These are the Lehmann-related reviews of recordings from Song on record: I Lieder, edited by Alan Blyth. It was published in 1986, so the critical comment stops several years before that, but includes references to acoustic recordings, electric 78s, as well as LPs and even a few CDs. I’ve tried to offer the exact Lehmann recording being considered so that you can refer to what the critic is writing about. The recordings that I’m offering are mp3s, so if you’re interested, do investigate the better sounding originals.
Peter Branscombe: Lotte Lehmann, accompanied by Ernö Balogh (DA 1466) gives us a version of [Mozart’s] “An Chloe” to prize: warm, assured, with gentle wit and precise control.
Peter Branscombe: Mozart: ” Lehmann’s gently playful “Die Verschweigung” (DA 1466) is a little jewel.
David Hamilton: Beethoven’s “Zärtliche Liebe” or “Ich liebe dich”. Even more convincing [than Sophie Selmair and Sigrid Onegin mentioned in the previous sentence] is Lotte Lehmann (DA 1733), who stresses the subsequent turn to the submediant (“und erhalt’ uns beide”) as well as the dominant, and projects warmth together with vulnerability.
David Hamilton: writing about Beethoven’s “In questa tomba oscura”: Yet another version…is that of Lehmann (BRG 72073), deeply felt and superbly sung; the only flaw is a weak plunge on “velen”, at which point pianist Paul Ulanowsky, fearful of overwhelming the singer, holds back, letting the tension of the piano transition lapse.
David Hamilton: Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte: Lotte Lehmann (Voce 69), with the admirable Paul Ulanowsky, from a 1947 recital) is a rare woman to attempt this traditionally male cycle, and the result is its own justification: unique intensity of sentiment and response to the match of words and harmonies (in No. 1, “Singing will ich”). The vocal condition may be rougher than in her earlier Beethoven recordings: No. 4 turns a bit sing-songy, and she has to skim the words on the high notes of No. 5 (F sharps, in her key of D major), but this recording definitely ranks as “better late than never”.
David Hamilton: Beethoven …Lehmann (whose engagingly sexy and spontaneous recording of “Der Kuss”, on BRG 72073, is a hitherto unmentioned must).
Alan Blyth: Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin: And our one female interpreter (of the whole cycle), Lotte Lehmann, shows that, given the total conviction of the singer, type of voice may matter less than one imagined….Lotte Lehmann…offers a revelatory experience of a very different kind from her tenor confreres, one to which the phrase hor concours most definitely applies and one that I would like to present to every aspiring (and some established) Lieder singers of today. Lehmann is so intent to tell you a story, to describe to you the feelings of elation and sorrow of the unfortunate youth that you soon forget that she is a woman. Thus the music becomes almost the servant of the words. When she calls out “Liebes Bächlein” in 3, the loving urgency of the words burns itself on your mind,
as does the enormous sense of effort she suggests at “jeder Knappe” in 5,
while the tonal variety and rubato, as at “liebt sie mich” in 6 are literally extraordinary in that they represent an entirely different tradition than is found elsewhere….
Lehmann recorded her version in 1942 with the too reticent Paul Ulanowsky, but oddly omitted “Ungeduld”. On CBS’s LP transfer, producer Paul Myers sensibly inserted the soprano’s 1935 account of the song. The tone is inevitably fresher, the spontaneity of utterance no less felt.
Sung in some kind of elevated Sprechgesang, 11 may be a clumsy performance regarded merely as singing, but the total enthusiasm displayed carries all before it.
My notes are filled with amazement at this or than astonishing detail – the bitterness of “mein Schatz hat’s Grün so gern” in 16,
the febrile desperation of “Das grüne, grüne Band” in 17
– but it is the total understanding of the work’s genius that demands attention. Yet when a seamless legato is needed as in the first lines of 18
and the whole of 19, Lehmann provides that too…
[Blyth writes of LL’s farewell recital -not in Carnegie, as he writes, but Town Hall in 1951 and mentions that] she sang 2, 4, 6, 10, 16, and 20, and in each, as in her complete set on ten years earlier, there is the special Lehmann gift of wonder and enthusiasm. The eager questioning of 2
the depth of “Bächlein, liebt sie mich” in the latter, the rubato subtly managed, is something out of the ordinary; so is the Lehmann magic with words in the strophes of 10, and the hint of sadness at its close.
The tone darkens for 16, where the full operatic panoply is employed for the last time, with its many tonal colourings, the many breaths easily forgiven: “Hein Schatz hat jagen” is unforgettable as Lehmann inflects it.
Slezak’s comment that she had “heart” was never as evident as here at the close of the great soprano’s career. Predictably, 20 is an eloquent farewell, made that much more poignant by the occasion of its singing.
Hilary Finch: [writing of Schubert’s Winterreise]: Lotte Lehmann’s version, despite being pieced together from discs made at various times between 1940 and 1941 [and for different recording companies!], and despite being smattered with period ritenuti and portamenti, is in a bold, entirely convincing grand romantic style. Here is the heroic, even Byronic protagonist starting out with fierce determination, identifying with remarkable intensity even without recourse to mezza voce with the brook’s icy surface and undercurrent in 7,
and recalling Goethe’s Prometheus himself in the triumph of 22’s final cry of “sind wir selber Götter!”.
Lehmann captures, as few singers after her do, a rare volatility of mood within a sweeping overall momentum, and recreates a sense of Einsamkeit totally bereft of self-pity. Her instinctive integration of each word and phrase into the particular moment or geist of any one song is exemplified in 4;
her balancing of the timescale of past and present in the last two lines of 11
and throughout the gasping, tugging lilt of 13 is quite remarkable.
Robin Holloway: [writing of Schubert’s “Doppelgänger”, calling Lehmann in this case] very feminine, albeit in sturdily masculine fashion. Lotte Lehmann (1941, Amer. Columbia 71509D). Of course the voice is magnificent, the clarity, control, and almost operatic projection of words and situation masterly. But it is basically wrong – this intrepid lady is not frightened – one feels that, like some vocal equivalent of Mary Kingsley, she has only to shake her umbrella and the crocodile will flee for its life. But there is no escaping the “Doppelgänger”; it is part of oneself.
John Steane writes of Schubert’s “Die junge Nonne”: The singer from this period who brings to the song the full resources of voice and imaginative warmth to give it one of the finest performances on record is Lotte Lehmann. This (BRG 72073) was made late in her career but the voice is still firm and beautiful, and right from the start (with the recognition that those opening phrases are exclamations) there is a sense of involvement by far the most intense among these singers [already discussed]. The urgency of the first verse (almost like the Act 2 Sieglinde), the shining face of trust in “Ich harre, mein Heiland”, the beautiful pianissimo of “erlöse die Seele”, the rapt exaltation and the serene “Alleluja” – It is all so complete an experience that the song lives, it seems, twice as long.
Will Crutchfield writes about Mendelssohn’s “Die Liebende schreibt” and after writing about Judith Raskin’s impact with the song wearing thin and “too many notes seem breathy and hectic out of something other than choice”. He then continues: One has the impression that she might have heard Lotte Lehmann sing the song, for on a treasurable “private” disc (Voce 69) Lehmann is heard in live recital (7 February 1947) doing what Raskin is attempting to do. From the very first note she makes it a song of passionate adolescent eagerness – and with Lehmann too the tone is often infirm, the legato broken, but there are two pronounced differences. One is something indefinable in the heart; the other is rubato of which Raskin uses almost none and Lehmann quite a lot: a wonderful nostalgic rallentando for thinking back to “that hour”, a rush of emotion as the recollection brings tears (one feels that Lehmann, or the correspondent she is portraying, experiences the feelings anew through describing them), a passionate way of “taking off” with excitement. There is also a great deal of rhythmic inaccuracy…and the breath span is very short, but the vitality is worth much. Lehmann sings the song in two minutes and a quarter…
Crutchfield also comments on Mendelssohn’s “Venetianisches Gondellied”: The song was a favourite of Lehmann’s late in her career; the 1941 Columbia (in B flat minor)…is more vocally “collected”, firmer and more broadly phrased, than the public performances (half a tone lower) that survive from later years. (Even up to 1951, though, the beauty of some of the sustained notes is remarkable.)
Crutchfield continues with Mendelssohn: Lehmann returned to “Auf Flüglen des Gesanges” for CBS in the 40s (17344D) this time accompanied by Paul Ulanowsky (in G, slow and pensive, drifting off as though truly lost in dreams at the end),
and included it in her concerts with Bruno Walter in 1950 (Discocorp BWS 729 preserves a brighter, more eager performance.)
Graham Johnson writes about Robert Schumann’s “Frühlingsnacht” after mentioning Elena Gerhardt’s recording that he finds excellent, ecstatic and yet unrushed, spoiled only by vagaries of pitch. Then he writes: Lotte Lehmann’s performance too (DA 1571) has marvelous things in it, particularly the phrase “Jauchzen möcht’ ich, möchte weinen” where no one achieves the sort of ardent quality that she does – but then who can compare with Lehmann in the depiction of overwhelming enthusiasm? This performance is sadly spoiled by messiness in the ensemble between singer and pianist.
Alan Blyth writes about Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and when he comes to Lehmann he says: Her 1941 record with Bruno Walter is as hors concours as is her Schöne Müllerin (q.v.). At once, in the opening song, Lehmann’s immensely personal way with the cycle – impassioned delivery, free declamation, utter conviction – is evident.
With what meaning she invests every word throughout: “Nur eine kennt meinen Schmerz” in 8, for instance, rends the heart.
Sometimes intentionally, sometimes involuntarily, breaths are taken in the most unlikely places, but that and some other awkward moments in terms of pure vocalization are forgotten and forgiven before the sheer outpouring of the whole. Any soul that is left untouched by her tremendous “Ich grolle nicht” must be damned.
Any male heart that doesn’t capitulate to the eroticism of 5 [“Ich will meine Seele tauchen”]
or the eager appeal of 14 [“Allnächtlich im Traume”] must be hard indeed.
Finally, 16, [“Die alten, bösen Lieder”] consonants as ever to the fore, evinces the determination of the sorrow-sinking, and in the Adagio the huge intake of breath between “auch” and “meine” seems just part of the relief of a burden unburdened.
[Bruno] Walter in his serene postlude makes us finally overlook some weaknesses earlier, and most of the time he is as involved and involving as his partner….[Blyth writes about Suzanne Danco’s recording which]…could hardly be more different from Lehmann. Where Lehmann epitomizes the passionate, profound school at its most excitingly eccentric, Danco is all good manners…
Alan Blyth writes about Robert Schumann’s “Widmung” and after some positive words about Flagstad’s version, continues: Lotte Lehmann (Parlo. RO20102) is, predictably, even more forthright and spontaneous. Here surely is a fair match, song and interpreter at one. Lehmann is not afraid to make the most of the marked ritardando, nor to exploit her clarinet-like lower register in the middle section. Then she lets go with superb abandon in the repeat.
But, oh, why did Odeon give her an orchestral backing instead of the pianist that is required? When Lehmann at last sang it with a keyboard at her farewell recital in 1951, it was honestly too late in the day: the lower register has disintegrated; the inner passions have died down.
Alan Blyth writes about Schumann’s “Der Nussbaum”: As ever Lotte Lehmann offers something particular both in her Odeon record of the 1930s (RO 20071),
and her 1941 remake, not issued until it appeared in 1963 as part of a 75th birthday present from CBS (BRG 72073).
In both performances one learns that Lieder interpretation is much more than singing the notes musically and phrasing correctly. Lehmann makes us see the tree at “neigen, beugen zierlich”, catches the girl’s idle yet pointed dreaming at “da dächte, die Nächte”, and judges ideally the ritardando at “wüssten ach, selber nicht was.“Von nächstem Jahr” is full of the requisite expectancy, the final lines eagerly breathed and whispered, but not exaggerated. And, of course, there is the inimitable warmth of personality that seems to have been Lehmann’s special trait, even when – as in the second version here – the tone no longer has its pristine freshness, yet it it this later recording, slighly slower, that is the deeper, more satisfying experience.
Alan Blyth writes about “Die Kartenlegerin” by Schumann: Though she makes free with the tempo and with note values, Lotte Lehmann (DA 1468) quite avoids Schwarzkopf’s exaggerations. She sings with irrepressible high spirits and the sense of fun to be found in her Frau Fluth. I love the way she expresses delight in the possible eloping with the King of Diamonds at “er entführt mich…” and the succeeding idea that she will become a princess, then the joy at the thought of a fair man entering her life at “ein Blonder”. One feels the spontaneity that was often achieved on 78s when repetition and correction were not usually feasible.
Alan Blyth writes about Schumann’s “Aufträge”: Lehmann (RO 20071) is at once more impetuous and more intimate [than Elisabeth Schumann, whose recording was just mentioned], also more importunate, her frequent ritardandi as at “für den Gruss einen Kuss” showing how much she is missing her/his lover.
The 1941 remake (BRG 72073) is even more ebullient and catches more truly the Lehmann warmth.
John Steane writes about “Von ewiger Liebe” by Brahms: Lotte Lehmann (O 8713; RLS 1547003) also [he has just written about Dusolina Giannini] sings with ardour and tenderness, but is in too much of a hurry, as well she might be considering the dreadful orchestral accompaniment that seems to have been thought desirable in 1927.
John Steane writes about “Die Mainacht” by Brahms: Lotte Lehmann (O 4829; 1C 137-30 704/5) suffers further disadvantage [he has just written that higher voices are at a disadvantage with this song] from her string trio accompaniment. They play a short introduction to something else and then weave around lackadaisically throughout. Making a virtue of necessity, Lehmann gives the breathing a passionate rather than a technical urgency, and presses forward to the end with tears in the breath before the last words, “herab”; and then the trio thinks about it lovingly in the disguised final bars.
John Steane writes about “Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht” by Brahms: [He has written about Grace Bumbry’s recording of this Lied and goes on with] She might have learnt much about that phrase from her teacher, Lotte Lehmann, whose recording (DA 1469) has a wonderfully rapt quality, the “liebe” warmed by an instinctively right use of portamento, the last line (Ich hör es sogar in Traum) sung with such gentle affection, even the audible breathing serving an expressive purpose.
John Steane writes about “Der Mond steht über dem Berge” by Brahms: Lotte Lehmann (BRG 72073) by contrast [with Elly Ameling who performance of the Lied is light and sunny, pretty and without archness] brings her natural vitality and her many years’ experience in the art of communication. Her serenading students (“singen und spielen dabai”) are hearty vigorous fellows, and the girl’s whispered reply (“lispelt”) is affectionate and very feminine. We know, with Lehmann, that she is “putting it over”, yet her energy and enjoyment are so infectious that one can hardly resist this particular exercise of personality.
John Steane writes about the Wesendonck songs of Wagner: [of “Schmerzen” he writes] With Lotte Lehmann (RO 210100; HQM 1121) the langsam und breit direction is modified to read something like andante appassionato; but she still draws us, for here is a woman enraptured, face shining, voice ringing, and at “Ach, wie sollte ich” changing mood perhaps most meltingly of all these singers.
In 1941 (DBS BRG 72073) she recorded it again, more slowly now and yet (not the only example of this in her later work) less needful of breathing in mid-phrase.
[Steane writes further in the article on “Träume”]: Breadth of phrasing matters a good deal in this song. Lotte Lehmann shows, as she did in “Schmerzen”, how she learnt to resist the urge to take breaths. In her earlier record (RO 20100; HQM 1121) she breaks the long Tristan phrase, “sanft an deiner Brust verglühen”, as indeed many do, for a breath before the final word,
whereas in the 1941 recording (BRG 72073) it goes through unbroken without any trouble at all.
Of course in both performances Lehmann communicates an intense affection, perhaps more warmly than any other singer. Beginning with the utmost tenderness, she catches the yearning feeling in the dotted-note phrases, and then breathes a glowing warmth of spirit into the exclamations, “Allvergessen, Eingedenken!”, Here strength of character, and of technique, carry her through the song and to great applause at the end of it in her Farewell Recital at the New York Town Hall in 1951 (1C 027 50386M): she was then 63 and personally unquenchable, but it was clear that the time had come.
Robin Holloway writes about Wolf’s “Peregrina 1”: The isolated performance of 1 by Lotte Lehmann (DA 1724) seems to me to get this music right. Singing about drinking Death in the chalice of Sin she is at once reckless and imperturbable.
Hilary Finch writes about Wolf’s “Frühling übers Jahr”: Paul Ulanowsky (DA 1723; VIC 1320) provides the perfect, dewy accompaniment for Lotte Lehmann’s 1939 recording: extrovert, warmly breathed, if not very detailed in its expression.
Hilary Finch writes about Wolf’s “Anakreons Grab”: Lotte Lehmann, with Ernö Balogh (DA 1723; VIC 1320), a full-hearted, solemn act of homage, isolating “das ist Anakreons Ruh” in a wonderful mezza voce.
Alan Blyth writes about Wolf’s “In dem Schatten meiner Locken”: [First with reference to Elisabeth Schumann’s recording that is so intimate, gentle and loving, fresh too, that she convinces one that this is how Wolf would ideally like the song to be sounded.] Then you hear Lotte Lehmann (DA 1470) and something even more spontaneous, spirited, sensual, with all sorts of tonal colours.
Alan Blyth writes about Wolf’s “Auch kleine Dinge”: Lotte Lehmann’s effortless legato and unforced expression give the song a simplicity and sincerity of its own (DA 1725). The drawback to her version is that she is reluctant to moderate the warmth of her generous tone to the scale of this miniature.
Alan Blyth writes about “Ständchen” by Strauss: Lotte Lehmann in her 1941 record (Odyssey BRG 72073) – I haven’t heard her earlier version – transposes down a semitone. She follows most of the injunctions in her book (More than Singing), enjoying the ”Sweet secrecy” of the poem and its “Glowing desire”, but doesn’t quite fulfill what she so rightly describes as “its stealthily gliding quality”, using rather too much tone for its pp start, but the relishing of the text is more pointed than in any other performance, particularly “die Nacht”, also the sensuality of “von uns’ren Küssen träumend”. As always, one falls in love with this singer all over again.
Alan Blyth writes about “Cäcilie” by Strauss: Lotte Lehmann, in her book describes this song as “an outburst of impatient passion, a plea for understanding, a plea and an explanation. Sing with great fire, with great power of conviction, with passionate conviction.” That is exemplary advice which she entirely followed in her very hard to come by 1924 record (Polydor 72912) and performances that do not have those characteristics are put out of court. Lehmann here is totally uninhibited in her outpouring of radiantly gorgeous tone, wonderful, unsurpassed.
Alan Blyth writes about “Morgen!” by Strauss: That is again the case, of course, with Lotte Lehmann, whose 1930  version (Parlo. P.2218; LV276) adds to the expected warmth and generosity of manner the right dreamy, elevated feeling. Oddly she takes a breath before “wieder” in the first line, none before “inmitten”.
I prefer her 1941 version (DBS BRG 72093), not only because the ubiquitous violin has been banished but also because there is now no breath before “wieder” and the sense of total wonderment at “und auf uns” is hardly matched elsewhere. The speed in both versions is the right one, but the second is even more flowing.