaching the home she is to share with Pinkerton, here gives, with excited interpolations by her relatives, the tragic motive of the duet which comes later when she is left in peace with her husband. The other song, is Pamina’s sad air from The Magic Flute, when Tamino, her lover, passes her by without recognition, but only because he is under an oath of silence. These two end happily, unlike poor Butterfly. Both songs are, of course, exquisitely and movingly sung.”
Next, the two songs from Egmont, by Beethoven: Freudvoll und Leidvoll, and Die Trommel gerühret are reviewed in a recording by Lehmann. “These are two of Beethoven’s lesser known songs, but they will soon become familiar enough if heard through the medium of Mme. Lehmann’s fine voice and ardent delivery. Freudvoll und Leidvoll in this key may be just a shade high for her (Beethoven was every exigent with his sopranos), but Die Trommel gerühret suits her to perfection, and she renders Goethe’s words with wonderful depth and beauty of expression. A capable orchestra, under Manfred Gurlitt, brings the accompaniment out well.”
Three of Schumann’s most beloved Lieder recorded by Lehmann have caught the attention of Dr. Klein. Die Lotosblume, An den Sonnenschein, and Marienwürmchen are all accompanied by an instrumental ensemble. “Three of Schumann’s most poetic and exquisite Lieder are enclosed in this disc, one on one side and two on the other. When she sang them the accomplished artist was in her happiest vein, her voice at its best, her phrasing and diction elegance itself. If there be a fault to find it is not with the singer, but with the “instrumental accompaniment” and that arch-meddler the solo violin, who is permitted to besmirch the purity of the Lotosblume with his superfluous arabesques. I have asked before, and I ask again, why does the Parlophone “arranger” think it necessary to “paint the lily” with this sort of stuff? Surely Schumann’s piano accompaniment is good enough to be allowed to tell its own tale (as it does happily in the Marienwürmchen) without outside assistance!”
Two sacred songs add to the range of Lehmann’s recordings. Klein reviews O Sacred Head and Christ’s dear Mother stood in Sorrow. “A ready sale, both here 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 limitum 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 are no doubt equally traditional, and the recording of both cannot fail to satisfy the most exigent listener.” [It should be noted that the organ wasn’t recorded in the pre-electric, or acoustic, era. When it was discovered that the organ could be well recorded with a microphone Odeon (which is the parent company of Parlophone) quickly had a real pipe organ installed in their studios.]
Two operatic arias are the concentration of Dr. Klein’s review. Mozart’s O Why so long Delay? from The Marriage of Figaro and d’Albert’s Psyche wandelt durch Säulenhallen from Die toten Augen. “Whether this distinguished artist has or has not ever undertaken the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro I am unable to say. Probably she has; but certainly not since the youthful days of her operatic career and then she must have made a delightful representative of the character. Anyhow here she is (as our London Editor would say) rendering with all her youthful charm the German equivalent of Deh vieni, non tardar, [It was the custom at the time to sing operas (and record them) in the language of their audience.] and giving a valuable lesson to some of her less experienced rivals in the art of true Mozart singing. The tone throughout is firm and clear; the phrasing characterised by all her wonted purity of style and diction; the reading replete with expressive fervour and the sense os longing that words and music so fully convey. I would add with satisfaction that nowhere is there a trace of the noisy intake of breath that used formerly to mar this singers’s recording of sustained music. The shortcoming has entirely disappeared. The air on the reverse side is from Eugen d’Albert’s opera Die toten Augen, a much later work than his better-known Tiefland, but on the Continent very nearly as popular. It was produced at Dresden in 1916. The piece is melodious and cast in quite a simple, orthodox shape, but not remarkable for its originality. As sung by Fr. Lehmann with her accustomed lyrical grace and feeling, it cannot fail to please.”
Dr. Klein reviewed the two selections from the then recently composed/produced Strauss opera Arabella: Mein Elemer and Er ist der Richtige, and with Kate Heidersbach, the duet Ich weiss nicht wie du bist. “Once more I head this column with the name of one of the most diligent and consistently artistic workers in the gramophone world. I doubt whether there has ever been a singer since recording was invented who has maintained such a steady, regular output of high-class contributions to the repertory. For it must be borne in mind that Mme. Lotte Lehmann never descends to the level of the trivial or the commonplace. Her choice is guided by truly eclectic spirit, even when she sings a simple volkslied or a Christmas carol, just as surely as when she labours conscientiously over the latest condundrums of Richard Strauss. It is one of the latter that we find in these Parlopone records – difficult nuts to crack for the ordinary singer, but apparently quite easy tasks for our favourite Marschallin to accomplish. I say nothing about the music, because I have not yet heard the opera and have no particular desire to prejudice the listener for or against Arabella. The point about these excerpts is that they are both interesting and characteristic, and I cannot imagine there being more adequately rendered. The instrumentation comes out clearly and well, if not with exceptional refinement, while the fair Arabella holds her own against it with her accustomed steadiness, intelligence, and power. There are only a few bars of duet, but they are of the usual Straussian type and quite admirably sung.”
Dr. Klein’s final review of a Lehmann disc describes The Letter Scene, an aria from Werther by Massenet. “This month the indefatigable Marschallin contributes the Letter Scene from Massenet’s Werther, and therein proves herself an ideal singer of the best page allotted by the French master to the young lady of “bread and butter” fame – Charlotte to wit – from whom Frau Lehmann derived her diminutive front name. She sings it most delightfully, with just the quietly emotional reflective air of the girl who is thinking hard whilst she reads, and is studying every up and down stroke of the letter from the man she secretly loves. I have heard many Charlottes in this strangely fascinating yet unsatisfactory opera, but not one who has realised the thoughts passing through the mind of the reader so perfectly as this. It calls irresistibly to one’s recollection the scene before the looking-glass in Rosenkavalier; it is much less lengthy, but quite as interesting, and the artist’s only rival in depicting this sort of incident is herself. Her tones lose not an iota of their freshness or their command of expressive colour, and it strikes me that she is a greater mistress than ever of the art of the microphone.”
A short bio on Klein condensed from Wikipedia.
Herman Klein (born Hermann Klein; 23 July 1856 – 10 March 1934) was an English music critic, author and teacher of singing. Klein’s famous brothers included Charles and Manuel Klein. His second wife was the writer Kathleen Clarice Louise Cornwell, and one of their children was the writer Denise Robins.
For thirteen years, Klein was a vocal teacher at the Guildhall School of Music in London, becoming a lifelong proponent of the methods of Manuel Garcia and helping to edit Garcia’s book on the subject. In 1876 he took up musical journalism, writing for The Sunday Times from 1881–1901, among other publications. He also contributed prolifically to The Musical Times. From 1901 to 1909, Klein lived and taught singing in New York City, where he wrote for The New York Herald. He was one of the first critics to take notice of the gramophone and was appointed “musical adviser” to Columbia Records in 1906 in New York. He returned to England in 1909.
Klein wrote over half a dozen books about music and singers, as well as English translations of operas and art songs. He was a noted authority on Gilbert and Sullivan. In 1924 he began writing for The Gramophone and was in charge of operatic reviews, as well as contributing a monthly article on singing, from then until his death.