Lagniappe Volume 20

Reinald Werrenrath
Lagniappe 20

Reinald Werrenrath cover

Total time: (79:15)

1. Non piango e non sospiro [from the opera EURIDICE, 1600] (Caccini) 2:27
2. Funeste piagge [from the opera EURIDICE, 1600] (Peri, arranged by Max Spicker) 4:28
3. Ecco purch’a voi ritorno [from the opera ORFEO, 1607] (Monteverdi) 2:05
4. Tu se’ morta [from the opera ORFEO, 1607] (Monteverdi) 3:29
5. Vittoria, mio core [composed 1646] (Carissimi) 2:54
6. O cessate di piagarmi [from the opera POMPEO, 1683] (Alessandro Scarlatti) 1:12
7. I attempt from love’s sickness to fly [from the opera THE INDIAN QUEEN, 1695] (Purcell) 2:21
8. Come raggio di sol [composed circa 1711–1717] (Caldara) 2:34
9. Caro mio ben [composed circa 1782] (Giordani) 3:12
10. Là ci darem la mano [from DON GIOVANNI] (Mozart) 3:23
  with Mabel Garrison, soprano
11. Guide thou my steps [from LES DEUX JOURNÉES] (Cherubini) 4:11
12. The heart bow’d down [from THE BOHEMIAN GIRL] (Balfe) 4:13
13. Even bravest heart may swell [from FAUST] (Gounod) 3:41
Sung in D
14. Ce breuvage pourrait me donner un tel rêve … Vision fugitive [from HÉRODIADE] (Massenet)) 4:17
15. Votre toast [from CARMEN] (Bizet) 4:14
  with chorus
16. The Hymn of Charlemagne (Veni Creator Spiritus) (9th Century Chant)) 1:44
17. Lament for Charlemagne (A solis ortu usque ad occidua) (9th Century Chant)) 2:28
18. Summertime (von Reuental, 1190–1240)) 1:32
19. When the nightingale shall sing (de Coucy, 1186–1203)) 1:59
20. My lovely Celia (Monro, 1675/80–1731)) 2:41
21. Oft in the stilly night (Scotch Air)) 4:25
22. Du bist die Ruh’, D. 776 (Schubert)) 3:59
23. Von ewiger Liebe, Op. 43, No. 1 (Brahms)) 4:03
24. Zur Ruh’, zur Ruh’, ihr müden Glieder! (Wolf)) 2:31
25. Allerseelen, Op. 10, No. 8 (R. Strauss)) 2:58
26. Duna (McGill)) 2:14
All tracks recorded by the Victor Talking Machine Company, except tracks 22 and 23, which were recorded by the Gramophone Company LTD.
Tracks 1–6 and 8–10 sung in Italian
Tracks 7, 11–13, 18–21, and 26 sung in English
Tracks 22–25 sung in German
Tracks 14 and 15 sung in French
Tracks 16 and 17 sung in Latin
Tracks 1, 3–6, 8, and 9 with Victor Orchestra, conducted by Ted Levy
Tracks 2, 7, 11, 12, 15, and 21 with Victor Orchestra, conducted by Walter B., Rogers
Tracks 10, 14, 20, and 26 with Victor Orchestra, conducted by Josef Pasternack
Tracks 18, 19, 24, and 25 with Victor Orchestra, conductor unknown
Track 13 with Victor Orchestra, conducted by Rosario Bourdon
Tracks 16 and 17 sung unaccompanied
Tracks 22 and 23 with unidentified pianist


This project has been fully funded by an anonymous donor.

Marston would like to thank David Seubert, Curator, Performing Arts Collection, University of California, Santa Barbara, for providing digital transfers of original discs for this project.

Marston would like to thank Mark Bailey, Director of the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings, for providing digital transfers of original discs for this project.


When one considers the quite extraordinary esteem in which Reinald Werrenrath (1883–1953), then called “America’s foremost baritone,” was held by both critics and public alike during his career in the early twentieth century, one finds it astonishing that few people listen to his small number of recordings of serious, cultivated, music, or even remember him in the present day. Of course his career was multifarious: and the audiences who went to his many concerts may not be identical to those who bought his popular gramophone records, nor yet to those who admired him at the Metropolitan Opera or on Broadway, even though there will naturally have been overlap. I think that the disappearance of those whose musical life centred on recordings of drawing room songs or ballads, which was by far the greater part of what he recorded, is certainly partly to blame for Werrenrath’s absence or very rare appearances on long-playing records or on CDs.

His father was Georg Werrenrath, born in Copenhagen in 1838, who trained as a tenor, having studied, according to his obituary in the New York Times, with Lamperti in Italy; he held positions at the Royal Opera of Wiesbaden, singing all over Europe in operas by Meyerbeer, Gounod, whom he knew well, and by Mozart and Wagner, whose Lohengrin he made one of his most famous roles. Moving to America in 1876, he became famous through working with Theodore Thomas and was one of the first to sing Lohengrin in that country. He is also given credit for being one of the very first singers to introduce song concerts to the American public and gave many such recitals of Lieder, in 1877, singing over seventy “classical songs” on four evenings. He married Aretta Camp, also a singer, in 1879.

Reinald Werrenrath was born on August the seventh, 1883. He was educated in Brooklyn and graduated from New York University in 1905 and was granted a Doctor of Music by them in 1932. He used to say that his father, who died in 1898, had given him his first singing lessons and he was very active in glee clubs while a student. Later teachers included Percy Rector Stephens (1876–1942) and even Victor Maurel. He began in 1904 or 1905 to make recordings for the Edison company, and had actually been singing in public, to good reviews even as early as 1899. In the Worcester Festival of the Autumn of 1907, he took part in a Wagner evening, with Ernestine Schumann-Heink, George Hamlin, and Emilio de Gogorza and sang, as Hans Sachs, the great concluding scene of Meistersinger. His success in this ensured that he was re-engaged in 1908 to sing the beautiful music of the title role in the first American performance of Elgar’s Caractacus.

De Gogorza was so impressed by Werrenrath’s singing that he arranged for him to go to the Victor Company for an audition and Werrenrath signed a contract with them at the beginning of 1908. His recording career with Victor was a long one and he made well over seven hundred records for them as soloist or as a member of different groups or even as part of small “choruses,” as he did, for example, in the famous Trovatore duet with Caruso and Alda. If one goes through his discography, one is forcibly struck by the very great preponderance of popular songs and ballads, religious pieces, even Tin Pan Alley, and the dearth of serious music, and I think this is because Werrenrath had, in a sense, two distinct careers. For Victor, his easy reading of scores, his pleasant voice, and his enjoyment of singing, made him a natural person to use in order to enlarge their catalogue with records which would sell well. Werrenrath’s second career was largely in the concert halls, as vocal recitals were then numerous and well-attended all over America. And it is a striking fact that from the beginning, and in contradistinction to his recorded output, in concerts, Werrenrath sang serious music in scrupulously researched, well-balanced programmes.

The concerts of which I have seen reviews or old concert programmes usually began with a group of Arie antiche by Peri, Caccini, Lotti, pieces by Purcell, or sometimes with arias from Bach cantatas, or Handel operas or oratorios. A next grouping might be of German Lieder, both old and modern, or Scandinavian songs, sung in Norwegian, or French songs by Ravel, Duparc, and others; often, early folk-songs are part of the programme; mediaeval music appears too; and it must not be forgotten that Werrenrath famously sang, for the first time in America, songs by Schoenberg and was criticized for so doing by conservative reviewers, although more cultivated critics cautiously commended him for his daring and for that of the composer.

Then there might be a section of arias from 19th-century operas. And finally, he would conclude with songs in English, Stanford’s ‘Songs of the Sea’ or Kipling songs such as ‘Danny Deever,’ by his friend, Walter Damrosch, the ‘Road to Mandalay’ or other ‘art songs,’ such as the then well-known ‘Duna.’ These concerts, at the Aeolian Hall or Carnegie Hall in New York, were also given all over the country with extraordinary success over 3,500 times and though requiring a good deal of coping with the travelling conditions of those days, they proved very rewarding. Before the Great War he performed and recorded in Europe, and continued giving successful concert tours there for years after the war was over.

The concerts were reviewed by serious critics from the beginning, and very famous critics, such as Richard Aldrich, W. J. Henderson, and Henry Krehbiel all praised Werrenrath’s singing to the skies. Werrenrath toured with Farrar and Hempel, and also appeared frequently with John McCormack, with whom he made several well-known records.

I think that such evidence as I have found shows that it was Werrenrath himself, and not Victor, who chose to record most of the items on this CD disk. Werrenrath seems to have had an extraordinarily wide-ranging, musical curiosity about the repertoire he included in his concerts. From the surviving programmes, it’s evident that he sang his songs frequently in concerts long before recording them, and only afterwards, put enough pressure on Victor so that they would record some of this concert repertoire. From time to time, Victor responded, and issued some of these recordings as “Educational” records. The Hugo Wolf song may be the first Wolf recorded in America; and many other items are in that category too, the Caccini and Peri arias, for example; and the Monteverdi items may well be the first pieces from Orfeo ever recorded. Of a recital given in 1910, where Werrenrath sang some of the pieces on the present CD, Richard Aldrich wrote that the singer had: “a voice of unusual beauty and is clearly one possessed of artistic instincts that lead him to the diligent cultivation of the talent with which he is endowed....” After commenting on the “severe demands” made by the programme on the artistic powers of a singer, Aldrich then goes on to say: “...His first three numbers were old Italian airs that require a command of the legato style, and fine phrasing and enunciation...In these he sang with much finish, with mastery of the difficult technique that they require as to phrasing and legato as well as with taste....” Finally, he adds that Werrenrath’s singing of Beethoven, Brahms, Wolf, and Grieg “evinced a nice understanding of the widely different characterization that they needed.”

These programmes show that in spite of his recording work with popular music, Werrenrath retained the serious interest in a more permanent repertoire that had been part of his family’s musical background. He not only sang regularly in Bach, and Handel religious works, as well as in Elijah, but he was also soloist in the first American performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony under Stokowski.

Werrenrath’s three years as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company began in 1919 and his debut was as Silvio in Pagliacci, with Caruso, and Florence Easton. Afterwards, W. J. Henderson wrote: “ respect of style, diction, phrasing, beauty of expression, the best ‘Silvio’ I have ever heard.” Of the same performance, the New York Times review said: “The little duet of Easton and Werrenrath was one of the finest examples of pure singing since the De Reszkes and the stars of Grau.” This invocation of 19th-century elegance shows that the reviewer observed the interesting contrast between old and more modern styles of singing and is, I think, a fair comment on Werrenrath’s manner and his vocal production. He was equally successful in the baritone roles of Faust and Carmen, which he sang with Martinelli and Farrar. However, I think that though his recordings of 19th-century opera arias are pleasantly competent and well sung, they show a certain lack of the individuality that strikes one in his other recordings. From the fact that his performances got excellent reviews from formidable critics one can only conclude that they heard things that were somehow dampened when Werrenrath came to record them. A temperament perhaps less suited to stage performance than concerts, seems to have been partly responsible for his short stage career. Even after leaving the Metropolitan, however, he would occasionally undertake to appear elsewhere—as Amonasro for example.

Werrenrath kept a studio at Carnegie Hall where he taught singing and, after the demand for concerts gradually declined, devoted more and more of his time to this, teaching as well at the Peabody Conservatory. He also ran a singing school at his large summer place on Lake Chazy, and, after making his first long-playing disk in the spring of 1953, in his seventieth year, retired there for a summer of teaching, and died on September the twelfth.

The records on this compact disk are typical of some of what Werrenrath liked to sing at his concerts. They are not, I am told, very well known to collectors and this is a great pity, for they are beautiful. It is our hope that this release of some of Werrenrath’s serious repertoire will restore the respect in which his name was held throughout his lifetime and that listeners will enjoy his singing once again.

© I.O.M., 2023