hits from a golden era” says the subheading. The typeface and
the cover-photo showing a microphone from early radio and
recording studios tell us what a golden era the late 1920s and
the 1930s were ... and what hits. All the big names are here,
Lehár, Tauber (yes, he was composer too), Stolz, Kálmán,
Abraham, Benatzky but also some who are no longer household
names: Werner Richard Heymann, Hans May and Mischa Spoliansky.
Eduard Künneke is remembered mainly for the song Ich bin nu rein
armer Wandergesell from the operetta Der Vetter aus Dingsda.
Erich Wolfgang Korngold is the odd man out, since Die tote Stadt
is a serious opera, but the scene recorded here has become very
popular, right from the beginning when Lotte Lehmann and Richard
Tauber recorded it.
Heymann was one of the most important
composers during the end of the Weimar Republic. In particular
he was famous for his many film scores and during the Second
World War he active in Hollywood. In 1931 he wrote the music for
Der Kongress tantz, which was the first great German music film
and the year after he scored another success with the songs from
Ein blonder Traum.
Austrian-born Hans May also wrote
film-music and the title song for Ein Lied geht um die Welt was
written for the diminutive Joseph Schmidt, who became enormously
popular during the 1930s.
Russian-born Mischa Spoliansky
settled in Berlin at the beginning of the Great War and wrote a
lot of popular music. In 1932 he wrote music for the film Das
Lied einer Nacht and the song Heute Nacht oder nie became a
world hit. He emigrated to London in 1933, when Hitler came to
power — Spoliansky was Jewish — and there he started a new
career as film music composer. He wrote among other thing four
songs for Paul Robeson. A lot more interesting information can
be found in the booklet.
The arrangements also carry the
glamour of the golden age. The Lehár songs are original – and
Lehár was an excellent orchestrator – Kálmán likewise and
Korngold. Even so, Andreas N Tarkmann has provided ingenious
recreations of 1930s sounds for several of the songs: Tauber,
Stolz, Heymann, May and Spoliansky. They sound authentic but
rendered in state-of-the-art recording quality. Matthias
Grimminger has dressed up Benatzky and together with Henning
Hagedorn has reconstructed the two Abraham numbers.
‘Historically informed’ is not just a term for baroque
performance, it is just as applicable to this type of music.
Full marks for this.
I suspected before putting the disc
in my CD-player that as intelligent an artist as Jonas Kaufmann
wouldn’t walk into the same trap as many an illustrious tenor
has done before and over-sing, killing these beautiful melodies
by trying to break the sound barrier. I was right. Kaufmann is
the possessor of possibly the most glorious tenor voice now
before the public and his admirers will not be disappointed.
When the situation is right he lets loose and induces
goose-bumps. For much of the time he sings lightly and
intimately in half-voice, as Nicolai Gedda often did in his
numerous operetta recordings. A lieder singer’s approach is
definitely not out of place in this repertoire. You are my
heart’s delight is one of the real bravura numbers of this
genre, and bravura we get – but with refinement. Freunde, das
Leben ist lebenswert from Giuditta is another display vehicle
but very often Kaufmann shows off in the opposite direction:
airy, conversational, with excellent enunciation. ‘Non-operatic’
I scribbled down several times, for instance when I was
listening to Es muss was Wunderbares sein from The White Horse
Inn and Stolz’s Don’t ask me why.
In three of the numbers
Kaufmann is joined by the young soprano Julia Kleiter, They sing
with wonderful restraint and lyrical warmth in the scene from
Viktoria und ihr Husar. It's an old favourite of mine but I
don’t think I’ve heard it better sung. The other Abraham number,
Diwanpüppchen from his other great success, Die Blume von
Hawaii, is something quite different, a show-number in high
spirits. The two singers throw themselves wholeheartedly into
this hilarious comedy. It's great fun. The Korngold duet is also
For the finale Kaufmann returns to The Land of
Smiles and sings Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, but this time in
French. Perhaps the question of language is the fly in the
ointment. These are all German songs and arias and they have
been sung by many of the great singers in the original language
through the years. Here six of the songs are sung in English and
one in French and I don’t see any logic in the choice of
language. There is no drawback with the singing per se –
Kaufmann’s English is excellent. The only reason I can see is
that Sony think that the disc will sell even better this way.
Be that as it may, the whole programme is delightful – and
those two or three songs that I hadn’t heard before were really
nice acquaintances. The singing should I hope win new listeners
to this repertoire. An excellent present to all lovers of good