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ClassicsOnline Home » TAUBER, Richard: Lieder (1919-1926)
Richard Tauber, Volume 2
A Programme of Lieder (1919-1926) In his "waltz-dream" guise the monocled, top-hatted Taubers activities as a best-selling operetta matinée idol and balladeer partly undermined his standing as a serious recitalist and it was for many years fashionable to castigate him for having invested so many trifles with that quintessentially Viennese charisma. In later years even the tenor himself was given to lament a repertoire which was to some extent forced upon him, yet however commercially driven he may have been he remained fiercely self-critical, never condescending towards popular material. To Tauber even obvious dross was Schubert insofar as, like the master he was, he invested it with the same loving care and musicality.
The product of an age in which individuality in performance was actively encouraged, he was first and last a Schubertian, or, more precisely, a Mozartian (Don Giovanni provided his final stage appearance two weeks before his death, on 8th January, 1948). He was both musicianly and stylish and, beneath that often seductive veneer of romanticism, always disciplined in his art, with a controlled lyricism and miniaturist approach consciously attuned to the more intimate dimensions of the German Lied. A fine song-writer in his own right, he was also an above-average pianist and an underestimated conductor, and his affinity with the Viennese Schubert was also surely too ongoing for mere coincidence (in 1927, in Berlin, he would record a monumental Winterreise with Spoliansky and in 1934, on screen in England, give a captivating, if stylised, portrayal of his composing idol in Blossom Time).
Richard Denemy Tauber was born illegitimately to theatrical parents in Linz, Austria, on 16th May, 1891. Athough from the start he was surrounded by singing, he at first showed no great inclination for it, despite encouragement offered him during his teens by the tenor Heinrich Hensel. Richards joint talents for piano and composition were cultivated at the Conservatory of Frankfurt-am-Main, while his burning - and largely frustrated - ambition to become a conductor stayed with him for the rest of his life. In 1910, however, he was finally persuaded to embark on a short course of study in Freiburg with the Heldentenor Carl Beines, the "great musician" whom he would later acknowledge as "the most important man in my life". Instantly recognising his young pupils potential, Beines proceeded to fulfil his promise to make him "the greatest Mozart singer in the world". Tauber remained ever thankful and this 1919 rendition of his teachers Ständchen was, perhaps significantly, chronologically speaking the very first of more than seven hundred commercial recordings made between that year and 1947.
In 1912 Tauber was offered a contract by the Wiesbaden Theatre, of which his father was director. He opted instead, however, to continue his studies with Beines and in March 1913 made a more high-profile solo début at the Neues Stadt-Theater in Chemnitz, as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. A few days later he sang Max in Der Freischütz, an opening which virtually overnight secured him a five-year contract with the Dresden Royal Opera. His career there was as notable for its diversity as for its vocal accomplishment, and he won acclaim as a quick study and as, a rarity among tenors, a musician. Notwithstanding guest appearances and operetta engagements and recitals elsewhere, he would maintain his association with Dresden until 1926, singing often at short notice lyric-tenor leads in more than sixty operas by forty-odd composers.
As a Lieder-singer, as these early recordings amply demonstrate, Tauber was no less accomplished an artist. Appropriately, perhaps, our programme opens with Der Lindenbaum, No.5 of Winterreise (1827) and Ständchen, No.4 of Schwanengesang (1828), two of the best-known of all Schubert songs, which give good account of his distinctively poised, lyrical middle register. Similar qualities nuance these early renditions of Schumanns Dichterliebe, six songs from the most celebrated 1840 settings of Heine, in which the intimate lightness of Im wunderschönen Monat Mai complements the bravura of Ich grolle nicht, where Tauber the opera-singer comes to the fore, or, indeed, the rather less familiar Wanderlied, Opus 35, No.3, published in the same year. Schumann was another composer with whose music he felt at home and his own 1935 recordings from Liederkreis he rated among his best efforts.
While Griegs 140 or so, often hauntingly melodious songs may lack the emotional range of German Lieder, notably those of Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss, they are nonetheless miniature gems crafted worthily in the tradition of Schubert. Moreover, folksong-like simplicity and directness make them ideal grist for the lyrical Tauber who, in the fashion of the time, sings all of his eight selections in German translation. After Die Prinzessin (this 1871 occasional on a poem by Bjørnson was apparently a favourite of Tauber and one he often sang in recitals) comes Ich liebe dich (from Melodies of the Heart, Opus 5). This 1864 setting by Grieg of verses by his friend the story-writer Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by his love for his wife-to-be, the Norwegian soprano Nina Hagerup, remains to this day a favourite romantic recital encore for tenors and sopranos. Tauber follows it with Grieg monochromes in various moods: the nostalgic Am schönsten Sommerabend wars, from Five Poems, Opus 26 (1876) contrasting with Der Frühling and Was ich sah, settings of Vinje, from Twelve Melodies, Opus 33 (1881), Verborgne Liebe, from Romances (1884), an outstandingly lyrical 1884 setting of Bjørnson, complementing the rapturous Ein Traum, the last of Six Songs, Opus 48 (1889) and the lilting barcarolle Im Kahne, No.3 of Poems, Opus 60 (1894).
While Taubers forays on stage into Wagner opera were understandably selective, he did record and feature various arias and songs in recital, notably Träume, No.5 of the Wesendonck-Lieder (1857). Also Wagnerian in derivation is Liebesfeier, a little-known song by the Austrian-born composer, conductor and author Paul Felix Weingartner (1863-1942). Like Wagner, Weingartner composed several operas on biblical and mythical themes. He wrote his own librettos and in 1897 published a history of Bayreuth and a renowned manual on the performance of Beethovens symphonies.
The final group comprises some of the earliest recordings of Richard Strausss most famous songs. Now long-established staples of international Lieder recitals, several were fixtures of Taubers own recital repertoire and items he would later variously re-record under the electrical process. Following a resolute Zueignung, the first of an 1885 set of songs to verses by Von Gilm, Opus 10, he underlines the contrasting moods of the three best known from the set of Four Songs, Opus 27 (1894) and brings rapture to Traum durch die Dämmerung, from Three Songs, Opus 29 (1895) and Freundliche Vision, from Five Songs, Opus 48 (1900). One of Strausss finest miniatures, the sensuous, soaring line of Ständchen, from Six Songs, Opus 17, to texts by Schack (1885) provides another perfect vehicle for Taubers vocal tone-painting at half and full voice.
Richard Tauber made his earliest recordings in 1919 for German Odeon. These were first issued on heavy shellac single faced pressings which reproduce with a high level of surface noise. During the mid-1920s, Odeon began releasing its Tauber recordings on lighter weight double faced discs using much quieter shellac. Some of the most popular of these were also issued by American Odeon on excellent pressings. At the time when German Odeon switched from acoustical to electrical recording, the company had already released 115 Tauber sides, all on 12inch discs. In assembling this program, I have confined myself to these acoustic recordings which capture Taubers young voice so vividly. This disc contains every song by Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Grieg and Richard Strauss that Tauber recorded. Also included here are songs by the eminent conductor Felix Weingartner and Taubers esteemed teacher, Karl Beines.
I have transferred these recordings from multiple copies of the quietest German and, occasionally, American pressings. A variety of styli have been used to reduce surface noise and achieve maximum clarity and presence. Since the recordings were made over seven years during many sessions, presumably with different technicians operating the equipment, the sonic character of the recordings varies greatly. Strausss Ständchen, for example, is extremely forward. Others, such as Griegs Die Prinzessin are frustratingly remote and lacking in presence. I have attempted, by subtle changes in equalization and sound level, to compensate for this deficiency and bring Taubers voice as much as possible into the foreground.
In 1997 Ward Marston was nominated for the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for his production work on BMGs Fritz Kreisler collection. According to the Chicago Tribune, Marstons name is synonymous with tender loving care to collectors of historical CDs. Opera News calls his work revelatory, and Fanfare deems him miraculous. In 1996 Ward Marston received the Gramophone award for Historical Vocal Recording of the Year, honouring his production and engineering work on Romophones complete recordings of Lucrezia Bori. He also served as re-recording engineer for the Franklin Mints Arturo Toscanini issue and BMGs Sergey Rachmaninov recordings, both winners of the Best Historical Album Grammy.
Born blind in 1952, Ward Marston has amassed tens of thousands of opera classical records over the past four decades. Following a stint in radio while a student at Williams College, he became well-known as a reissue producer in 1979, when he restored the earliest known stereo recording made by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1932.
In the past, Ward Marston has produced records for a number of major and specialist record companies. Now he is bringing his distinctive sonic vision to bear on works released on the Naxos Historical label. Ultimately his goal is to make the music he remasters sound as natural as possible and true to life by lifting the voices off his old 78 rpm recordings. His aim is to promote the importance of preserving old recordings and make available the works of great musicians who need to be heard.
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TAUBER, Richard: Lieder (1919-1926)