A recent article on Lehmann’s performance of Schubert’s “Der Doppelgänger” by Alastair Macaulay, an historian and critic of the performing arts, is the focus of this page. Lehmann wrote the following about Lieder in general, which she feels: “[welds] words and music with equal feeling into one whole, so that the poet sings and the composer becomes poet, and two arts are born anew as one.” 

David Løberg Cole provides background and an analysis of “Der Doppelgänger.”

First, here are the Lehmann performances of the work that we possess: 1. Columbia 1941; 2. Test pressing, probably also for the 1941 recording; 3. A radio broadcast with Lehmann’s introduction; 4. A live performance from 4/3/41. All these recordings used Paul Ulanowsky as the pianist. Lehmann wrote the introductory remarks for the Columbia LP album “A Tribute to Lotte Lehmann in honor of her 75th birthday” that included her thoughts on “Der Doppelgänger” : “This is the house where my love one dwelled – and its windows, empty and forlorn, look out into the dark night as if they had never framed her lovely face. Someone is standing there, looking upwards and wringing his hands in despair. Is it I who stand there as so often in the past? Does this double of mine mock my agony?”

You’ll find the original Heine poem and an English translation after Macaulay’s article.

1941 Columbia
Test Pressing
Radio Broadcast 1941
Live Recital 1941

Second, we present Macaulay’s article:

Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976) had a long and glorious career, singing opera from1910 to the 1940s, and recitals until 1951. Don’t confuse her with the earlier Lilli Lehmann (1848-1929), who had an even longer and yet more versatile career. Lilli was exceptional and widely admired on both sides of the Atlantic, and yet it’s Lotte (no relation) who’s greater yet. She created several roles for Richard Strauss, was admired by Puccini in some of his, was passionately loved by Toscanini (whose love letters are intensely erotic) and by Klemperer (who called his daughter Lotte after her).

 Caruso told her she had “una voce italiana”: he didn’t mean she had a good Italian accent – she didn’t – he meant that her voice had an Italian placement, with a good chest register, a radiant top, and unaffectedly direct diction, so that the voice makes you see face. She’s one of the few singers to have sung all three of the leading female roles in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier; her Marschallin in that opera was so definitive that several of its greatest postwar interpreters (Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Régine Crespin, Elisabeth Söderström) studied it with her. [LL coached Crespin for her Met performance, but there’s no evidence for the others.] When she sang Sieglinde in Die Walküre to the Brünnhilde of that also great soprano Kirsten Flagstad, the latter is said to have remarked “She behaved onstage as a married woman should only behave in private with her husband.” Some of Lehmann’s recordings – intense and spontaneous beyond all others – make you understand what Flagstad meant. 

 It’s been remarked that none of her many recordings is without its great rewards; since there are more than five hundred (all originally on 78s), [a few less than five hundred] I haven’t listened to all, but I can believe it. For me, she is one of those rare singers whose singing shakes you by the shoulders to say “This is the truth” – and she can do it in English (“Drink to me only with thine eyes”), French (Duparc’s “La vie antérieure”), or Italian (Beethoven’s “In questa tomba oscura”) as well as in her native German. In recent decades, a few women have seemed bold in singing some of Schubert’s song cycles associated with male singers, but Lehmann had already done so in the 1940s. [and earlier] With Winterreise, which so many greater male singers have recorded, hers is my all-time favourite: the one whose quality of utterance takes me to the core of the music’s drama.

 Still, her voice’s full bloom faded during her fifties. This recording, of Der Doppelgänger (which translates as “the double” or “the wraith”) comes from when she was about fifty-three. It won’t completely explain to you why she was loved. Nonetheless I think it’s among her very greatest: the diction is the first reason, but only the most obvious.

 In some moods, I also think this is Schubert’s greatest song. The words are by Heinrich Heine (1827): Wikipedia tells us that he spelt the title word “doppeltgänger”. Lehmann not only makes every word natural and important, she shapes the whole thing as a single, slow arc – though “arc” is the wrong metaphor, since she also shapes at least three amazing climaxes along the way: “Schmerzens Gewalt”; “meine eigne Gesalt”, and “so manche Nacht”. 

I’ve been both that past person gazing in anguish at the window of the beloved and that present-day witness of that haunting/haunted scene  – but only Lehmann makes me feel every inexorable facet of that self-recognition. It’s been said that Freud was just one in a long line of German Romantic poets: here I see that Heine was one of his precursors. 

I love Lehmann’s vibrato: it suggests the complete naturalness both of regular breathing and of intense neurosis. You don’t expect that this slow song, with its steady, firm, beginning, will rise to such hysteria; of course it does. And the way she ends the song is particularly wonderful, with the words “in alter Zeit” (“in times long gone”) suggesting several kinds of ghost-town loss: she’s horrified by the anguish she once felt and by the apparition of her former self, but she’s bereft without this passion that once irradiated her being.

Third: A translation of Heine’s poem:

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,
The night is still, the streets are at rest;

in diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;
in this house lived my sweetheart.

sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,
She has long since left the town,

doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.
but the house still stands on the selfsame spot.

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,
A man stands there too, staring up,

und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzens Gewalt;
and wrings his hands in anguish;

mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe –
I shudder when I see his face –

der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.
the moon shows me my own form!

Du Doppelgänger! du bleicher Geselle!
You wraith, pallid companion,

Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
why do you ape the pain of my love

das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle,
which tormented me on this very spot,

so manche Nacht, in alter Zeit?
so many a night, in days long past?

Word-for-word translation:

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,
Still is the night, it sleeps the streets,

in diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;
in this house lived my sweetheart;

sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,
she has already long [ago] the town left.

doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.
yet stands still the house on the same place.

Da steht auch ein Mensch, und starrt in die Höhe,
There stands also a man, and stares into the height.

und ringt die Hände vor Schmerzensgewalt;
and wrings the hands for grief-violence [pain],

mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe,
[to] me shudders it, when I his face see,

der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt
the moon shows me my own form.

Du Doppelgänger, du bleicher Geselle!
You double-goer, you pale companion!

Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
Why ape [mimic] you after my love’s-suffering

das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle
that me tormented at this place

so manche Nacht, in alter Zeit?
so many [a] night, in old time?

Fourth: Critical comment on LL’s performance of “Der Doppelgänger.”

B.H. Haggin wrote that Lehmann’s performance of “Der Doppelgänger” was wrong in concept because she stepped outside of the bounds of the recital format and sounded operatic.

Robin Holloway:  [writing about Schubert’s “Der 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.”

In Vienna Lehmann sang recitals to the following two reviews:

E.B. “…Then, strangely, from the profusion of available songs by Schubert and Schumann, she chose several which were composed for the male voice, ‘Der Doppelgänger,’ ‘Der Erlkönig,’ ‘Ich grolle nicht,’ and ‘Frühlingsnacht,’ probably more out of vocal considerations than because of the content to be expressed, which would justify sharper accents in these very songs. [It is interesting to note that Lehmann was later criticized for over-dramatizing some of those same Lieder.] But this is just what is so special in Lotte Lehmann’s art: the noble harmony, the lovely evenness of moods, the comforting warmth, which are a part of her temperament and which her singing communicates to the listener in such a lovable way….” (E. B., 10 February 1930.)

Heinrich Kralik: “An evening of Lieder by Lotte Lehmann is the loveliest, most precious treat for the ear. Mellifluous sweetness floods over the hearer and one does not grow tired of admiring the divine gift of this voice. Every tone is sent forth in its acoustic perfection with an additional spin from the heart, a sort of soul-vibrato. In such a way, every song becomes a tasty delicacy for the ear, which in turn wants nothing to disturb such egotistical enjoyment. Not even through the fact that any just demand for spiritual [as distinct from sensual], truly Lieder-like interpretation of the individual songs is as good as totally unfulfilled. Meanwhile, the Lehmann voice is an exceptional case, and that must satisfy us. Even then, when everything that is actually characteristic and significant has been taken away from the fever-visions of “The Erlking” or the ghostly apparition of “Der Doppelgänger,”…such honeyed euphony, such cozy singing is welcome, even when, apparently quite inorganically, it is supposed to be coming from the spheres of the uncanny and the demonic….” (Heinrich Kralik, 10 February 1930.)

Jason Victor Serinus wrote the following in a review of Mark Padmore’s performance of “Der Doppelgänger”:

“And while his ‘Der Doppelgänger’ may have lacked the unforgettable hollowness of tone and sheer horror that Lotte Lehmann brought to it, [tenor Mark] Padmore rose beautifully to its final challenges to deliver a near-overwhelming tour-de-force.”

An unidentified critic wrote in The Argus (Melbourne, Australia, 24 May 1937): “Few indeed are the women singers who can do more than comparative justice to such essentially male songs as the ‘Erl King’ and ‘Der Doppelgänger’. As presented on Saturday night, each phrase glowed with imaginative fervour, each tone of the singer’s voice was attuned to the mood of macabre expectancy, terror, anguish, and despair were conveyed with overwhelming effectiveness, but with no hint of mere dramatic exaggeration. Herself, a poetess of distinction, Madame Lehmann employs an unerring sense of verbal colour and of verbal rhythm. Her interpretation of ‘Der Doppelgänger’ did equal honour to Schubert’s music and to Heine’s poem…. No better compliment could be paid to the pianist, Mr. Paul Ulanowsky, than to say that his accompaniments were worthy of the singer. “

When criticized for singing “men’s” songs, such as “Der Doppelgänger” Lehmann wrote: “Why should a singer be denied a vast number of wonderful songs, if she has the power to create an illusion which will make her audience believe in it? It would be a very sad indication of incapacity if one could not awaken in the listener sufficient imagination to carry him with one into the realms of creative phantasy.”  

Fifth: From the BBC “Desert Island Discs” program we hear the writer Christabel Bielenberg recall hearing Lehmann sing “Der Doppelgänger” when they were both students of Alma Schadow during Lehmann’s first seasons at the Hamburg Opera:

Desert Island Discs

Sixth: There’s a YouTube page that offers six male voices of Lehmann’s time singing “Der Doppelgänger.” You can hear the interpretations of Gerhard Hüsch, Feodor Chaliapin, Herbert Janssen, Alexander Kipnis, Pavel Lisitsian, and Heinrich Schlusnus.