Lotte Lehmann, Vol. 2
Odeon Electrical Recordings: 1927-1933

56004-2 (6 CDs)  | $ 72.00


Lotte Lehmann, Vol. 2
Lotte Lehmann (1888–1976) was a lyric soprano with a beautiful, rich voice, combined with impeccable musicianship and an innate skill for poetry and storytelling. This six-CD set presents Lehmann’s complete electrical recordings for the Odeon label, all made in Berlin between 1927 and 1933. Lehmann embraced and took full advantage of the new medium of electrical recording while still in her vocal prime. Remembered especially for her portrayals of Wagner and Strauss roles and as a consummate interpreter of German Lieder, her Odeon electrical recordings do not disappoint. Here, Lehmann expands her more famous repertoire to include selections from French and Italian opera to operetta, popular favorites of the time, and some lovely hymns and chorales accompanied by organ. This collection offers selections from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, and Lehmann’s only recording of Isolde’s Liebestod. Selections from Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Arabella may also be enjoyed. Many gems are included on this set, including: “Leise, leise” from Der Freischütz; “Komm’ Hoffnung” from Fidelio; “Porgi amor” from Le nozze di Figaro; “Kennst du das Land” from Mignon; and Rosalinde’s two songs from Die Fledermaus. There is also a substantial selection of Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss. The recordings have all been meticulously remastered from original pressings, adding luster to Lehmann’s incomparable singing. The set is completed by a substantial booklet containing an abundance of photos, a biographical overview by Dr. Daniel Jacobson, essays on the recordings by Michael Aspinall and Gary Hickling, and a technical note by Ward Marston.

CD 1 (77:47)

16 February 1927
Members of the Berlin City Opera Orchestra1, conducted by Fritz Zweig
1.TURANDOT: In questa reggia, or son mill’anni e mille (In diesem Schlosse, vor vielen tausend Jahren) (Puccini)4:01
(WxxB 7609) O-9602 a 
2.TURANDOT: Del primo pianto (Die ersten Tränen) (Puccini-Alfano)3:00
(WxxB 7610) O-9602 b 
3.OBERON: Ocean, thou mighty monster (Ozean, du Ungeheuer) (Weber)7:40
(WxxB 7611 and WxxB 7612) O-8742 a/b 
4.OBERON: Ocean, thou mighty monster (Ozean, du Ungeheuer) (Weber)7:38
(WxxB7611-2 and WxxB 7612) Parlophone R 20024.2 
5.ANDREA CHÉNIER: La mamma morta m’hanno alla porta (Von Blut gerötet war meine Schwelle) (Giordano)4:03
(WxxB 7613) Parlophone R20025 
18 February 1927
Members of the Berlin City Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
6.JOCELYN: Cachés dans cet asile où Dieu nous a conduit … Oh! ne t’éveille pas encore (Am stillen Zufluchtsort … O Kind, erwache mir noch nicht) [Berceuse] (Godard)3:37
(WxxB 7618-2) O-8709 a 
7.O lass dich halten, gold’ne Stunde, Op. 35, No. 3 (Jensen)3:23
(WxxB 7619) O-8709 b 
8.Murmelndes Lüftchen, Op. 21, No. 4 (Jensen)3:34
(WxxB 7620-2) Parlophone R 20025 
9.Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34, No. 2 (Mendelssohn)3:36
(WxxB 7621) O-8713 a 
10.Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43, No. 1 (Brahms)3:56
(WxxB 7622) O-8713 b 
6 December 1927
Chamber orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
11.An die Musik, D. 547 (Schubert)3:35
(WxxB 7873) O-8724 a 
12.Ave Maria, D. 839 (Schubert)4:27
(WxxB 7874) O-8719 a 
13.Du bist die Ruh’, D. 776 (Schubert)4:23
(WxxB 7875) O-8724 b 
14.Sei mir gegrüßt, D. 741 (Schubert)3:35
(WxxB 7876) O-8725 a 
15.Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D. 774 (Schubert)3:20
(WxxB 7877) O-8725 b 
16.Der Spielmann, Op. 15, No. 1 (Hildach)4:21
(WxxB 7879) O-8727 b 
17.Ständchen (Leise flehen meine Lieder), No. 4 from SCHWANENGESANG, D. 957 (Schubert)4:07
(WxxB 7880) O-8719 b 
18.Der Tod und das Mädchen, D. 531 (Schubert)3:03
(WBe 6397) O-4800 a 
9 December 1927
Chamber orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
19.Geheimes, D. 719 (Schubert)2:23
(WBe 6400) O-4800 b 

Languages: All tracks are sung in German.

1 Originally Deutsches Opernhaus, it was renamed Städtische Oper after the incorporation of Charlottenburg into Greater Berlin. Today called Deutsche Oper Berlin.

2 The alternative take 2 of side 1 is presented here with a repeat of side 2, take 1, so that the entire performance can be heard with either take of side 1.

CD 2 (78:40)

10 December 1927
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
1.TOSCA: Qual’occhio al mondo (Puccini)4:08
 with Jan Kiepura, tenor  
(WxxB 7881) O-9603 a 
2.TOSCA: Qual’occhio al mondo (Puccini)4:03
 with Jan Kiepura, tenor 
(WxxB 7881-2) O-9603 a  
3.TOSCA: Amaro sol per te m’era il morire (Puccini)4:12
 with Jan Kiepura, tenor 
(WxxB 7882-2) O-9603 b 
13 December 1927
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
4.FIDELIO: Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern (Beethoven)6:09
(WxxB 7885 and WxxB 7886) O-8721 a/b 
5.DER ROSENKAVALIER: O sei er gut, Quinquin … Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding (Richard Strauss)4:13
(WxxB 7887) O-8726 a 
6.LE NOZZE DE FIGARO: Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro (Heil’ge Quelle reiner Triebe) (Mozart)4:15
(WxxB 7888) O-8726 b 
13 March 1928
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
7.LE NOZZE DE FIGARO: Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro (Heil’ge Quelle reiner Triebe) (Mozart)4:13
(LWxxB 7888-2) O-8726 b  
8.Lenz, Op. 19, No. 5 (Hildach)3:19
(LWxxB 7878-2) O-8727 a  
9.DAS WUNDER DER HELIANE: Ich ging zu ihm (Korngold)7:07
(LWxxB 7997-2 and LWxxB 7998-2) O-8722 a/b 
3 September 1928
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
10.EVA: So war meine Mutter … Wär’ es auch nichts als ein Augenblick (Lehár)3:57
(WxxB 8150) O-8730 b 
11.Das Zauberlied, Op. 21, No. 2 (Meyer-Helmund)3:57
(WxxB 8151) O-8730 a 
3 September 1928
Instrumental quartet, conducted from the piano by Hermann Weigert
12.Eine kleine Liebelei (Harry Ralton [born Karl Heinz Rosenthal])3:02
(WBe 7176) O-4801 a 
13.Frühling ist es wieder (Willy Engel-Berger)3:19
(WBe 7177) O-4801 b 
14.Der Nussbaum, No. 3 from MYRTEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)3:02
 with piano only 
(WBe 7178) O-4821 a 
4 September 1928
with Hermann Weigert, piano
15.Aufträge, Op. 77, No. 5 (Schumann)2:17
(WBe 7184-2) O-4821 b 
16.Morgen!, Op. 27, No. 4 (Richard Strauss)3:15
 with unidentified violinist 
(WBe 7189) O-4846 a 
17.Mit deinen blauen Augen, Op. 56, No. 4 (Richard Strauss)2:41
 with unidentified violinist 
(WBe 7183) O-4846 b 
4 September 1928
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
18.Zur Drossel sprach der Fink, Op. 9, No. 4 (d’Albert)2:31
(WBe 7185) O-4823 a 
19.Ach, wer das doch könnte, Op. 30, No. 7 (Wilhelm Berger)2:44
(WBe 7186-2) O-4823 b 
20.O du fröhliche (Christmas carol based on hymn “O sanctissima”)3:07
(WBe 7187) O-4810 b 
21.Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht (Gruber)3:07
(WBe 7188) O-4810 a 

Languages: All tracks are sung in German except tracks 1-3, which are sung in Italian.

CD 3 (78:45)

4 September 1928 (continued)
1.ARIADNE AUF NAXOS: Sie lebt hier ganz allein ... Es gibt ein Reich (Richard Strauss)7:24
(WxxB 8169 and WxxB 8168) O-8731 a/b3 
2.ARIADNE AUF NAXOS: Sie atmet leicht ... Es gibt ein Reich (Richard Strauss)7:04
(WxxB 8169-2 and WxxB 8168) O-8731 a/b4 
10 November 1928
Chamber orchestra, conducted from the piano by Frieder Weissmann
3.Seit ich ihn gesehen2:24
(WBe 7601) O-4806 a 
4.Er, der Herrlichste von allen3:14
(WBe 7602) O-4806 b 
5.Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben2:21
(WBe 7603) O-4807 a 
6.Du Ring an meinem Finger2:48
(WBe 7604) O-4807 b 
7.Helft mir, ihr Schwestern2:33
(WBe 7605) O-4808 a 
8.Süßer Freund, du blickest3:15
(WBe 7606) O-4808 b 
9.An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust2:00
(WBe 7607) O-4809 a 
10.Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan3:04
(WBe 7608) O-4809 b 
11.Ave Maria (Bach-Gounod)2:49
(WBe 7174-2) O-4802 a5 
12.SERSE: Ombra mai fu (Handel)2:46
(WBe 7175-2) O-4802 b 
12 November 1928
with Paul Mania, organ (Welte organ in Lindström Studio 2)
13.Halleluja (Ferdinand Hummel)4:01
(WxxB 8220) O-8733 a 
14.Wo du hingehst (Trauungsgesang), Op. 21 (Louis Roessel)4:11
(WxxB 8221-2) O-8733 b 
17 December 1928
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
15.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Herr Chevalier, ich grüße Sie! (Finale, Act 2) (Johann Strauss, Jr.)7:49
 with Richard Tauber; Karin Branzell; Grete Merrem-Nikisch; Waldemar Stägemann 
(WxxB 8266-2 and WxxB 8267-2) O-8734 a/b 
16.DER ZIGEUNERBARON: Er ist Baron (Finale, Act 1) (Johann Strauss, Jr.)4:04
 with Richard Tauber; Karin Branzell; Grete Merrem-Nikisch; Waldemar Stägemann 
(WxxB 8269) O-8735 b 
17.DER ZIGEUNERBARON: Ein Fürstenkind (Finale, Act 2) (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:38
 with Richard Tauber; Karin Branzell; Grete Merrem-Nikisch; Waldemar Stägemann 
(WxxB 8268-2) O-8735 a 
26 February 1929
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
18.DER FREISCHÜTZ: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer … Leise, leise, fromme Weise (Weber)7:38
(LxxB 8305 and LxxB 8306) O-8741 a/b 
26 February 1929
with Paul Mania, organ (Welte organ in Lindström Studio 2)
19.O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (Hymn) (Hans Leo Hassler; arranged by J. S. Bach)3:07
(LBe 8038) O-4811 a 
20.Christi Mutter stand mit Schmerzen (Hymn) (anonymous, Cologne 1638)2:58
(LBe 8039) O-4811 b 

Languages: All tracks are sung in German.

3 The two sides comprising this aria were recorded in reverse matrix order. Takes 1 and 2 of the first side were both issued, but take 1 is rarely seen. The major difference between these takes is that take 1 begins eight bars earlier in the score than take two.

4 The second take of side one is presented here with a repeat of side two, take one, so that the entire performance can be heard with either take of the first side.

5 Hermann Weigert is mentioned in error on some labels of O-4802; he and the BSO were only employed for the unissued first takes.

CD 4 (79:52)

26 February 1929 (continued)
1.Geleite durch die Welle (Hymn) (Johann Caspar Aiblinger)2:57
(LBe 8040) O-4803 a 
2.Es blüht der Blumen eine (Hymn) (P. A. Schubiger)3:00
(LBe 8041) O-4803 b 
16 April 1929
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
3.Es gibt eine Frau die dich niemals vergisst (Jim Cowler [born Karl Gustav Herbert Noack])3:20
(WBe 8143) O-4805 a 
4.Der Duft, der eine schöne Frau begleitet (Hans May)3:18
(WBe 8144) O-4804 a 
5.Wenn du einmal dein Herz verschenkst (Willy Rosen)2:46
(WBe 8145) O-4804 b 
6.Ich hol’ dir vom Himmel das Blau (Lehár6)3:00
(WBe 8146) O-4805 b 
13 June 1929
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
7.TOSCA: Vissi d’arte (Nur der Schönheit) (Puccini)3:08
(LxxB 8321-3) O-8736 a 
8.LA BOHÈME: Mi chiamano Mimì (Man nennt mich jetzt Mimi) (Puccini)3:51
(LxxB 8322-2) O-8736 b 
(LBe 8299-2) O-4812 b 
(LBe 8300-2) O-4812 a 
11.Widmung, No. 1 from MYRTEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)2:18
(LBe 8301-2) O-4824 a 
12.Du bist wie eine Blume, No. 24 from MYRTEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)2:43
(LBe 8302) O-4824 b 
13.Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29, No. 1 (Richard Strauss)2:47
(LBe 8303) O-4820 a 
14.Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2 (Richard Strauss)2:49
(LBe 8304) O-4820 b 
3 October 1929
Paul Mania, organ (Welte organ in Lindström Studio 2)
15.O heil’ger Geist, kehr bei uns ein (Hymn) (Philipp Nikolai)3:01
(LBe 8590) O-4814 a 
16.Aus tiefer Not (Hymn) (Wolfgang Dachstein)3:13
(LBe 8591) O-4815 b 
17.Ach bleib’ mit deiner Gnade (Hymn) (Melchior Vulpius)2:58
(LBe 8592) O-4815 a 
18.Jesus, meine Zuversicht (Hymn) (Johann Crüger)3:05
(LBe 8593) O-4816 a 
19.Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott (Hymn) (Fifteenth century, arranged by Johann Walter)3:08
(LBe 8594) O-4816 b 
20.DIOMEDES: Bist du bei mir (Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel; arranged by J. S. Bach BWV 508)3:14
(LBe 8595-2) O-4814 b 
20 February 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Ernst Römer
21.Scheiden und Meiden (Es ritten drei Reiter zum Tore hinaus) (German folk song; arranged by Römer)3:20
(LBe 8878) O-4817 a 
22.Krasny sarafan (Der rote Sarafan) (Aleksandr E. Varlamov; arranged by Römer)3:22
(LBe 8879) O-4822 a 
23.Es stieß ein Jäger wohl in sein Horn (German folk song; arranged by Römer)3:07
(LBe 8880) O-4817 b 
21 February 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Ernst Römer
24.Es waren zwei Königskinder (German folk song; arranged by Römer)3:16
(LBe 8881) O-4822 b 
21 February 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissman
25.TANNHÄUSER: Dich, teure Halle (Wagner)2:59
(LBe 8882) O-4813 a 
26.TANNHÄUSER: Allmächt’ge Jungfrau (Wagner)3:15
(LBe 8883) O-4813 b 

Languages: All tracks are sung in German.

6 This selection has often erroneously been ascribed to Lehár’s “Die lustige Witwe”; in fact, it is an arrangement of the tune “Gigolette” from Lehár’s Italian operetta “La Danza delle Libellule”. The confusion has arisen because in earlier times this song was occasionally interpolated into “Lustige Witwe” performances.

CD 5 (81:02)

21 February 1930 (continued)
1.LOHENGRIN: Euch Lüften, die mein Klagen (Wagner)3:10
(LBe 8884) O-4819 b 
2.LOHENGRIN: Einsam in trüben Tagen (Wagner)3:24
(LBe 8885) O-4819 a 
18 June 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
3.FAUST: Je voudrais bien savoir quel était ce jeune homme … Il était un roi de Thulé (Ich gäb’ was drum, wenn ich nur wüsst’ … Es war ein König in Thule) (Gounod)4:09
(LxxB 8494) O-8747 b 
4.MIGNON: Connais-tu le pays? (Kennst du das Land?) (Thomas)3:34
(LxxB 8495) O-8747 a 
5.DIE WALKÜRE: Du bist der Lenz (Wagner)1:53
(LxxB 8497) O-8745 a 
6.TRISTAN UND ISOLDE: Mild und leise [Liebestod] (Wagner)5:11
(LxxB 8497 and LxxB 8498) O-8745 a/b 
7.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Piangi? Perchè? … Un bel dì, vedremo (Weh’ mir, du weinst! … Eines Tages seh’n wir) (Puccini)3:36
(LxxB 8499; re-recorded to 10-inch matrix LBe 9935-0) O-4834 b 
19 June 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Ernst Römer, and unidentified organist (Welte organ in Lindström Studio 2)
8.The sacred hour (Andachtsstunde) (Ketèlbey; arranged by Ernst Römer)3:24
 with with Karl Zander, speaker 
(LBe 8876-2) O-4818 a 
9.Sanctuary of the heart (Heiligtum des Herzens) (Ketèlbey; arranged by Ernst Römer)3:13
(LBe 8877-2) O-4818 b 
19 June 1930
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
10.Ich grolle nicht, No. 7 from DICHTERLIEBE, Op. 48 (Schumann)2:13
(LBe 9044) O-4825 a 
19 June 1930
with Frieder Weissmann, piano
11.Erlkönig, D. 329 (Schubert)2:50
(LBe 9045) O-4825 b 
23 May 1931
Berlin State Opera Chorus and unidentified organist (Welte organ in Lindström Studio 2)
12.Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott (Hymn) (Martin Luther)3:11
(LBe 9488) O-4828 a 
13.Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe (Hymn) (Bortniansky)3:06
(LBe 9489-2) O-4828 b 
23 May 1931
with instrumental trio, conducted from the piano by Frieder Weissmann
14.Die Mainacht, Op. 43, No. 2 (Brahms)3:17
(LBe 9490) O-4829 a 
15.Schlaf, Herzenssöhnchen [Wiegenlied] Op. 13, No. 2 (Weber)2:41
(LBe 9491-2) O-4838 a 
16.‘s Zuschau’n [Lied im bayrischen Volkston], Op. 326, No. 37 (Carl Bohm)2:56
(LBe 9492) O-4838 b 
26 May 1931
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
17.MIGNON: Elle est là, près de lui (Dort bei ihm ist sie jetzt) (Thomas)3:15
(LBe 9493) O-4826 a 
18.MIGNON: Je connais un pauvre enfant (Kam ein armes Kind von fern) [Styrienne] (Thomas)3:01
(LBe 9494) O-4826 b 
19.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Klänge der Heimat [Czardas] (Johann Strauss, Jr.)2:47
(LBe 9495-2) O-4831 a 
20.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir? (Johann Strauss, Jr.)2:54
(LBe 9496) O-4831 b 
21.Vergebliches Ständchen, Op. 84, No. 4 (Brahms)2:37
 with instrumental trio, conducted from the piano by Frieder Weissmann 
(LBe 9497) O-4829 b 
23 April 1932
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
22.DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE: Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden (Mozart)3:17
(LBe 9905) O-4832 b 
23.DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR: Nun eilt herbei, Witz, heit’re Laune (Nicolai)5:25
(LBe 9906 and LBe 9907) O-4833 a/b 
24.MADAME BUTTERFLY: Ah! Quanto cielo! … Ancora un passo or via (Oh! Weiter Himmel! … Bald sind wir auf der Höhe) [Entrance of Butterfly] (Puccini)2:37
 with female members of the Berlin State Opera chorus 
(LBe 9908) O-4832 a 
25.OTELLO: Piangea cantando nell’erma landa (Sie saß mit Leide auf öder Heide) [Willow Song] (Verdi)3:20
(LBe9909) O-4834 a 

Languages: All tracks are sung in German.

CD 6 (79:11)

25 April 1932
Odeon Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Gurlitt
1.Die Lotosblume, No. 7 from MYRTEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)2:14
(LBe 9910) O-4839 a 
2.An den Sonnenschein, Op. 36, No. 4 (Schumann)1:16
(LBe 9911) O-4839 b 
3.Marienwürmchen, Op. 79, No. 13 (Schumann)1:37
(LBe 9911) O-4839 b 
4.Die Trommel gerühret!, No. 2 from EGMONT, Op. 84 (Beethoven)2:21
(LBe 9912) O-4835 a 
5.Freudvoll und leidvoll, No. 4 from EGMONT, Op. 84 (Beethoven)2:59
(LBe 9913) O-4835 b 
6.Sandmännchen, No. 4 from VOLKSKINDERLIEDER, WoO 31 (Brahms)2:59
(LBe 9914) O-4836 b 
7.Gruß (Leise zieht durch mein Gemüt), Op. 19a, No. 5 (Mendelssohn)1:21
(LBe 9915) O-4836 a 
8.Der Schmied, Op. 19, No. 4 (Brahms)1:12
(LBe 9915) O-4836 a 
20 June 1933
Odeon Opera Orchestra, conducted by Frieder Weissmann
9.WERTHER: Werther, Werther! Qui m’aurait dit la place (Werther, Werther! Nicht kann ich mir’s verhehlen) (Massenet)6:35
(LBe 10384-2 and LBe 10385) O-4845 a/b 
10.LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN: Elle a fui, la tourterelle (Sie entfloh, die Taube so minnig) (Offenbach)3:08
(LBe 10386) O-4844 a 
11.MANON: Obéissons quand leur voix appelle … Profitons bien de la jeunesse (Folget dem Ruf … Nützet die schönen, jungen Tage) [Gavotte] (Massenet)2:53
(LBe 10387) O-4844 b 
12.DIE TOTEN AUGEN: Psyche wandelt durch Säulenhallen (d’Albert)3:03
(LBe 10388) O-4841 a 
13.LE NOZZE DE FIGARO: Deh vieni, non tardar (O säume länger nicht) (Mozart)3:25
(LBe 10389) O-4841 b 
11 November 1933
Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Richard Jäger
14.ARABELLA: Mein Elemer! (Richard Strauss)6:17
(PBe 10468 and PBe 10469) O-4842 a/b 
15.ARABELLA: Er ist der Richtige nicht für mich (Richard Strauss)5:59
 with Käte Heidersbach 
(PBe 10470 and PBe 10471) O-4843 a/b 
A selection of off-the-air recordings
24 November 1935
The Magic Key
Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frank Black
16.LOHENGRIN: Einsam in trüben Tagen (Wagner)8:13
17.Wiegenlied, Op. 41, No. 1 (Richard Strauss)4:09
15 February 1943
CBS radio broadcast with Paul Ulanowsky, piano
18.Aufträge, Op. 77, No. 5 (Schumann)2:11
7 March 1948
Town Hall recital with Paul Ulanowsky, piano
19.Andenken (Beethoven)3:15
20.Faithfu’ Johnie (Der treue Johnie), No. 20 from 25 Scottish Songs, Op. 108 (Beethoven))3:57
21.Neue Liebe, Op. 19a, No. 4 (Mendelssohn)2:03
22.Suleika, Op. 34, No. 4 (Mendelssohn)2:39
23.Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, Op. 34, No. 2 (Mendelssohn)2:36
24.Venezianisches Gondellied, Op. 57, No. 5 (Mendelssohn)2:49

Languages: All tracks are sung in German.


•     •     •     •     •

Producer: Gary Hickling

Associate Producers: Ward Marston and Scott Kessler

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris

Photos: Girvice Archer, Gregor Benko, and Gary Hickling

Booklet Coordinator: Mark S. Stehle

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

Booklet Notes: Michael Aspinall, Daniel Jacobson, and Gary Hickling

Project sponsorship has been provided by the Lotte Lehmann Foundation and Peter Askim, Janet R. Cooke, Vincent Gioia, Gary Hickling, and Dr. Herman Schornstein.



Marston would like to thank the following for making recordings available for the production of this set: The estate of Richard Bebb with help from Owen Williams; Gregor Benko; Gary Hickling; Lawrence F. Holdridge; Karsten Lehl; Andreas Schmauder; and Axel Weggen.

Marston would like to thank Herbert Gruy for providing the transfers for CD 5, tracks 15 and 16.

Marston would like to thank Christian Zwarg for providing important discographic information.

would like to thank Jolyon Hudson, David Mason, and Christian Zwarg for providing technical research assistance on the Lindström Company.

Marston is grateful to the Estate of John Stratton (Stephen R. Clarke, Executor) for its continuing support.


Charlotte Sophie Pauline Lehmann (“Lotte”) was born on 27 February 1888 in Perleberg, Germany, a town halfway between Berlin and Hamburg. Though Prussian-born and eventually American-naturalized, she came to represent to the world the traditional Viennese qualities of charm, breeding, and warm-heartedness.

Her voice was discovered by a neighbor who had heard her singing while doing housework, and convinced her parents to let Lotte audition for Berlin’s Royal Academy of Music. When she became discouraged there by the focus on oratorio, Lotte moved on to Etelka Gerster’s School of Singing, where she was awarded free tuition and assigned to study with Eva Reinhold. Apparently the Gerster method included using small wooden sticks to keep the student’s mouth open the same amount for every tone, vowel, pitch, and register. This was antithetical to Lehmann’s emerging natural vocal instincts, so within a few months the twenty-year-old was dismissed by Reinhold, whose letter stated “… none of my pupils has ever been such a disappointment as you have … if you want to and have to achieve something in the future, you should take up a practical career.”

Believing this assessment, Lotte’s father enrolled her in a commercial course slated to start within a month. In desperation, she wrote a letter to Mathilde Mallinger, who had been Wagner’s first Eva in Die Meistersinger, begging for a chance to study with her. Mallinger accepted Lehmann into her singing class in Berlin, and Lotte’s voice began to blossom. She progressed rapidly and soon she was encouraged to start learning entire operatic roles, the very first being Agathe in Der Freischütz. Yet Mallinger felt that Lehmann was dramatically weak, so in early 1910 she sent Lotte to study the role from the actor’s perspective with Felix Dahn, stage director at the Berlin Royal Opera.

In September 1910, Lehmann made her debut at the Hamburg Opera as the Second Boy in Die Zauberflöte. During the next four years in that house she performed more than 250 times, both in secondary parts 1 and in such solo roles as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Agathe in Der Freischütz, Freia in Das Rheingold, and Micaëla in Carmen.

It was in Hamburg that Lehmann met the young conductor Otto Klemperer, who became a lifelong friend, supporter, and admirer. When another soprano canceled, Klemperer persuaded the Hamburg management to let Lehmann take on Elsa in Lohengrin, with only a week to master the part. With the benefit of Klemperer’s fierce and relentless coaching, that performance on 29 November 1912 as Elsa made Lehmann a star—quite a turnaround for someone who was told she couldn’t act and would never earn a penny with her voice! The press notices were nothing less than glowing. The critic for the Hamburger Fremdenblatt wrote: “The swan knights … have seldom rushed to rescue a more enchanting, more tender Elsa, so touched with romantic magic, as she was outwardly portrayed by Frl. Lehmann. An Elsa without the excesses of the usual prima donna, an Elsa who was all innocence and guilelessness. Artistically too, Frl. Lehmann fulfills her task for the present in a way that is entirely her own … [S]he gives herself up completely to the impressions of the moment and to the dramatic situation.” The Hamburger Neueste Nachrichten critic wrote the following: “When one considers what it means for such a young singer to be suddenly at the center of interest, her performance was of astounding assurance. The voice of Frl. Lehmann has such a pure, heartfelt sound, her emission of tone is so steady and finely cultivated, that the songs of Elsa breathed all the sweetness of youthful innocence ….”

In 1914, while continuing to perform leading roles in Hamburg, Lehmann made her debut as Eva in Die Meistersinger at Vienna’s Court Opera, later to become the Vienna State Opera. She also made her very first recordings, two of Elsa’s arias from Lohengrin. By that time she had already established enough of a reputation to succeed Claire Dux as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for Thomas Beecham’s season at London’s Drury Lane, and to perform with the Cologne Opera. In the course of another 200 performances over the next thirty months, she added the roles of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Sieglinde in Die Walküre, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Margiana in Cornelius’s Der Barbier von Bagdad, Angèle in Heuberger’s Der Opernball, Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Ada in Weingartner’s Kain und Abel, and Rachel in Halévy’s La Juive. By 1915, Lotte was also doing song recitals and church concerts, including one in February 1916 honoring fallen German soldiers. On 30 May 1916, Lehmann bid farewell to the Hamburg Opera as Myrtocle in Die toten Augen. Four days later she gave a farewell recital of arias by Wagner and songs by Schumann, Brahms, and Richard Strauss.

In August 1916, Lehmann gave her first performance as a regular member of the Vienna Court Opera, singing Agathe in Der Freischütz. She quickly established herself as one of the company’s most beloved stars, and in her twenty-one years there (1916–1937), she sang more than fifty roles. In addition to the German characters generally associated with her, she portrayed the title roles in Mignon, Manon, Tosca, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly, Suor Angelica, and Turandot; Mimì in La bohème, Giorgetta in Il Tabarro, Marie/Marietta in Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, Heliane in Das Wunder der Heliane, Charlotte in Werther, Silla in Pfitzner’s Palestrina, Helene in the premiere of Bittner’s Die Kohlhaymerin, Blanchefleur in Kienzl’s Der Kuhreigen, Juana in the premiere of Braunfels’ Don Gil, Maddalena in Andrea Chénier, Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust, Tatyana in Yevgeni Onegin, and Lisa in Pikovaya Dama. Richard Strauss chose her to premiere the Composer in the revised version of Ariadne auf Naxos (1916) and the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919). She also sang Christine in the world premiere of Intermezzo in Dresden (1924). Strauss was particularly charmed by her performances in Arabella and Der Rosenkavalier. During the Beethoven Centenary in Vienna in 1927, Lehmann’s debut performance as Leonore in Fidelio was critically acclaimed as one of her greatest achievements. She also appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival from 1926 to 1937, performing under Toscanini, among others, while also giving Lieder recitals there with Bruno Walter at the piano. In August 1936, she discovered the Trapp Family Singers, later made famous in The Sound of Music. Exclaiming that the children had a precious gift and the family had “gold in their throats,” Lehmann convinced them to enter the Salzburg Festival contest for group singing the following night for their first-ever public performance, and the rest is history.

During this time Lehmann’s international career blossomed both on the stage and in recital. Heralded in Dresden, Berlin, and Cologne, she became the first German to sing opera in Belgium after World War I. During the summer of 1922, she toured Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil as Freia, Sieglinde, and Gutrune, under Weingartner’s direction. She performed regularly to great acclaim at Covent Garden. There in 1924, under Bruno Walter’s baton, she portrayed the Marschallin for the first time, making her the first soprano in history to have sung all three female lead roles in Der Rosenkavalier. She returned to London almost every year until 1938, performing her famous Wagner and Strauss roles, as well as Desdemona in Otello and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Her performances in Paris, starting in 1928, were highly praised, and in 1929 after a performance of Fidelio, the King of Sweden awarded her the gold medal in Literature and the Arts. Her career in America began with historic performances as Sieglinde during the 1930/1931 season of the Chicago Civic Opera Company. The following year she gave her first New York recitals to sold-out houses. Finally, in 1934, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sieglinde, a debut that has rarely been matched for artistic brilliance, public admiration, and critical acclaim. On 18 February 1935, she graced the cover of Time magazine. Performing widely across the United States every season for the next dozen years, she became one of America’s most beloved singers, her name synonymous at the Met, San Francisco, and Chicago opera houses with the roles of the Marschallin, Sieglinde, Elisabeth, Eva, and Elsa.

Lehmann had very little interest in politics, but her personal and musical lives could not escape the impact of the events of her time. In 1926 she had married Otto Krause, a prosperous Viennese insurance man who became her constant travel companion and greatest advocate. They made their home in Vienna and were enjoying a comfortable life there until rumblings began in Germany. In 1934, Lehmann encountered Hermann Göring, founder of the Gestapo and second in command to Hitler. On 19 April while giving a recital in Dresden, a messenger informed her that Göring was sending his private plane to bring her to Berlin. Upon her arrival the following day, Hitler’s birthday, Heinz Tietjen (the politically-important director of several Prussian state theaters) escorted her to Göring, who was troubled by her rising popularity in America. Göring wanted the German-born star to focus her career in Germany and to be an integral part of a “reformation” of opera planned by Göring, Tietjen, and Richard Strauss. (The finer points of this meeting and its subsequent consequences have been recently uncovered and documented by Professor Michael Kater.) It is clear that Lehmann’s responses and approach did not please the Nazi leadership; this, as well as her decision to pursue her growing opportunities in America, led to a rapid decline in the number of her engagements in Germany, though she was still the darling of Austria.

In 1936, things got more complicated and dangerous with the unexpected death of Otto’s first wife, Grete Krause, a wealthy Jewish woman and mother of his four children, now ages 17 to 21. The children joined them in Vienna. In March 1937, Otto, Lotte, and her new accompanist Paul Ulanowsky embarked on a lengthy recital tour in Australia, but Otto became increasingly ill on the trip with what was later diagnosed as tuberculosis. In March 1938, Otto was with Lotte in New York for her Met season when Hitler seized control of Austria. With his half-Jewish children now in mortal danger, Otto rushed back to Austria to try to secure their safe passage to America. Meanwhile, Lotte begged her friends in the United States to help with immigration, while pulling every string she still had in Austria. Otto’s physical condition soon became critical and he was sent to a sanatorium in Switzerland. By then the children had passports and immigration papers for the United States, but their documents to leave Austria were unstamped because of legal issues over their deceased mother’s unpaid taxes. On May 4th, Lehmann was in London at Covent Garden, terrified for Otto’s life and the children’s safety. Midway through the first act of Der Rosenkavalier she collapsed on stage. Unbeknownst to her or Otto, the children decided on their own to pack their bags and board the Orient Express bound for Paris. A few days later, they somehow made their way across the border. The family reunited there and made their way to America, where they applied for U.S. citizenship.

Lotte was away on a recital tour in the Pacific Northwest in late January 1939 when Otto was suddenly hospitalized with pneumonia. He died before she could get back to New York, delayed because of a blizzard on the East Coast. She never remarried, but found an ideal companion in Dr. Frances Holden, a professor at New York University who specialized in the study of the psychology of genius, particularly that of classical musicians. Lotte and Otto had befriended her a few years earlier, and Otto told Lotte that Holden was the one person she could most rely on after his passing. He was right, and Holden ultimately gave up her own career to live with Lehmann and help manage her affairs. The two drove across the country to California in the summer of 1940, to Santa Barbara, which Lehmann had adored ever since her first visit there in 1936. Holden purchased a dream home high in the foothills for them, but five weeks later it was destroyed in a brush fire, so Holden bought a more modest home with spectacular views overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara’s Hope Ranch area, where they both lived for the rest of their lives. (Holden outlived Lehmann by twenty years, dying in August 1996 at age ninety-seven.) Lehmann named the house Orplid, after Mörike’s 1832 poem “Gesang Weylas” [Weyla’s Song], which appropriately describes its beauty:

Du bist Orplid, mein Land!
[You are Orplid, my land!]

Das ferne leuchtet;
[Gleaming in the distance;]

Vom Meere dampfet dein besonnter Strand
[From the sea steams your sunny shore]

Den Nebel, so der Götter Wange feuchtet.
[Mists rise to moisten the gods’ cheeks.]

Uralte Wasser steigen
[Ancient waters rise]

Verjüngt um deine Hüften, Kind!
[Rejuvenated about your hips, child!]

Vor deiner Gottheit beugen
[Before your divinity bow kings,]

Sich Könige, die deine Wärter sind.
[Who are your attendants.]

In the 1940s Lehmann began dropping her operatic roles, while maintaining her recital career. She gave her final Met performance as the Marschallin on 17 February 1945. Four months later, after seven years of waiting and red tape, Lehmann finally became a naturalized American citizen. On 1 November 1946 in Los Angeles, she bid adieu to the opera stage, again as the Marschallin, the role for which she is perhaps best remembered.

For the next seven years Lehmann devoted herself to the concert stage, accompanied by Paul Ulanowsky. Her unrivaled interpretations brought her acclaim as the foremost recitalist of her generation. She broke new ground by becoming the first woman to record the complete Die Winterreise, Die schöne Müllerin, Dichterliebe, and to perform An die ferne Geliebte. She made numerous radio appearances, and by the end of her career had a legacy of more than 400 recordings of operatic literature, religious songs, and Lieder. She even appeared in the MGM film, Big City, in 1948. Lehmann’s devoted public was shocked when, on 16 February 1951, in the midst of one of her many New York Town Hall recitals, she unexpectedly announced her retirement. She did, however, sing in public several more times, including a benefit recital in Santa Barbara on behalf of the Music Academy of the West, which she had cofounded, along with Otto Klemperer and a group of California arts patrons, in 1947. Her final recital was in Pasadena on 11 November 1951.

During her retirement years, Lehmann continued working as a teacher and author, while pursuing her hobby as a painter. She was the first to give vocal interpretation classes in the U.S.: initially at the Music Academy of the West, then in New York and Chicago, and in London, Vienna, and other major cities. Over the course of sixteen years she taught such esteemed singers as Marilyn Horne, Grace Bumbry, Jeannine Altmeyer, Kay Griffel, Benita Valente, Norman Mittelmann, and Carol Neblett, all of whom enjoyed successful careers with the Metropolitan Opera. Lehmann wrote five books and published dozens of articles on musical subjects. She was prolific as an artist, creating three complete sets of paintings to illustrate the song cycles of Schubert and Schumann, dozens of oil portraits of opera scenarios and personal friends, numerous tile mosaics and paintings, and many other artworks in various media.

Lehmann’s accomplishments were recognized by many special honors during her lifetime, as in 1931 when she became the first German after World War I to receive the French order of the Légion d’honneur. In 1955 she was awarded the Lotte Lehmann Honor Ring by the reopened Vienna State Opera for her contributions “to the glory of Vienna Opera between the two world wars.” In 1960 she was recognized as Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with her star placed at 1735 Vine Street. In 1961 she was given the Austrian Medal of Honor. In honor of her 80th birthday, 27 February 1968 was declared Lotte Lehmann Day in Santa Barbara. She received gifts and telegrams from presidents and various high-ranking officials from around the world, and a special concert in her honor was presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. In 1969, the city of Salzburg awarded her the Great Silver Medal, and named a street after her the following year. Honorary doctorates were conferred upon her by the University of California, Santa Barbara, Northwestern University, the University of Portland, Oregon, and Mills College in Oakland, California.

Lotte Lehmann died in Santa Barbara on 26 August 1976 at age eighty-eight, and is interred in the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. Her headstone is inscribed with a quote from Richard Strauss: “Sie hat gesungen, daß es Sterne rührte” (When she sang, she moved the stars).

© Daniel Jacobson,
Professor of Music,
Western Michigan University

1  Lehmann’s secondary roles in Hamburg 1910-1914 include:
First and Second Boy in Die Zauberflöte, three different Valkyries in Die Walküre, a Rhinemaiden in Das Rheingold, page roles in Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, the Shepherd Boy in Tannhäuser, First Esquire in Lohengrin, an apprentice in Die Meistersinger, a Messenger of Peace in Rienzi, a Flower Maiden in Parsifal, a choirboy in Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, Max in Offenbach’s La Chanson de Fortunio, the Sandman and the Dewman in Hänsel und Gretel, and a young maiden in Wolf- Ferrari’s I gioielli della Madonna.

Her major Hamburg roles include: a bridesmaid and Agathe in Der Freischütz, Pepa in Tiefland, a mermaid in Oberon, Freia in Das Rheingold, Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, Anna in Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Lola in Cavalleria rusticana, May in Goldmark’s Das Heimchen am Herd, Euridice in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, Martha in Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann, Micaëla in Carmen, Irene in Rienzi, Echo in Ariadne auf Naxos, Iphigénie in Iphigénie en Aulide, Antonia in Les contes d’Hoffmann, Myrtocle in d’Albert’s Die toten Augen, Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Eurydice in Offenbach’s Orphée aux enfers, and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier.


A singer? More than that! A soul that sings!
—anonymous Parisian critic, 1930

Throughout the years that she continued to record for Odeon in Germany, Lotte Lehmann preserved more or less intact the lovely, richly warm quality of timbre that the acoustic recording horn had caught incompletely, but with surprising fidelity. The Odeon electrical engineers seem to have placed their singers near the microphone, leading to vivid (and sometimes rather edgy) recordings that could be difficult to reproduce well on domestic record players. From these close quarters we can scrutinize Lehmann’s voice and technique: she passes the test triumphantly. In her autobiography she describes her long struggle to achieve freedom of vocal emission; she gradually formed a highly personal technique based on the established principles of both the Italian and the German schools. She has an even scale, reaching in her prime from at least the A-flat below the stave to the high D-flat; the head register has been well developed, and although she does not often seem to want to offer the pianissimo effects above the stave so beloved of German sopranos in her day, she never needs to cautiously maneuver through high-lying passages as many of her colleagues had to do, but could sail through them with apparent spontaneity. (She did occasionally avail herself of downward transposition.) The voice is correctly placed “in the mask”, without nasality, and this, together with firm support on the breath, gave rise both to her command of legato and her famously limpid and clear enunciation of the words. Whatever she sings, her jaw, tongue, and lips are perfectly relaxed. Not every opera lover agrees on what constitutes a beautiful voice, but Lehmann’s rich purple and gold timbre seems to please everyone. Critics and admirers would enthuse about her interpretative skills, of which her records supply abundant evidence. German singers of her day, usually bound to theaters by rigid contracts, were hard-working, and Lotte Lehmann was no exception: over the strenuous years after her debut in 1910, her voice gained in womanly warmth but lost just a little of the noteworthy accuracy and finish in florid singing that we hear in the brilliant arias that she recorded acoustically. We notice an increasing shortness of breath (Lehmann herself was aware of this, but on at least one occasion she attributed it to nerves!), and sometimes a less pure, more throaty attack, perhaps because the spontaneity of her enunciation of text inclined her gradually to make more use of the glottal stop, which German singers in the nineteenth century avoided in artistic singing, limiting it to colloquial speech. Had she sung more opera in French and Italian she might perhaps have avoided this guttural attack. Her enunciation of the German language is otherwise without any harshness, and we shall not find in her records the annoying mannerism of leaving a gap between the last vowel of a phrase and its successive consonant, unduly prolonged. There is no spitting out of final consonants in Lehmann’s records.

Electrical recording was introduced into the Odeon studios in Berlin just in time to capture Lotte in her daring, but successful assumption of the role of Turandot, which she had created for Vienna in October 1926, but would not keep in her repertoire for long. She is imperious in her entrance aria “In questa reggia” and touching in the excerpt from act 3, “Del primo pianto”. The role of Turandot has always been regarded as “killer”, a “voice wrecker”, and so on, but then Puccini had heard the magnificent Rosa Raisa sing and had her voice in his mind as he wrote the music. Lehmann is true to her own methods in “In questa reggia”: she observes all Puccini’s stress accents and dynamic markings without ever resorting to shouting or screaming. In the high-lying passages she intensifies her tone with the security of a gleaming silver trumpet, up to a perfectly placed and ringing high B-natural. The warmth and richness of her medium register add a touch of humanity not often available to the typical dramatic soprano who specializes in Turandot. The record comes to an end before the phrase that would take her up to the high C, which has led to ironic comments from others besides myself, but then, in the last phrases of “Del primo pianto” she confounds unbelievers by sailing up to a splendid high C (“Più grande vittoria non voler!” in the original, which might be translated: “Don’t ask for anything more!”). It should be noticed that the conductors who worked with her in the Odeon recording studios, Fritz Zweig, Manfred Gurlitt, Hermann Weigert, and Frieder Weissmann, were all excellent musicians thoroughly grounded in the traditions of the older music they conducted and well able to deal with contemporary music.

German Opera and Mozart

Her very next record, made the same day, brings her into competition with her younger self: her magnificent acoustic recording of “Ozean, du Ungeheuer” was made in 1920 when she was only thirty-two and probably at her vocal peak. The same vocal and musical imagination is revealed in both versions, so we need not worry if in 1927 she had to work hard to create her effects, whereas in 1920 she had been able to ride nonchalantly over the difficulties of this aria in which Weber, as sometimes happened, had little consideration for the singer: the vocal line is awkward, and he left few opportunities for the soprano to take a deep breath. Fortunately for Weber, the role of Rezia was entrusted to Miss Paton, whom he much admired: her technique was so finished that she also used to sing Mandane in Arne’s Artaxerxes, a role that tested every facet of a soprano’s technique and style, which is one reason why Weber wrote such a difficult aria for her. In the opening recitative section, without having the “dramatic soprano” voice and extraordinary breadth of style of Anna von Bahr-Mildenburg, Lehmann declaims eloquently and with considerable grandeur, although her attack on the high G of “Ozean” is guttural. She successfully conveys Rezia’s shifting emotions throughout the long scene. In 1920 her timbre, for all its warmth, still had the pearly, lunar sheen typical of the Elsa, Eva, and Elisabeth Fach, and enough of this remains in the 1927 repeat to counter-balance the hint of a more mature and experienced woman. (One would not like to say “a middle-aged Rezia” or “a Marschallin voice” because as long as she sang in opera Lotte Lehmann remained joyfully and vividly young.)

In 1918 Lotte recorded an extraordinarily beautiful “Leise, leise” from Der Freischütz, which she repeated for Odeon in 1925. Her electrical recording of 1929 is also among her great achievements; if in 1925 her rapid coloratura is more labored than in 1918, in 1929 the florid passages give her even more trouble, but in the end she triumphs over all difficulties. It is interesting to note that since 1925 she has re-studied the aria and now includes all the appoggiaturas, omitted in her previous recordings. The fact that she inserts the appoggiaturas into some classical arias and not others reflects the confusion reigning in that period over musicological matters. In “Porgi amor” from Le nozze di Figaro she perhaps surpasses her own earlier recording, but now in 1927–1928 she inserts only one of the three appoggiaturas required, while in “Deh vieni, non tardar” (1933)—one of her incomparable recordings—she inserts them all! Among many recordings of Susanna’s aria Lehmann’s stands out: despite the limitations of the 10” record side, she keeps to the traditional Viennese slow tempo, and she fully realizes the erotic implications of a scene in which the cunning servant-girl is well aware that two aspiring lovers are hiding in the bushes, listening to her repeated invitation: “Come, come!” This record should be enforced listening for all singers who study Mozart.

Unfortunately, Lotte recorded Pamina’s aria “Ach, ich fühl’s” too late in her career for her to sing such a slow and high-lying piece with ease, and the rapid tempo adopted to fit it onto a 10” record prevents it from entering into the “Master Class” category. On the same day, however, she recorded an enchantingly witty version of Frau Fluth’s aria “Nun eilt herbei” from Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor; not to be compared, perhaps, with her own fleet and flashing coloratura in the 1920 recording, but bubbling over with fun despite the too rapid tempi. The music suits both her personality and her voice: in the final bars she manages some rapid scale passages with a fluidity that was not available to her on the day she recorded “Komm, Hoffnung”. Her long “apprentice period” in Hamburg in varying opera and operetta parts must have helped her to develop her invigorating clearness and rapidity in comic music, the words tripping off the tongue in a way that she would make good use of in her later career as a Lieder specialist.

Lotte first sang Fidelio in Vienna in 1927 during the celebrations of the centenary of Beethoven’s death. It would become one of the roles most closely associated with her, despite her difficulties with the great aria “Komm, Hoffnung”, which she recorded later that same year (later, on at least one occasion, she transposed it a semitone down). Although Beethoven’s music is often, as here, clumsily written for the human voice, in following this famous and beloved record with the score it is obvious that the only real difficulty she had to wrestle with was her own shortness of breath, cruelly exposed by some of the longer phrases. Despite some cunning distribution of snatched extra breaths, she occasionally breathes in the middle of a word—scarcely classical practice. Her loving execution of Beethoven’s beautiful opening adagio, which calls for some of her most touching piano singing, is followed by an impulsive and stimulating performance of the allegro con brio. As in the Weber arias, she demonstrates the excellence of her musical training by including all the appoggiaturas, confirming the supremacy of her interpretation over most others.

A glance at the score warns us that Lotte will be taxed by Beethoven’s unattractive setting of Klärchen’s two songs from Goethe’s Egmont. “Die Trommmel gerühret” offers no opportunities for legato or, indeed, any of the graces of singing, and “Freudvoll und leidvoll” is cruelly written for the normal soprano voice. Lotte is tired by the end, having had to negotiate her way up to high A on words almost entirely composed of the vowels e and i; the record producer (if there was such a person) then has her repeat the entire song to fill up the record side!


When in 1915 Lotte sang her first Elisabeth in Tannhäuser in Hamburg, a critic commented: “She knows how to surround her characters with a halo of pure poetry, unfolded from within; and without affectation or anything forced she finds—as if of her own accord—the character and the form that express the inner being and the spirit of Wagner’s art….” Fifteen years later she made four triumphantly successful discs of the principal arias of Elisabeth and Elsa, her interpretations showing the maturity of the experienced opera singer who has preserved intact her voice and technique. In Elisabeth’s greeting to the Hall of Song her tones are vibrant, and she rises to a triumphant high B at the conclusion. In contrast, as we listen to her calmly radiant tones in Elisabeth’s Prayer, we wonder how she contrives to sound as if she is actually praying. She brings a lovely pianissimo to Elsa’s song to the breezes (“Euch Lüften”), and injects new life into Elsa’s Dream (“Einsam in trüben Tagen”) by some clever touches, seeming actually to fall asleep at “ich sank in süßen Schlaf” and rallying in maidenly excitement as she describes her vision of the knight in shining armor who is to be her champion.

Instead of rushing Isolde’s “Liebestod” to fit it onto one side of the record, Odeon solved the problem by having Lotte Lehmann sing Sieglinde’s “Du bist der Lenz” as a “curtain raiser” on the first side, then going on to begin Isolde’s Death Song, which continued on side 2 after a break. The result is fairly impressive, for Sieglinde’s exultant apostrophe to her lover was always one of Lotte’s war horses. Then comes the “Liebestod”, exactly as Alec Robertson remembered her singing it in concert in Rome in 1933: “she began, as if in a trance, ‘Mild und leise, wie er lächelt’….Lehmann left us so spellbound that the lack of volume at the huge climax passed almost unnoticed.” There are many extra breaths that other Isoldes do not need, but so many exquisite phrases to compensate. The only disappointment is the lack of a heavenly, poised pianissimo on the last note (F-sharp) though we know that on other occasions she was able to supply this. In this aria she uses portamento with great discretion, much less than Lilli Lehmann and Lillian Nordica, great Isoldes of the previous generation.

It seems strange that Lotte Lehmann did not feel attracted to Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder as a whole cycle, but in 1929 she made very satisfying records of “Schmerzen” and “Träume”. In “Schmerzen”, declaimed in luscious and pealing tones, how beautiful is her attack on the first word—“Sonne”—it is a D, one of her best notes, and full of sunshine. In contrast, “Träume” exploits her lovely low notes and her sustained legato.


Lotte’s career was closely intermingled with that of Richard Strauss. After having sung first Echo and then the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, from 1922 she became identified with the title role. In Ariadne’s aria “Es gibt ein Reich” she shows a loving sympathy with Ariadne’s emotions as the heroine wavers between reflective passages and others reminiscent of the ecstatic Brünnhilde. Lehmann always finds instinctively the musical and emotional treatment for whatever she is singing. She has no problems either with the A-flat below the stave or the B-flat above it. Her early and thorough training in the florid repertoire ensures a flowing and spontaneous execution of the more difficult intervals, and when she comes to the long phrase “Du wirst mich befreien” her “increasing rapture” is so communicative that it scarcely matters to us that she breaks the phrase with two breaths. While they were happy to dedicate two sides of a record to Das Wunder der Heliane, for Der Rosenkavalier the Odeon company allowed only one side for Lotte to record two brief excerpts from her recently adopted role of the Marschallin, “O sei er gut, Quinquin” followed by “Die Zeit, die ist ein sonderbar Ding”: She sings beautifully, with spirit and animation, and with no artifice, but later on, of course, she would achieve even more in this music. Strauss seems to have behaved not quite fairly to Lotte over the creation of Arabella, which caused a rift in their friendship. She only managed to sing a handful of performances of the opera. “Strauss parts should always soar”, she declared to André Tubeuf, and soar she does in two delightful recorded excerpts, and how delicately and affectionately she phrases “Aber der Richtige”.

Odeon published only four electrical recordings by Lehmann of Strauss Lieder: they are all cherishable. Like several other great singers, in “Traum durch die Dämmerung” she relishes the opportunity to observe Strauss’s indication molto tranquillo for the opening, rising to a lovely pianissimo on the high F of schönsten Frau”, contrasting with the impassioned but still softly voiced “in ein blaues, mildes Licht” and the flawless execution of Strauss’s cruel rising scale of an octave on the last words, which he demands be sung ever more peacefully. Her rapturous “Ständchen” is a breath of fresh air, despite the downward transposition of a semitone (was she no longer comfortable with all those F-sharps?). A spurious violin intrudes in “Mit deinen blauen Augen” but does not detract from Lehmann’s expressive performance, and she sings “Morgen!” with magical poise and serenity. In songs like this we can admire the way her voice floats on the breath at any volume she desires, all without any audible technical contrivance.

Those who regret that Lotte Lehmann recorded relatively little of Strauss’s music might take comfort from a large dose of imitation Strauss: she created the role of Heliane in Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane at the Vienna State Opera in October 1927, after her archrival Maria Jeritza had refused the part. She sings the aria “Ich ging zu ihm” so beautifully that we should not object to the rather derivative quality of the music, which strays dangerously near kitsch. Lehmann’s richly burnished tones are perfectly suited to the languorously sweeping arches of this music. Another Strauss-inspired opera was Eugen d’Albert’s Die toten Augen, one of Lotte’s big hits in Hamburg. For the recording, the attractive aria “Psyche wandelt durch Säulenhallen” has been furnished with the same kind of instrumental introduction with which Odeon thought fit to “improve” Schumann and Brahms. Lotte loved this music, which became an essential encore in her Hamburg concerts, and she sings it ravishingly.

Italian and French Opera

In a group of Italian and French arias sung in German, Lehmann achieves a fresh and charming account of Mimì’s entrance aria (“Mi chiamano Mimì”) from La bohème, and her “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca, beautifully vocalized despite the rather rushed tempo, comes to a triumphant conclusion when she “has a go” at every Tosca’s ambition: to deliver a magnificent high B-flat followed by a diminuendo on the A-flat. Her entrance of Butterfly, with her voice soaring above the chorus just as in her famous acoustic Odeon, benefits from the superior electrical recording and we hardly miss the optional high D-flat that she had inserted in 1925. Her description of Maddalena’s gothic misadventures in “La mamma morta” from Andrea Chénier is suitably urgent, but here, and even more so in the “Berceuse” from Jocelyn, the German text for once defeats all her efforts to sustain her legato. (This is also true, alas—despite all her graceful use of portamento—of a truncated version of Antonia’s depressing aria from Les contes d’Hoffmann.) The German translation works better in the Willow Song from Otello, though she has fierce competition from her own ravishingly beautiful acoustic version. Two duets from Tosca sung in Italian with the famous Polish tenor Jan Kiepura, who had sung with her in the premiere of Das Wunder der Heliane, reveal her as a fascinating Floria Tosca, even though it was not considered one of her typical or best roles. Though Kiepura had studied with two great Polish singers, Brzezinski and Leliwa, and he does try to sing like Bonci or Anselmi, his rather insecure technique and very open vowels sometimes let him down despite the boyish charm which later made him an idol of the cinema screen. His particularly long breath span is impressive. Lehmann seems to enjoy singing with him, and she is extremely fetching in “Qual occhio al mondo”, in the finale to which Kiepura unexpectedly joins her, singing with her in octaves “Certa sono del perdono”, and how they both cling to the high A! Here and in the act 3 duet “Amaro sol per te” their expressive singing is greatly helped by their flexibility of tempo, and Manfred Gurlitt turns out to be an ideal conductor for this music.

In 1931 Lotte remembered Mignon, a role that she had not sung since 1923. Her recitative “Dort bei ihm ist sie jetzt” is just as thrilling as her 1917 recording, though in a different way: her passionate outpouring of Mignon’s jealousy is overwhelming in its intensity, while the florid passages are brilliantly vocalized up to the high C, though perhaps not with all the freshness of youth. In the entertaining Styrienne—a folk song perilously close to a music-hall number—she resorts to a clever use of microphone technique for a kind of melodious whispering. Her infectious laughter and her upward portamenti into lovely head notes remind us of her past triumphs in these lighter roles. With “Kennst du das Land” we come to one of her loveliest records, so hauntingly sung as almost to make us forget the way that the introduction of Goethe’s original text distorts the musical line. Lehmann’s interpretation of this rather slight song is on the same exalted level as those of Patti and Supervia.

Lehmann kept Faust in her repertoire until 1933–1934: what a pity she never recorded the Jewel Song! In the Ballad of the King of Thule she differentiates nicely between Marguerite’s singing of the old ballad as she spins (forte) and her winsome asides as she ponders on the young man she has met in the square (piano). In Manon’s Gavotte she has a warmth to offer that many a younger interpreter has not, but something of the French sparkle is undoubtedly missing; however, she can still soar up to the high B-natural with insouciance. In her beautiful record of Charlotte’s letter-reading scene from Werther (touchingly, she is called “Lotte” in the German original) she again manages quite naturally an effect that other singers have to strive for: when she begins to read Werther’s letter, which, of course, Charlotte knows by heart—“Je vous écris de ma petite chambre”—she somehow finds a special “letter-reading” voice to contrast with the full-voiced outpourings of distress that follow. She was in particularly rich, womanly voice in June 1933 when she recorded arias from Werther, Manon, Les contes d’Hoffmann, and ending with two of her most memorable discs, Die toten Augen and Le nozze di Figaro.


Although Lehmann was not Viennese by birth, she loved the city and its musical traditions as much as the opera patrons loved her, and, as we can hear in her record of the “Melodram und Lied” from Lehár’s Eva, in which we also hear her beautiful speaking voice, she had mastered the rhythm of the Viennese waltz-song. How interesting it is that in the first part of the song she catches exactly that charmingly light, half-sung, half-spoken, almost unsupported vocalizing typical of operetta stars like Fritzi Massary, reserving the sumptuous full voice of the opera singer for the concluding waltz-song. Another best-seller was her record of Rosalinde’s two songs from Die Fledermaus, two of her most masterly creations, in which she again teaches us the classical Viennese rhythm and style, even though the records were made in Berlin. How beguilingly she uses the waltz rhythm, the recurring slurs of a seventh and the pauses between phrases to mock Frank in “Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir?”. Most entertainingly, she seems to be almost choking with mirth at the outrageous notion that the man dining intimately with her in very informal dress should be suspected of not being her husband! She opens the Czardas with appropriately sweeping, patriotic zeal, magnificently broad and impassioned phrasing, the acciaccature and other ornaments cleanly articulated. In the second part, the Frischka, she contrives to achieve brilliance despite the cuts, simplifications, and the too rapid tempo. She is still able to trill above the stave. So stunning is the cumulative effect that we do not miss the high D, a note that she may never have sung in public. In the Finale to act 2 of Die Fledermaus, with an all-star cast, Richard Tauber upstages everyone with his enchanting performance, full of subtleties, but at least Lotte ends the piece with a triumphant high C. In the severely cut Finale to act 1 of Der Zigeunerbaron Tauber is not so well cast; the music seems rather too heroic for him. Lehmann has almost nothing to do, but she is able to contribute two high Cs this time!

Lieder and songs:
“all-conquering sincerity”

In the late ‘twenties Lotte Lehmann was involved in both the opera house and the concert room, with an ever more restricted repertoire in the former and an ever-increasing one in the latter. In her Lieder recordings we hear that she does not feel the need to find one style for opera and another for song. Gradually she was increasingly drawn to the greater range of expression she could find and exploit in the piano-accompanied song repertoire. Olin Downes commented on her “operatic” style in his review in the New York Times of her first New York concert, at Town Hall in January 1932: “There were moments last night when Madame Lehmann was operatic, and when, as an interpreter of song, her temperament got the better of her and she stepped from the frame. But even when she did … as in the final measures of Schumann’s ‘Ich grolle nicht’, she was so puissant, noble, and impassioned in her style, supplementing interpretation with such vocal resource and such a wealth of nuance, tone-color, and all conquering sincerity, that if she had sung the song backward it would have been hard to keep cool and refuse to be moved by what she did ….” Admirers of Lotte who wish to know what Olin Downes might have meant by “stepped from the frame” should watch a precious film clip available on YouTube. In an excerpt from a Master Class, Lotte (then over 70) interrupts the pretty young soprano Jeannine Wagner and impetuously sings through the whole of “Sonntag” by Brahms—an octave down, in a contralto voice not much like the Lotte of old—but she can still sing!—and it is wonderful to hear how spontaneously and how effortlessly her voice still flows forth and how delightfully witty is her interpretation, with no hint of contrivance. Her eyes sparkle, she tosses her head, almost nudging and winking at the audience in the joy of expressing music and poetry. She is rightly pleased with herself, and particularly with the success of her graduated crescendo finale. She is acting as well as singing, and her acting—even throughout the postlude (during which she does not pretend to listen, enraptured, to the accompanist, like more recent Lieder singers)—is decidedly reminiscent of the silent film era; however, flawless taste still disciplines her work. This visual fragment of a highly charismatic diva, both entertaining and deeply moving, adds an extra dimension to her recorded legacy.

Odeon’s early attempts to record electrically a considerable number of Lieder met with varying degrees of success. The practice of sometimes replacing the original piano accompaniments by a small instrumental group, though difficult to explain away to modern music lovers, certainly appealed to middle-class German taste but might also simply have been an attempt by Odeon to demonstrate the full possibilities of the new electrical recording process. (It is perhaps significant that Odeon dedicated numerous sides to her singing to the accompaniment of the organ, an instrument which, until 1925, had been almost impossible to record.) There was, of course, money to be earned by the arrangers, all of whom were probably Odeon house conductors. These arrangements can be intrusive, as, for example, in Schumann’s “Die Lotosblume” and “Widmung”, but do not materially affect our appreciation of the beauty of her singing, especially in “Du bist wie eine Blume”. Two other delightfully performed Schumann songs, “An den Sonnenschein” and “Marienwürmchen”, are brought to vivid life by her phrasing. A soprano student of mine once asked me: “What is phrasing?” I had to tell her that it means bringing to life words and notes that are printed in black on the cold white page: Melba in the Mad Scene from Hamlet (1904) was the example I gave her to study, but Lotte Lehmann, with her command of rhythm and dynamics and her feeling for the shape of the music, makes master classes of these early Lieder recordings. Despite the particularly offensive orchestration, “Ich grolle nicht” is performed with the greatest care and feeling, and any student might learn from this record how and when to speed up and slow down, and how to introduce a musically agreeable portamento. In “Der Nussbaum” she has the benefit of the superb pianist Hermann Weigert whose feeling for legato and rubato is equal to hers; though in later performances Lehmann may have introduced more variety of coloring, this is a very intimate—partly whispered, but always sung—performance, contrasting with the sparkling delivery of “Aufträge” on the other side of the record.

Proudly offered for sale in an attractively designed album, Lotte Lehmann’s 1928 recording of Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben was a brave venture on the part of the Odeon company. Beginning in 1924 Lotte would work regularly on her Lieder repertoire with Bruno Walter, and they would record Frauenliebe und -leben in 1941, when her voice was still velvety, the surface unscratched. Her interpretation would mature with the passage of years, and in 1941 she is more restrained in her emotional response to the music, in accordance with the critical taste of the time. (It must be said that in a live concert recording from as late as 1951, in Schumann’s “Widmung” we hear her aiming at basically the same effects as in her 1929 recording.) In this 1928 recording Lehmann enthusiasts will find their beloved Lotte in magnificent, limpid voice throughout, and her interpretation preserves much of nineteenth-century performance practice, examples of which are not easy to find on electrical recordings, and which deserve to be studied. She uses more portamento and rubato in this early recording, she knows exactly how elastic she can afford to be in her rhythm, and she is much more “emotional”. The very first song, “Seit ich ihn gesehen”, contains many surprises for the modern singer (or accompanist) who hears the record for the first time. Lehmann phrases the song quite freely, as if it were a folk song, often pausing for breath at the end of a phrase, even though this might occur in the middle of a bar: an example is “Wie im wachen Träume [pause, noisy breath] schwebt sein Bild mir vor”. (Many of the greatest conductors, like Elgar and Furtwängler, would “breathe” between phrases.) She also dots many undotted notes because she is giving precedence to the correct German poetic pronunciation, elongating accented vowels. This close attention to the words by no means undermines her obvious love and respect for the music, or her flawless legato; like her predecessors on the concert platform—Gustav Walter, Lilli Lehmann, Marcella Sembrich, and Julia Culp come to mind—she brought something of the Italian opera style to the Lied. Among the delicious Lehmann touches in this opening song, she uses a graceful though very marked portamento where requested by Schumann, at “taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel heller”, and realizes a soft echo effect at “still im Kämmerlein”, which she slows down just as an Italian singer would have done. In the key of B-flat her lower medium register is brought out in all its carmine glory, and she is careful to use her chest register lightly but to great effect on the E-flat, first line. All in all there is as much of Lotte Lehmann as of Chamisso and Schumann in these songs, and to follow them with the score is a revelation of how Lieder singing was approached in the nineteenth century. The Lotte Lehmann League website reprints a review by Doris Madden of Lotte’s first New York performance of Frauenliebe und -leben at Town Hall on 7 February 1932 which describes an aspect of her art that the phonograph could not reproduce: “The early part was sung with indescribable tenderness, innocence, and happiness, and in this she had the expression of a girl of seventeen; but as the mood changed she seemed actually to grow older before one’s eyes, and the last three songs of the cycle had a depth of passion and grief that was overwhelming.” I first bought these records over fifty years ago, and I was under Lotte’s spell from her very first utterance. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf avoided adding this cycle to her repertoire for many years, finding the words “too kitsch”; Lotte Lehmann’s “additional accompaniments” (probably by the excellent conductor, Frieder Weissmann) unfortunately enhance any syrupiness in the original, and Lotte Lehmann certainly does not mind going “over the top” in her vivid interpretation. Speaking of songs in general, Lehmann wrote: “They must soar from the warm beat of your own heart, blessed by the interpretation of the moment.”

Of the Schubert songs in this collection, the gem is “An die Musik”, which, although recorded in 1927, tells us much about styles of Lieder singing in the nineteenth century. She sings quietly but with meaningful intensity, introducing plenty of rubato, clearly at one with her conductor, Manfred Gurlitt—though singer and orchestra are not always absolutely together. She must have worked with great concentration to fill this song with so much variety of shading, yet the result is apparent spontaneity. This is one of her loveliest and most important records, a lesson in Lieder singing. On the other side of the original disc the purchaser would have found an interpretation scarcely less moving of “Du bist die Ruh’”, a much more taxing song for Lotte with all her shortness of breath, but in December 1927 she seems to have been in radiant voice, executing both times the crescendo to the A-flat above the stave on “von deinem Glanz allein erhellt” without any harshness of tone, then continuing pianissimo and rallentando on the next phrase, “O füll’es ganz!” It would be difficult to find more memorable interpretations of these well-worn songs, in which she demonstrates her complete mastery of the secrets of vocal shading and rhythmic flexibility. She is not quite so successful with “Auf dem Wasser zu singen”, whose difficult rapid semiquavers would have flown more trippingly from her tongue eight or ten years earlier. (Lilli Lehmann, in her 1906 recording, executes these semiquavers with delightful precision and lightness, even though the timbre of her voice shows every one of her fifty-eight years.) However, as usual, Lotte charms us, and we can but admire her lovely attacks on the upper E-flat and F, and the extreme delicacy of her consonantal attacks—what a lovely d and t she has, perfectly clear yet unexaggerated! Her joyous enthusiasm and her lovely sounds on the upper E-flat, F and F-sharp keep up our interest in such a repetitive song as “Sei mir gegrüßt”. In “Ständchen” she is trespassing on Tauber territory, and does not achieve a particularly memorable interpretation. Poor Lotte was obliged to squeeze “Der Erlkönig” onto a 10-inch side, adopting an impossibly rapid tempo. The admirable Dr. Weissmann is, unfortunately, quite unable to cope with the piano part. Let us pass on to her attractively caressing way with her only recording of “Geheimes”, and her admirable discretion in finding two voices for “Der Tod und das Mädchen”: the Maiden sings in a light, scared voice with noticeable vibrato, whereas Death answers her in a perfectly steady, quiet tone with no vibrato and no portamento—sinister, perhaps, but not frightening, for Death claims to be coming to comfort her.

For the session on 18 February 1927, Lehmann does not seem to have been in her best voice, which is accentuated, perhaps, by rather harsh recording that day. She gives creditable performances of two songs by Jensen, of which “O lass dich halten” would seem to cry out for more of the full Lehmann treatment, while in the more familiar Mendelssohn song “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges” we have to wait until the last bars, where she promises to partake of love and peace with us under the palm tree, and dream blessed dreams—here she does indeed produce heavenly sounds in a soft, mixed register on “sel’gen Traum”. Having warmed up somewhat, she then concludes the session with a satisfyingly vivid performance of “Von ewiger Liebe” by Brahms. She treats the song as a ballad, and in telling her story about the young lovers she introduces a great deal of rubato, always enhancing the effect of the music, although the instrumentalists must have had a difficult time trying to follow her in the ziemlich langsam section when she begins the girl’s reply. Lehmann differentiates vocally between the worried-sounding boy and the supremely confident girl, building up and accelerating into an exciting declamatory conclusion, in which her ecstatic assertion that their love will last forever is very much in the Sieglinde mold, which of course the orchestral accompaniment only serves to enhance.

Of Brahms she also recorded “Vergebliches Ständchen”, in which she differentiates colorfully between the boy and the girl: he is a lusty, pushy young man whereas she is properly coy and unwilling to open her door to the lad she obviously rather likes. So delightful is this record that I am prepared to overlook the addition of an unwanted violin obbligato. “Die Mainacht” overtaxes her means: she needs too many extra breaths, and the lovely quiet opening is followed by some effortful high-lying passages. She makes heavy weather of the crescendo on “und die einsame Träne rinnt”, an obstacle for many singers. “Der Schmied” is ruined by the weak string accompaniment (we need the piano to suggest the clang of the forge), and Lotte herself is not at her best, though when she sings “die Flammen aufbrausen” we can certainly feel the heat of those flames as they roar.

In recording two once popular songs by the baritone Eugen Hildach (1849–1924, he and his soprano wife were favorite concert artists) the Odeon arrangers seem to have been lacking in invention; Lenz is a short song—a famous show stopper in its day—that left considerable space on the record side, and instead of introducing another short song (Hildach wrote dozens), Lotte was asked to encore Lenz! After having achieved, on the first-time round, the splendid climax requested by the composer on the high G (“Spring is here!”), inevitably Lotte fails to surpass herself in the repeat. Her acoustic record of “Der Spielmann” (The Minstrel), which she sang in the key of F, was one of her finest: this electrical remake—sung a full tone higher, in G, an unusual upward transposition for a woman of nearly forty—is perhaps even better. The anonymous orchestrator has wisely retained Hildach’s original violin part, which adds so much atmosphere to what is, after all, a fine example of the better kind of salon song. Beautifully written for the voice, the song exploits the best part of Lotte’s range and her gift for expressing all the anguish of the girl’s memories, her impeccable articulation of the words never interfering with her masterly legato. The melody rises frequently to the F-sharp and G, among her most ravishing notes. Particularly lovely is the last strophe, “triffst vielleicht den andern in der weiten Welt” (If perchance you should meet that other [minstrel] out there in the wide world), with her haunting delivery of the last phrase—“a young girl thinks of him constantly”.

Wilhelm Berger (1861–1911), born in Boston of German parentage, was a highly esteemed musician and concert pianist who began writing songs when in his teens. “Ach, wer das doch könnte”, Op. 30, No. 7, is the first of two children’s songs, which is why Lotte adopts a “childlike” tone, especially for the first strophe, when she is delighting in flying her kite! “Oh, if only one could soar aloft in the sunshine!”—but, of course, Lotte could. Another neglected composer, Carl Bohm, wrote many delightful songs, and Lehmann’s charming record of the Bavarian ditty “‘s Zuschau’n” (“Peeking in”) shows her in soubrettish mood. Yet again, the song calls for her to interpret both the boy and the girl, and how she enjoys the sly undertone of the tale of the “Dirndel” who has no objection to kissing her “Bua” so long as they are not watched! Touchingly, in her old age this was the only one of her records that she liked to listen to!

The songs of Erik Meyer-Helmund (1861–1932) enjoyed great popularity and many were recorded by great singers: he was himself a successful baritone, a pupil of Julius Stockhausen, so he belonged to the Garcia school of singing. Lotte sings the once famous “Zauberlied”, Op. 21, No. 2, mostly “dreamily” as instructed by the composer, and the microphone catches the full beauty of her voice: when the “big tune” comes in, marked con passione, she opens out into her rich full voice, then enchants us by sailing up to the high B-flat softly. Singers of her generation certainly knew how to make the most of these once very popular and now neglected songs.

It is likely that Lotte Lehmann recorded “Halleluja” by Ferdinand Hummel and “Wo du hingehst, da will auch ich hingehn” (“Whither thou goest, I shall go”) by Louis Roessel because these songs were sung at weddings, and so this is the record of hers that turns up most frequently in German junk-shops—and always almost worn out from frequent playing. In “Halleluja” she is at her grandest, her portamenti rather unusually taking the form of imperious swooping, whereas in “Wo du hingehst” she creates a contrast between the assertive opening declaration, sung in her Wagnerian trumpet tones, and the moving minor section (“Where thou diest I shall die”).

Like many other great singers, Lotte Lehmann recorded numerous religious songs, including special Christmas and Easter numbers. Outstanding among these are two Easter offerings, “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” and “Christi Mutter stand in Schmerzen”, fine old hymns from the great German tradition, deeply moving in the sincere warmth of feeling that she manages to convey without any sentimentality. On the same day and with the same lovely tone, suggesting a rich brown-and-gold damask, she recorded two of the “Marienlieder” for one or more voices published by Johann Kaspar Aiblinger in 1845. Mary is also celebrated in the rather quaint record entitled “Andachtsstunde” (The Hour of Prayer), in which someone has cobbled a poem to a tune by Ketèlbey. We first hear the actor Karl Zander reciting in the style of the great actor Alexander Moissi, then come a few lines recited by Lotte, and the climax is reached when her voice is heard singing “Ave Maria” accompanied by an over-loud chorus. Albert Ketèlbey was an English composer and conductor whose music was popular in Germany, and in his more familiar “Sanctuary of the heart” Lotte Lehmann is at her very best, soaring over the chorus in a truly juicy “big tune”. Lotte deals with “Bist du bei mir” (by Stölzel, once attributed to Bach) in the same way as the hymns: she produces a flood of golden tone, more than matching the studio organ. She omits the trills, and no concession is made to “authenticity”.

Taking a leaf out of Tauber’s book, Lotte recorded some “popular” numbers, among which “Der Duft der eine schöne Frau begleitet” is outstanding: a tango, to which it would be very difficult to dance seeing that Lotte brings to it every resource of tempo rubato, vocalizing with heavenly delicacy and charm—quite unforgettable.

After having listened again to these famous records, most of them figuring in the Odeon, Parlophone, or Decca catalogues for a quarter of a century, how shall I bid farewell to Lotte Lehmann?

“Du hast mit deinem Zauberlied dich
in mein Herz gesungen!”

(“With your magical song you have sung yourself into my heart!”)

© Michael Aspinall, 2019


Lotte Lehmann’s Berlin electric recordings (1927–1933) are the focus of this set, which includes a very broad mix of the artistically important and the embarrassingly forgettable. There are several advantages to finally hearing Lehmann’s voice with a microphone: you can really appreciate Lehmann’s amazing diction, a broader and subtler range of her dynamics, the richer sound of overtones and full bass frequencies, and the greater dimension to the frequency spectrum and the soundstage, which make her voice sound lush when it should, and clear and incisive when it must.

Lehmann’s recordings are interesting from aesthetic, cultural, and historic points of view. There are selections that appealed to the tastes in the popular music of the time, tracks suited to religiously-oriented record buyers, records for those who wanted familiar Lieder or opera excerpts, and recordings from the latest operatic premieres.

Lotte Lehmann recorded some imperishable, immortal discs. Opera aficionados who know Lehmann’s Berlin electric recordings of “Dich, teure Halle,” “Leise, leise, fromme Weise,” “Komm, Hoffnung,” “Einsam in trüben Tagen,” and “Mild und leise” find that other interpretations fail to bring the same blend of warmth, human involvement, and vocal beauty. There’s a range of colors that mirror the words, bringing words and music to satisfying and thrilling life. Those who enjoy operetta and light music treasure Lehmann’s “So war meine Mutter” from Lehár’s Eva, “Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir?”, “Klänge der Heimat,” “Nun eilt herbei,” “Das Zauberlied” of Meyer-Helmand, Ralton’s “Eine kleine Liebelei,” or May’s “Der Duft, der eine schöne Frau begleitet.”

Lovers of Lieder can’t imagine better, more vibrant, or more sensitive singing of Schumann’s “Der Nussbaum,” “Aufträge,” “An den Sonnenschein,” and “Marienwürmchen.” Lehmann had worked with Richard Strauss, therefore it is not surprising that she had special insight into “Morgen!” and “Mit deinen blauen Augen.” As for Brahms, her performance of “Sandmännchen” has no equal: it contains (in spite of the annoying orchestration) Lehmann’s personal treatment of every word without any of them standing out to harm musical lines.

Consider “Komm, Hoffnung” recorded in 1927, the centennial of Beethoven’s death and the same year that Lehmann began to sing the vocally and dramatically demanding role of Leonore/Fidelio. The microphone allows one to sample her histrionic talents, as well as her secure vocal range. As she sings “die Liebe,” we hear love in the voice; when she sings “du” (you), it is obviously addressed to someone she loves. How sweetly she is able to illuminate “süßen Trost” (sweet comfort). As a woman dressed up as a man to save her husband, we hear Lehmann’s determination and courage in the way she enunciates: “Ich folg’ dem innern Triebe, ich wanke nicht” (I follow my inner calling, I shall not waver). For those who have read that Lehmann had difficulty with high notes, listen to the glorious high B at the end, but notice the low C earlier, to enjoy the thrill that only such a secure range of singing can offer. Nigel Douglas writes about this recording, “…it is a resplendent and exalted performance … with great brilliance at the top of the voice … and a startlingly virile quality to some of the chest notes—highly suitable in this particular role.”1

“Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir?” is from the Johann Strauss, Jr. operetta Die Fledermaus, in which Lehmann portrays Rosalinde with comic flair, rhythmic freedom, and her personal, nuanced response to every mood, phrase, and word.

The 1928 recording that Lehmann made of “Der Nussbaum” offers the rare example, for the time, of hearing the Lied as Schumann wrote it, with no salon orchestra accompaniment added. The pianist is Hermann Weigert, best known as a conductor. Lehmann’s voice sounds youthful and because it is an electric recording, the piano’s sound is a bit forward. First Lehmann, the narrator, sets the scene. Schumann writes a longer note on both “breitet” (spreads) and after that “die Äste” (the branches); following Schumann’s intention Lehmann supplies both these words with their fullest sound possible, while not changing the tempo. Notice the care that she takes with the rhymes: “linde/Winde” (soft/wind). She colors the word “herzlich” with the warmth that it deserves. In the third verse, when we read “zwei zu zwei” we fear a lot of noisy consonants; but listen to the way Lehmann glides over them while at the same time making them understandable. The way she so gently sings “zierlich,” you know it means daintily. In the following verse Lehmann aims at the rhymes “dächte/Nächte” (thought/nights). When she describes the girl not knowing what she’s thinking, she slows just enough to accent the word “selber” (herself). You can predict that Lehmann will make the most of the onomatopoetic word “flüstern” (whisper). At the end of this verse Schumann repeats “vom nächstem Jahr” (next year) and Lehmann enjoys the chance to spread these words. She begins the final verse in a whisper, as if not to disturb the scene. And just as quickly, when she gets to the words, “es rauscht im Baum,” you can hear the rustling sound as she rolls the “r” in “rauscht.” When she arrives at the word “Schlaf” (sleep) she holds the note and then keeps that same gentle tempo to the end of the song. Alan Blyth writes: “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 ‘das dächte, die Nächte,’ and judges ideally the ritardando at ‘wüssten ach, selber nicht was.’ ‘Vom 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.…”2

At the time of these recordings singers in Europe performed and recorded in the language of their audience. Thus, you’ll find “Mi chiamano Mimì” and “Vissi d’arte” as “Man nennt mich jetz Mimi” and “Nur der Schönheit.” This convention resulted in an accommodation, which may seem absurd today, when in 1929 Lehmann sang Elsa in Paris performing Wagner’s Lohengrin in the German original while the rest of the cast sang in French.

What accounts for the fact that many of the orchestra accompaniments are so poorly played? Lehmann’s conductors Manfred Gurlitt (1890–1972), Hermann Weigert (1890–1955), Frieder Weissmann (1893–1984), and Fritz Zweig (1893–1984) were respected if not famous. It is acknowledged that—though the label may list “Mitglieder des Orchesters der Staatsoper Berlin” (Members of the Berlin State Opera Orchestra)—in fact there was a group of Berlin musicians who sat around waiting for a call to record at one record company or another, and were randomly chosen. A quick rehearsal with the ad-hoc group was conducted, to see what would fit on one side of the three- or four-minute disc and where breaks would need to be taken. The second aggravating factor was that multiple takes were just not often recorded. Most of the releases are of take one or two. A feeling that the recording was for the ages didn’t occur to most of the participants.

But what, muses even the experienced listener, can the Odeon administration have been thinking to use salon orchestra arrangements for some of the most cherished Lieder that Lehmann was already making an important part of her career? In a 1973 interview, Lehmann told me that this was not her wish, and that she found such accompaniments “dreadful.” It was not just with Lehmann and not just at Odeon that such atrocities were committed, rather it was a common sales gimmick. It was assumed that the record buyer felt the Lied recording was of higher quality if it had an orchestration rather than “just” a piano. After all, most people could play the accompaniments on their own home piano. Lieder expert and Lehmann discographer Floris Juynboll wrote: “Since there was a lack of published song accompaniments arranged for small instrumental groups, the Odeon company had to have them specially prepared, and the words Eigene Bearbeitung, which occur frequently in the recording books, meant that the orchestrations were the work of house conductors like Weissmann, Gurlitt, Römer, and others, who were paid directly by Odeon for their services.… Few arrangers seemed able to transcribe piano accompaniments without making some ‘improvements,’ most of them in very questionable taste. Frieder Weissmann, for example, when orchestrating the songs of Schumann, not only rearranged the accompaniment and altered the composer’s harmonies now and then, but frequently added inner contrapuntal parts.”3

We must understand that these recordings were not made with history or posterity in mind, but rather for short term financial gain. Lehmann often made a recording to earn some extra money for a shopping spree. Whether on Lehmann’s part or Odeon’s, the quick return was important. This financially-driven motive can offer a reason for the star casts (Richard Tauber, Karin Branzell, and Lehmann, of course) and chorus used in excerpts from Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron. Sadly, it’s difficult in these ensemble numbers to hear much of the individual voices (other than Tauber’s distinctive and compelling timbre). Herman Klein considers that these opera finales “… bring in all the sundry members of the cast, whom it pays to distribute among distinguished popular favorites.… Most of them, in turn, get a little bit of solo, wherein we at once recognize their voices—Lotte Lehmann’s and Richard Tauber’s for instance.”4

The financial motive would also help explain the religious and Christmas recordings as well as the pop trifles. The Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria” was recorded at the same session as Schumann’s “Frauenliebe und -leben,” and both were released in England, the United States, France, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Australia, Holland, Brazil, and Spain. The intimacy of the collaborative pianist/singer is lost in the string and piano accompaniment that was arranged for Lehmann’s 1928 recording of “Frauenliebe und -leben,” but the voice is so beautiful and her attention to the meaning of the words of the cycle helps us to forget the annoying distraction of the poorly performed string parts. The microphone does pick up Lehmann’s famous diction, which never seems to break the legato sound that pours forth. For those who follow such details, it’s interesting to note that she grabs different breaths than when she recorded it in 1941 with Bruno Walter at the piano. As always with Lehmann, one can complain about a gasp here or there or enjoy the whole as an art work that lacks perfection but provides fascination, satisfaction, and deep joy. “… her faults, what of them? … they are so glaringly obvious that even the most insensitive ear can identify them. To mention them again would be gratuitous; one may as well complain that the Venus de Milo has no arms.”5 Herman Klein wrote: “… 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.”6

Lehmann had sung the Vienna premiere of Turandot in 1926 and by 1927 had also sung it in Breslau, Hamburg, and Berlin. Thus, it was important for Odeon to present the major soprano arias with Lehmann performing. Perhaps not Lehmann’s Fach, but the sound of her high C is fine, even if we smile upon hearing the arias in German. An unnamed Berlin newspaper critic opined: “… I confess, I anticipated Lehmann’s high notes with some trepidation. A more pleasant surprise is scarcely imaginable! This unbelievably difficult role, difficult because one has to sing almost constantly in the highest register, was as good as totally conquered by the artist. Unforced, free, clear, warm, her voice purled forth, and one could even understand the words of the riddles.… So brava, bravissima! It was a top performance. And figure, makeup, and acting supported the effect in the best way.” Of these recordings Herman Klein wrote: “… one notes great depth of sentiment, growing passion cleverly brought out, irreproachable intonation, and a noble style throughout.”7

By 1928, Lehmann had moved from her debut role as the Composer to the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos. Two takes were released of the major aria; since take one started eight measures earlier than take two, we have a chance to hear a bit more of the selection. And in either recording there’s Lehmann’s famous diction, coloring, and comfortable range, her low A-flats as arresting as her high B-flats.

Though Lehmann never sang Isolde on stage, her recording of “Mild und Leise” is rightly prized and was distributed in its original release to Germany, England, the United States, Australia, Chile, and Argentina. When she sings “… seht ihr’s, Freunde? Seht ihr’s nicht?” it’s so deeply expressed that you want to look around to see to whom she sings. Though other sopranos have sung it louder, no one has ever sung the “Liebestod” with more meaning, feeling, and human presence. J. B. Steane rhetorically asks, “Has one ever heard an Isolde who so tenderly mirrors the smile she sees in the dead face, or who rises quite so humanly to the great climaxes?”8

Lehmann sang Heliane in the Vienna premiere of Korngold’s Das Wunder der Heliane. Sadly, the opera hasn’t held even the slight interest that his Die tote Stadt has maintained. In the aria “Ich ging zu ihm” Heliane tells of going to the unjustly imprisoned man who begs to see her naked before he dies. An unidentified critic of the premiere wrote: “The way in which she [Lehmann] unbinds her hair, uncovers her feet, her body…that cannot be acted more lovingly or at the same time with more purity. The aria in which she later defends herself before the court [the aria she recorded] comes out of burning emotion. It is masterfully expounded, building in intensity of feeling, without pose or exaggeration.”

Giordano’s Andrea Chénier was first performed at La Scala in 1896, but the Vienna Opera didn’t premier it until 1926 when Lehmann sang as Madeleine or Maddalena de Coigny. She had already sung excerpts in recitals with the highly respected tenor Tino Pattiera by 1925, so the opera was obviously on the minds of Odeon’s decision makers. But the original release was only on English Parlophone.

Lehmann sang only one Verdi role, that of Desdemona in Otello. She performed it in Vienna, Budapest, Berlin, and also in London. There, the demanding critic of the Gramophone wrote, “Lotte Lehmann did so magnificently both as singer and actress that she rose to heights never attained here before.…”9 In the 1932 recording, Lehmann sings the famous “Willow” aria that ends with her premonition of death; you can almost hear her heart throbbing in fear.

In competition with her Vienna Opera rival Maria Jeritza, Lehmann sang the role of Tosca. She didn’t receive the same acclaim that critics and audiences gave to Jeritza, but she sang Tosca in Berlin as well as at the Met and in San Francisco. The Tosca duets sung by Lehmann and Jan Kiepura were recorded in the original Italian perhaps because, though Odeon’s primary audience spoke German, these discs were also released on French and Argentine Odeon, as well as English and Australian Parlophone.

Much has been written about Lehmann’s Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, but no one has summed up all the aspects of this interpretation better than the New York Times critic Olin Downes in 1935: “Mme Lehmann has long been famous for this characterization, which has everything—the lightness of touch, the manner and accent of the nobly born; the flaming embers of a last passion, the pathos and ache of renunciation.”

One may ask who Hildach was, for his fashion has faded. Eugen Hildach (1849–1924) grew up in Berlin where he studied singing and later, with his wife, opened their own private singing school in Frankfurt. He wrote many songs and Lenz was so popular at that time it was also recorded by Richard Tauber, Leo Slezak, Lauritz Melchior, Rudolf Schock, Max Lorenz, and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. Lehmann had also successfully recorded Hildach’s “Der Spielmann” acoustically in 1921.

Among the many light songs that Lehmann recorded you’ll find the composer Harry Ralton (1897–1953), the professional name of Karl Heinz Rosenthal, who wrote successful light dance music of the time. “Eine kleine Liebelei” was his biggest hit—again recorded by Tauber—and Lehmann certainly has her own flirtatious way with it. Wilhelm Reinhard Berger (1861–1911), who besides “Frühling ist es wieder” and “Ach, wer das doch könnte,” wrote hundreds of songs, choral, and piano works, symphonies, and chamber music. Again, Lehmann’s performances of these songs, which she never sang in recital, sound as if she is really enjoying them. She does not give them any less detailed attention or love than the most important Schubert Lied. Jim Cowler’s original name was Karl Gustav Herbert Noack (1898–1964). His “Es gibt eine Frau, die dich niemals vergisst” was a Tauber success and once again, Lehmann makes it her own. Hans May (1886–1958) was best known as a film composer. He wrote “Der Duft, der eine schöne Frau begleitet,” which was a jazz pop favorite of the time, and Lehmann sings it with such a wonderful lilting Viennese three-quarter time that I defy you to conduct while she performs. Willy Rosen (1894–1944) wrote “Wenn du einmal dein Herz verschenkst,” film scores, and some other popular hits before he was killed in Auschwitz. Listen for the way that Lehmann caresses some of the words in a way that is far from an opera singer’s manner. Erik Meyer-Helmund (1862–1932) was born in Saint Petersburg but lived and worked in Berlin as a composer, pianist, and singer. He wrote five operas, ballet scores, and incidental music for theaters. He also wrote many popular songs and salon pieces performed and recorded by Joseph Schmidt, Fritz Kreisler, John McCormack, and later, Fritz Wunderlich and Nicolai Gedda. Though probably not a great song, Lehmann imbues the melodic tune of “Das Zauberlied” (The Magic Song) with real feeling and enchants us with her beautiful voice. Just listen at the end for the effortless high B-flat.

What to make of the two Ketèlbey songs? Albert William Ketèlbey (1875–1959) was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He wrote light orchestral music (“In a Persian Market,” “In a Monastery Garden”), film scores, and in 1924 “Sanctuary of the heart,” heard here as “Heiligtum des Herzens” and “The sacred hour” (“Andachtsstunde”) recorded with the then well-known actor/reciter Karl Zander (1891–1950). It is beyond me how Odeon thought they would make money with this kind of corny stuff. Besides Germany, this was also released on English and Australian Parlophone, and American Decca.

Fitting “Der Erlkönig” onto a 10-inch disc forced both the pianist and singer to rush through one of the most ill-conceived of all of Lehmann’s recordings, but her interpretation is still discernible as well as her signature whispered last notes. Sadly, the pianist bangs away in an unmusical manner.

Lehmann told me not to play any of her Mozart recordings for her eighty-fifth birthday tribute; she held all of her Mozart recordings in low esteem, perhaps from her initial problems with one of her first teachers who forced her to sing “Dove sono” over and over. But one would never know there was a problem when you enjoy Mozart’s “Heil’ge Quelle” (Porgi amor), “O säume länger nicht” (Deh vieni, non tardar) or “Ach, ich fühl’s.” She doesn’t scoop, her sound is rich but not syrupy, and her legato and simplicity of phrasing could hardly be impugned. Hermann Klein writes: “… a valuable lesson in the art of true Mozart singing. The tone throughout is firm and clear; the phrasing characterized by all her wonted purity of style and diction; the reading replete with expressive feeling and the sense of longing that words and music so fully convey.”10

Luckily for us, the microphone helped preserve Lotte Lehmann’s artistry at its peak of her interpretive genius and vocal opulence and we have today’s technology applied to these precious documents of one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century.

As J. B. Steane concludes: “[From Lehmann’s recordings] we sense a valuable person, immensely alive, strong and intelligent as well as warm, tender, and charming—perhaps after all as complete a human being as we come to know through records of great singers.”11

© Gary Hickling, 2019

1 Legendary Voices, London: André Deutsch Limited, 1992, p. 140

2 Song on Record: Volume 1, Lieder: Alan Blyth, London: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 160

3 Lotte Lehmann: A Centenary Biography 1888–1976, Jefferson, Alan, London: Julia MacRae Books,1988, p. 246

4 op. cit. p. 472

5 The Record of Singing Volume 2, Scott, Michael, Lebanon N.H., Northeastern University Press, 1993, p. 213

6 op. cit. p. 462

7 op. cit. p. 409

8 op. cit. p. 236

9 op. cit. p. 153

10 op. cit. p. 565

11 op. cit. p. 231

Lotte Lehmann’s recording career began in 1914 when she was twenty-six years old. It continued for thirty-five years, ending two years before her retirement from the stage in 1951. Our first Lotte Lehmann set (Marston 54006-2) comprises all of her acoustic recordings: two sides for Pathé made in 1914; forty-two sides for Deutsche Grammophon, 1917–1921; and twenty-seven sides for the Lindström Company, 1924–1926, issued on the company’s Odeon label. This set presents Lehmann’s complete electrical Lindström recordings, again on the Odeon label, all made in Berlin between 1927 and 1933.

A brief overview of
the Lindström company

Carl Lindström, 1869–1932, was a Swedish inventor and entrepreneur who established a company in Berlin during the 1890s initially manufacturing cylinder playback-only machines, to which he gave the names Lyra and Puck. With the emergence of disc recording in the early twentieth century, Lindström marketed his own version of the gramophone, which he called “Parlophon”. Within a few years, the company set up its own recording operation, using the Parlophon name for its first label. During the early teens, the company acquired the assets of the International Talking Machine Company with its Odeon label, as well as Fonotipia and other small labels, with each maintaining its own identity and many keeping a distinct roster of recording artists. By the early 1920s, however, Lindström was using Odeon, Parlophon, and Fonotipia merely as label names to issue its own recordings in Germany and Italy. In 1923, the company established an English branch, issuing recordings under the “Parlophone” moniker.

Considering Lotte Lehmann’s growing international reputation, it is surprising that her acoustic discs were confined to the German Odeon label, while at least a few sides by other Lindström recording artists such as Richard Tauber and Lauritz Melchior were released on the US Odeon label.

The year 1925 saw the introduction of electrical recording by the three major record labels: Victor in the U.S.A., HMV in England, and Columbia on both sides of the Atlantic, all of whom paid a licensing fee to Western Electric for the use of their electrical recording system. But with the economic situation worsening in Germany, the Lindström company was unable to undertake the expense of converting to the new system, and it continued producing acoustic recordings through the summer of 1926. That year, the company underwent a huge change when it was bought out by English Columbia. Lindström continued to operate autonomously, but was now able to use Columbia’s license with Western Electric to make electrical recordings. The first electrical records were cut in the fall of 1926, and following Columbia’s method for designating use of the Western electric system, the letter “W”, enclosed within a circle, was stamped on each master as the first character of the matrix number.

Lotte Lehmann’s first electrical recording session took place on 16 February 1927, yielding five twelve-inch sides. Up to this point, Lindström’s classical artists such as Lehmann and Tauber had appeared only on twelve-inch discs, but with the introduction of electrical recording and the connection with the broader market that Columbia could provide, both artists began making scores of ten-inch records targeting a more diverse audience. Lehmann’s Lindström records were all recorded in Berlin, with twelve-inch matrices continuing with the old xxB prefix, and ten-inch matrices using the prefix Be. Her records were issued in Germany only on the Odeon label and never on Parlophon. With her emergence as an international artist, however, many of her records were soon being released on the Parlophone-Odeon label in England, and on Parlophone in Australia, pressed at Columbia’s factories in both countries on excellent shellac. Some were also issued on fine French, Italian, and Argentine Odeon pressings. As Lehmann’s American career began to flourish, her Lindström records began appearing in the US Columbia catalog, and later on American Decca.

Lindström continued using the Western Electric system through 1927 and much of 1928, while developing its own electrical recording process, aimed at circumventing payment of large licensing fees to Western Electric. Once this system had been implemented, an encircled “L”, for Lindström replaced the Western Electric “W” (the “L” being in a stylized form which Lindström registered early on as a trademark). Lehmann’s session of 13 March 1928 is noteworthy because the four sides recorded that day used the prefix LWxxB. This combination of letters can be found on many Lindström records between 1928 and 1932, with no evidence as to what it indicates—perhaps the use of components from both systems? Further research will be necessary to unravel this mystery. In any case, Lehmann’s first session using the Lindström system took place on 26 February 1929, beginning with “Wie nahte mir der Schlummer” from Der Freischütz, and concluding with four organ-accompanied hymns. Her next session reverted to Western Electric, but the Lindström system appears to have been used from this point until her final session in 1933.

Over the past forty years of listening to hundreds of Lindström discs, I have often noticed a huge difference in sound quality from session to session. Some recordings made with the Lindström system can sound just as fine as Western Electric recordings, while others exhibit a complete absence of low frequencies and a generally tinny quality over the entire sonic spectrum. This sonic disparity that mars so many Lindström recordings always puzzled me, and I had never read or heard a plausible explanation for it. A few months ago, I emailed my colleague, Christian Zwarg, asking for his opinion on the subject. With his permission we share this fascinating extract from his reply, containing the answer:

The occasional lack of bass is caused by difficulties with the peculiar custom-made condenser microphone they used at Lindström, to replace the Western Electric one that was more reliable but cost patent license fees to WE for every recording made with it— fees that, being payable in US dollars, weren’t easy for a German company to make in those days. The Lindström microphone consisted of a circular sheet of gold foil, about the size of a large gramophone soundbox, drawn tight like a drumhead over a solid metal backing, with a few microns distance between the two. The foil, the backing, and the air between the two form a capacitor whose capacitance varies when the foil vibrates and the distance between foil and backing plate changes. A DC (or high-frequency AC) current applied to this condenser gets modulated with the audio signal. The problem is in the fine-tuning of that delicate system: with a distance that is just a few micrometers too large, and/or with the foil drawn too tightly, the average capacity drops, sensitivity gets lower, and the device is no longer properly matched to the preamp. The typical result includes a loss of bass, and lots of metallic-sounding distortion. But with the diaphragm foil too close to the backing plate, or not stretched tightly enough, there was a risk of the foil touching the plate at high sound pressure levels (or when a sudden gust of air hit the diaphragm), which resulted in a short circuit and destruction of the diaphragm because it melted immediately with a bang and a flash of light. I think it was Horst Wahl who tells us somewhere in his writings that sessions were frequently stopped short because someone had blown up the microphone by producing an overly loud sound at too close a distance, breathing directly against the foil, or banging against the microphone stand. Then, the engineer had to install a new diaphragm while the musicians took a break. Naturally, the exact adjustment would be impossible to reproduce, so the next take would have a different sound. With a safer setting, having the foil further away from the back electrode to avoid further breakdowns, that very likely meant less bass and a shriller sound.

In 1931, the English Columbia Graphophone Company and the Gramophone Company merged to form EMI, with all of Lindström’s branches coming under the same umbrella. The English Columbia pressing plant was closed, and all English pressings were made at the HMV Hayes factory, whose pressings were notorious for their crackly surface noise, sounding like bacon frying in a pan. Sadly, this meant that Columbia and Parlophone pressings now emitted the same crackly surface noise as HMV pressings. Lindström continued using its rather undependable recording system, but by the end of 1933, there is a change in the matrix prefix from “L” to “P”, which some believe could indicate that EMI had installed the new Blumlein recording system in at least some of the Lindström studios, though the choice of “P” is a mystery. Lehmann’s final four Lindström sides, all from Richard Strauss’s Arabella, were recorded with this system designated by the prefix PBe.

In remastering the recordings for this compilation, I used German Odeon pressings whenever possible, but for each side that was available on another label such as Parlophone or Columbia, I made a close comparison of the sound and surface noise of each before choosing. I found that Parlophone-Odeon and Parlophone pressings made at the Columbia factories in England and Australia were sonically equivalent to German Odeon pressings, and often yielded excellent surfaces. American Columbia pressings also yielded quiet surfaces, but the actual quality of sound was occasionally slightly muffled as if the stampers might have been polished. I avoided using American Decca pressings and rarely chose English Parlophones pressed after the EMI merger. While making these side-by-side comparisons, the choice of styli for each side was critical in obtaining optimum signal-to-noise ratio and vocal clarity. Take numbers of each copy were checked, and we have included all alternative takes that were discovered.

For Lindström recordings, the first take is never indicated. Subsequent takes are, however, always clearly marked with a take number after the matrix number so they can be readily identified. I did find one anomaly regarding matrix WxxB 7887, CD 2, track 5. The Odeon pressing in my collection clearly had no take number, which meant take one, agreeing with all of the discographies. But I discovered a Parlophone pressing clearly marked with a superscript “2”. This turned out not to be an alternative issued take, but just a dub of take one, erroneously marked. Of course, there is always the possibility that there are other issued alternative takes, and we will be pleased to hear from collectors on this subject. We have presented the recordings in chronological sequence except for a few instances where musical considerations dictated slight deviation. It should be mentioned that during the recording session of 4 September 1928, the Odeon logs indicate that the selections were recorded out of matrix order; we have followed the correct sequence.

While working on this project, I have been frustrated that so little can be done to ameliorate the absence of bass in some of the recordings using the Lindström system. Boosting the low frequencies makes only a slight improvement.

In the end, it is Lehmann’s glorious artistry that shines through any and all technical deficiencies. Let’s simply sit back and soak up the rays.