Herbert Janssen: Portrait of a Mastersinger (SHIPS WHEN AVAILABLE IN JANUARY)

56005-2 (6 CDs)  | $ 72.00
VOCAL

 

Herbert Janssen: Portrait of a Mastersinger (SHIPS WHEN AVAILABLE IN JANUARY)
The recordings of the baritone Herbert Janssen (1892–1965) have continued to delight listeners, beginning with their first appearance in the 1920s up until the present, where contemporary critics often revere them as standards of distinguished singing. The very individualistic beauty of his voice has long been held in the highest esteem by connoisseurs of both operatic and Lieder singing. His perfect Italianate legato, his breath control, and the “long-bowed” phrasing of his vocal art were greatly praised by critics and audiences throughout his thirty-year career, first in continental Europe and at Covent Garden, and latterly in the Americas.

His musically rich and varied career in Europe ended abruptly in 1937 when his outspoken opposition to Hitler’s regime led to his pursuit by the Gestapo and eventual escape and exile. Until then, he had given highly praised performances, not only of the Wagnerian roles for which he is chiefly remembered today, but of Mozart, Gluck, a great deal of Verdi and other Italian and French operas, as well as of contemporary works and even Russian repertoire.

Janssen’s Lieder singing on record has left memorable interpretations of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and Strauss which are still highly prized today.

The present collection includes all his surviving pre-war studio recordings of opera and operetta (except for the 1930 Columbia Tannhäuser); all of Janssen’s surviving 78 rpm Lieder recordings, including several previously unpublished items; and rare broadcast material that appears here together for the first time. The set includes liner notes by Iain Miller and Michael Aspinall, as well as a large selection of rare photos. As a portrait of one of the greatest baritones on records, this six-CD set of Herbert Janssen is the most complete yet to appear.

CD 1 (72:55)

I. Recordings of Opera and Operetta
1923-1930
1.

RIGOLETTO: Tutte le feste al tempio … Piangi, fanciulla (Verdi)

4:22
 Lotte Schöne, soprano
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
 11 November 1927, Berlin; Gramophone Company; CWR1341-1 (DB1127)
2.

MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Ora a noi. Sedete qui. (Hört mich an, und setzt Euch her) (Puccini)

8:47
 with Margherita Perras, soprano
orchestra conducted by Selmar Meyrowitz
 24 September 1929, Berlin; Ultraphone; 30266 and 30267 (F.213)
3.

FAUST: O sainte médaille … Avant de quitter ces lieux (Da ich nun verlassen soll) (Gounod)

3:53
 Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
 19 April 1928, Berlin; Gramophone Company; CLR4044-2 (Eh219)
4.

FAUST: Écoute-moi bien, Marguerite (Höre mich jetzt an, Margarethe) (Gounod)

4:18
 Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
 19 April 1928, Berlin; Gramophone Company; CLR4043-2 (Eh219)
5.

DER WAFFENSCHMIED: Du läßt mich kalt von hinnen scheiden (Lortzing)

2:36
 Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
 18 April 1928, Berlin; Gramophone Company; BLR4040-1 (EG898)
6.

ZAR UND ZIMMERMANN: Sonst spielt’ ich mit Zepter (Lortzing)

3:23
 Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
 19 April 1928, Berlin; Gramophone Company; BLR4045-2 (EG898)
7.

TANNHÄUSER: Als du in kühnem Sange uns bestrittest (Wagner)

3:13
 unidentified orchestra and conductor
 December 1923, Berlin; Odeon; xxBo 8045-2 (AA 79413)
8.

TANNHÄUSER: Wohl wußt’ ich hier sie im Gebet zu finden (Wagner)

3:06
 unidentified orchestra and conductor
 December 1923, Berlin; Odeon; xxBo 8046-1 (AA 79414)
9.

TANNHÄUSER: Als du in kühnem Sange uns bestrittest (Wagner)

6:44
 with Sigismund Pilinszky, tenor; Ivar Andrésen, bass; and minstrels
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, conducted by Karl Elmendorff
 23-26 August 1930, Bayreuth; English Columbia; WAX5698-3 and WAX5699-2 (LCX53)
10.

TANNHÄUSER: Blick ich umher in diesem edlem Kreise (Wagner)

4:28
 Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, conducted by Karl Elmendorff
 23-26 August 1930, Bayreuth; English Columbia; WAX 5705-1 (LCX56)
11.

TANNHÄUSER: Wohl wußt’ ich hier sie im Gebet zu finden (Wagner)

4:12
 orchestra conducted by Selmar Meyrowitz
 13 December 1929, Berlin; Ultraphone; 30384 (EP.279)
12.

TANNHÄUSER: Wie Todesahnung Dämmrung deckt die Lande ... O du mein holder Abendstern (Wagner)

4:19
 orchestra conducted by Selmar Meyrowitz
 13 December 1929, Berlin; Ultraphone; 30385 (EP.279)
13.

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG: Welches Unholds List (Act 2, Finale) (Wagner)

12:41
 with Nanny Larsén-Todsen, soprano and Ivar Andrésen, bass
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Leo Blech
 19 April 1928, Berlin; Gramophone Company; CLR3975-1, 3976-1, and 3977-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
14.

DIE DREI MUSKETIERE: Ich liebe dich (Fitch-Lowe, arranged Benatzky1)

3:27
 orchestra of the Grosses Schauspielhaus, conducted by Ernst Hauke
 7 October 1929, Berlin; Gramophone Company; BLR5673-1 (EG1557)
15.

DIE DREI MUSKETIERE: Du schmeichelst in mein Herz dich ein (Benatzky)

3:25
 with Göta Ljungberg, soprano
orchestra of the Grosses Schauspielhaus, conducted by Ernst Hauke
 7 October 1929, Berlin; Gramophone Company; BLR5674-2 (EG1556)

CD 2 (79:42)

II. Recordings made for the Hugo Wolf Society
Gramophone Company, Berlin, 1932-1935
29 September 1932
Coenraad V. Bos, piano
1.

Harfenspieler I: Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:42
 2D1155-2 (DB1825)
2.

Harfenspieler II: An die Türen will ich schleichen from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:05
 2D1152-2 (DB1825)
3.

Harfenspieler III: Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:13
 2D1153-1 (DB1826)
4.

Anakreons Grab from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:30
 2D1154-1 (DB1826)
5.

Cophtisches Lied II: Geh! Gehorche meinen Winken from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:04
 2D1154-1 (DB1826)
22 September 1934
Coenraad V. Bos, piano
6.

Denk’ es, o Seele! from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:23
 2RA101-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
7.

Gebet from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:16
 2RA102-2 (DB2705)
8.

Auf ein altes Bild from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:17
 2RA102-2 (DB2705)
9.

An die Geliebte from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:23
 2RA103-2 (DB2705)
10.

Wächterlied auf der Wartburg from SECHS GEDICHTE VON SCHEFFEL, MÖRIKE, GOETHE, UND KERNER (Wolf)

4:05
 2RA104-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
4 November 1935
Michael Raucheisen, piano
11.

Verborgenheit from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:53
 2RA858-1 (DB2706)
12.

Biterolf im Lager von Akkon from SECHS GEDICHTE VON SCHEFFEL, MÖRIKE, GOETHE, UND KERNER (Wolf)

2:44
 2RA859-1 (DB2704)
13.

Seufzer from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:57
 2RA859-1 (DB2704)
14.

Denk’ es, o Seele! from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:42
 2RA860-1 (DB2706)
15.

Bei einer Trauung from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:50
 2RA860-1 (DB2706)
III. Excerpts from Live Performances
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 1936 and 1937
16.

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG: Heil! Heil! Willkommen … Brünnhild, die hehrste Frau (Act 2, Scene 4) (Wagner)

5:34
 14 May 1936, London Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
17.

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG: Welches Unholds List (Act 2, finale) (Wagner)

14:16
 with Frida Leider, soprano and Ludwig Weber, bass
 14 May 1936, London Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham
18.

DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER: Die Frist ist um (Wagner)

10:36
 11 June 1937, London Philharmonic, conducted by Fritz Reiner
19.

DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER: Wie aus der Ferne (Wagner)

7:10
 with Kirsten Flagstad, soprano
 11 June 1937, London Philharmonic, conducted by Fritz Reiner

CD 3 (68:07)

IV. Selected Lieder by Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, and Robert Schumann
Gramophone Company, Berlin and London, 1936–1938
1.

Wie bist du, meine Königin, Op. 32, No. 9 (Brahms)

3:44
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4975-1 (DB3941)
2.

Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen, Op. 32, No. 2 (Brahms)

2:26
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4974-1 (DB3941)
3.

Minnelied, Op. 71, No. 5 (Brahms)

2:08
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4974-1 (DB3941)
4.

Auf dem Kirchhofe, Op. 105, No. 4 (Brahms)

2:30
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4976-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
5.

Ständchen (Leise flehen meine Lieder), No. 4 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

3:56
 Michael Raucheisen, piano
 10 November 1936, Berlin; 2RA1585-1 (DB3024)
6.

Der Doppelgänger, No. 13 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

3:57
 Gerald Moore, piano
 29 August 1937, Berlin; 2RA2197-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
7.

Ganymed, D.544 (Schubert)

4:16
 Gerald Moore, piano
 22 March 1938, London; 2EA6153-2 (HMB157)
8.

Der Wegweiser, No. 20 from WINTERREISE, D.911 (Schubert)

3:57
 Gerald Moore, piano
 22 March 1938, London; 2EA6154-1 (DB3496)
9.

Das Wirtshaus, No. 21 from WINTERREISE, D.911 (Schubert)

4:03
 Gerald Moore, piano
 22 March 1938, London; 2EA6155-1 (DB3496)
10.

Romanze (Der Vollmond strahlt), No. 3 from ROSAMUNDE, D.797 (Schubert)

2:51
 Gerald Moore, piano
 22 March 1938, London; 2EA6156-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
11.

Kriegers Ahnung, No. 2 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

4:30
 Gerald Moore, piano
 29 August 1937, Berlin; 2RA2199-2 (HMB157)
12.

Ständchen (Leise flehen meine Lieder), No. 4 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

4:16
 Gerald Moore, piano
 16 November 1938, London; 2EA7121-1T (DB5797)
13.

Der Atlas, No. 8 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

2:00
 Gerald Moore, piano
 29 August 1937, Berlin; 0RA2200-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
14.

Ihr Bild, No. 9 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

3:17
 Gerald Moore, piano
 29 August 1937, Berlin; 0RA2195-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
15.

Die Stadt, No. 11 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

2:58
 Gerald Moore, piano
 29 August 1937, Berlin; 2RA2196-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
16.

Der Doppelgänger, No. 13 from SCHWANENGESANG, D.957 (Schubert)

4:45
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7124-2 (DB5797)
17.

Die Allmacht, D.852 (Schubert)

4:25
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7127-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
18.

Die beiden Grenadiere, Op. 49, No. 1 (Schumann)

3:41
 Michael Raucheisen, piano
 10 November 1936, Berlin; 2RA1586-2 (DB3024)
19.

Widmung, No. 1 from MYRTHEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)

2:10
 Gerald Moore, piano
 10 June 1937, London; 0EA4955-2 (DA1569)
20.

Die Lotosblume, No. 7 from MYRTHEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)

2:15
 Gerald Moore, piano
 10 June 1937, London; 0EA4965-1 (DA1569)

CD 4 (52:25)

V. Selected Lieder by Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss
Gramophone Company, Berlin and London, 1936–1938
1.

Keine gleicht von allen Schönen from VIER GEDICHTE NACH HEINE, SHAKESPEARE, UND LORD BYRON (Wolf)

2:19
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7125-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
2.

Sonne der Schlummerlosen, from VIER GEDICHTE NACH HEINE, SHAKESPEARE, UND LORD BYRON (Wolf)

2:38
 Gerald Moore, piano
 16 November 1938, London; 2EA7122-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
3.

Wo wird einst des Wandermüden, from VIER GEDICHTE NACH HEINE, SHAKESPEARE, UND LORD BYRON (Wolf)

2:39
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4968-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
4.

Dereinst, dereinst, Gedanke, mein, from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)

2:29
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 2EA4951-1 (DB3325)
5.

Alle gingen, Herz, zu Ruh, from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)

1:50
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 2EA4951-1 (DB3325)
6.

Tief im Herzen trag’ ich Pein, from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)

2:08
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 2EA4953-1 (DB3325)
7.

Komm, o Tod, von Nacht umgeben, from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)

3:28
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 2EA4952-4 (DB3326)
8.

Der Jäger, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:21
 Michael Raucheisen, piano
 10 February 1937, Berlin; 2RA1818-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
9.

Lied eines Verliebten, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:45
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7123-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
10.

Fussreise, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:31
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7123-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
11.

Schlafendes Jesuskind, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:41
 Gerald Moore, piano
 17 November 1938, London; 2EA7126-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
12.

Der Jäger, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

3:11
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 2EA4954-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
13.

Der Musikant, from EICHENDORFF-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:46
 Gerald Moore, piano
 16 November 1938, London; 0EA7119-1 (DA1672)
14.

Der Freund, from EICHENDORFF-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:58
 Gerald Moore, piano
 16 November 1938, London; 0EA7120-1 (DA1672)
15.

Zur Ruh’, zur Ruh’, ihr müden Glieder!, from SECHS GEDICHTE VON SCHEFFEL, MÖRIKE, GOETHE, UND KERNER (Wolf)

2:32
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 2EA4953-1 (DB3325)
16.

Traum durch die Dämmerung, Op. 29, No. 1 (R. Strauss)

2:58
 Gerald Moore, piano
 10 June 1937, London; 0EA4966-1 (DA1581)
17.

Die Nacht, Op. 10, No. 3 (R. Strauss)

2:27
 Gerald Moore, piano
 15 June 1937, London; 0EA4973-1 (DA1581)
18.

Allerseelen, Op. 10, No. 8 (R. Strauss)

3:08
 Gerald Moore, piano
 10 June 1937, London; 0EA4967-1 (DA1591)
19.

Zueignung, Op. 10, No. 1 (R. Strauss)

2:01
 Gerald Moore, piano
 20 May 1937, London; 0EA4956-1 (DA1591)
VI. Selected Lieder by Hugo Wolf Recorded off the Air During a BBC broadcast
Unidentified pianist, London, 7 December 1938
20.

Der Musikant, from EICHENDORFF-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:57
21.

Der Freund, from EICHENDORFF-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:36

CD 5 (64:07)

VII. Excerpts from Live Performances
Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, 1938
1.

JOHANNESPASSION: O theurer Heiland (Bach)

5:41
 orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Colón, conducted by Erich Kleiber
 22 September 1938
2.

SIEGFRIED: Heil dir, weise Schmied! (Wagner)

14:50
 with Erich Witte, tenor
orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Colón, conducted by Erich Kleiber
 4 October 1938
VIII. Excerpts from Tannhäuser, Parsifal, and Otello
Orchestra of the Teatro Colón, conducted by Roberto Kinsky, Columbia, Buenos Aires, 1943
3.

TANNHÄUSER: Wohl wußt’ ich hier sie im Gebet zu finden (Wagner)

4:21
 4 October 1943; C-13216-1 (US Columbia 71697-D)
4.

TANNHÄUSER: Wie Todesahnung Dämmerung deckt die Lande ... O du mein holder Abendstern (Wagner)

3:56
 4 October 1943; C-13217-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
5.

PARSIFAL: Nein! Lasst ihn unenthüllt! (Wagner)

7:28
 13 September 1943; C-13127-2 and C-13128-2 (Argentine Columbia 266483)
6.

PARSIFAL: Ja, Wehe! Weh’ über mich (Wagner)

6:37
 13 September 1943; C-13125-1 and C-13126-1 (Argentine Columbia 266484)
7.

OTELLO: Talor vedeste in mano di Desdemona … Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro! (Verdi)

4:27
 with Lauritz Melchior, tenor
 31 August 1943; 13086-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
IX. Selected Songs by Edvard Grieg
Franz Rupp, piano, US Columbia, New York City, June 1945
8.

Med en primula veris (Mit einer Primula Veris), Op. 26, No. 4

1:11
 8 June 1945; CO 34928-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
9.

Gruss, Op. 48, No. 1

1:02
 8 June 1945; CO 34928-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
10.

En svane (Ein Schwan), Op. 25, No. 2

2:15
 13 June 1945; CO 34929-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
11.

Og jeg vil ha mig en Hjertenskjaer (Zur Johannisnacht), Op. 60, No. 5

1:38
 13 June 1945; CO 34930-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
12.

Zur Rosenzeit, Op. 48, No. 5

2:14
 8 June 1945; CO 34931-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
13.

Den særde (Der Verwundete), Op. 33, No. 3

2:07
 8 June 1945; CO 34932-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
14.

Jeg elsker dig (Ich liebe Dich), Op. 5, No. 3

2:09
 8 June 1945; CO 34933-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
15.

Ein Traum, Op. 48, No. 6

2:19
 13 June 1945; CO 34934-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
16.

Lys Nat (Lichte Nacht), Op. 70, No. 3

1:49
 13 June 1945; CO 34935-2 (unpublished on 78 rpm)

CD 6 (67:06)

X. Selected Lieder by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf
Ignaz Strasfogel, piano, US Columbia, New York City, September 1945
1.

Die Post, No. 13 from WINTERREISE, D.911 (Schubert)

2:11
 17 September 1945; CO 35204-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
2.

Du bist die Ruh’, D.776 (Schubert)

3:28
 17 September 1945; CO 35202-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
3.

Intermezzo, No. 2 from LIEDERKREIS, Op. 39 (Schumann)

2:01
 17 September 1945; CO 35203-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
4.

Fruhlingsfährt, Op. 45, No. 2 (Schumann)

3:19
 17 September 1945; CO 35205-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
5.

Die Mainacht, Op. 43, No. 2 (Brahms)

3:08
 14 September 1945; CO 35199-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
6.

Tambourliedchen, Op. 69, No. 5 (Brahms)

1:43
 14 September 1945; CO 35201-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
7.

Anakreons Grab, from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:42
 14 September 1945; CO 35198-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
8.

Gesang Weylas, from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:56
 14 September 1945; CO35200-1 (unpublished on 78 rpm)
XI. Selected Lieder by Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss
Taken off the air from CBS broadcasts, New York City
2 February 1948
CBS Symphony, conducted by Alfredo Antonini
9.

Harfenspieler I: War sich der Einsamkeit ergibt, from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:59
10.

Harfenspieler II: An die Türen will ich schleichen, from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:03
11.

Harfenspieler III: Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen, from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

2:06
12.

Anakreons Grab, from GOETHE-LIEDER (Wolf)

1:56
13.

Breit’ über mein Haupt, Op. 19, No. 2 (R. Strauss)

1:45
26 January 1944
CBS Symphony, conducted by Bernard Hermann
14.

Hymnus, Op. 33, No. 3 (R. Strauss)

4:43
15.

Pilgers Morgenlied, Op. 33, No. 4 (R. Strauss)

3:43
16.

Cäcilie, Op. 27, No. 2 (R. Strauss)

2:02
XII. Excerpts from DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG (Wagner)
US Columbia, New York City, 1945 and 1947
31 May 1945
Orchestra conducted by Paul Breisach
17.

Was duftet doch der Flieder (Monologue, Act 2)

5:47
 XCO 34876 and XCO 34877 (71819-D)
18.

Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn (Monologue, Act 3)

6:36
 XCO 34878 and XCO 34879 (71820-D)
7 December 1947
Orchestra conducted by Max Rudolf
19.

Mein Kind, von Tristan und Isolde … Selig, wie die Sonne (Quintet, Act 3)

8:22
 with Polyna Stoska, soprano; Torsten Ralf, tenor; Herta Glaz, mezzo-soprano; and John Garris, tenor
 XCO 39277 and XCO 39551 (72518-D)
XIII. Excerpt from Act 3 of DIE WALKÜRE (Wagner)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Artur Rodzinski
New York City, 25 November 1945
20.

Leb’ wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind (Wotan’s Farewell)

14:33

 

Producers: Ward Marston and Scott Kessler

Associate Producer: Iain Miller

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris

Photos: Girvice Archer, Gregor Benko, Rudi van den Bulck, Peter Clark (Curator of the Metropolitan Opera Archive), Bill Ecker, Iain Miller, Paul Steinson, André Tubeuf, and Axel Weggen

Booklet Coordinator: Mark S. Stehle

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

Booklet Essays: Michael Aspinall and Iain Miller

This project has been fully funded by an anonymous donor.

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; Stephen Clarke; Carlos Osvaldo Garde; Lawrence F. Holdridge; Karsten Lehl; Timothy Lockley; Norbeck, Peters and Ford; Fabian Piscitelli; Paul Steinson; and Axel Weggen.

Marston would like to thank William Crutchfield for his editorial guidance.

Marston would like to thank Christian Zwarg for his invaluable help with providing important discographic information.

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

HERBERT JANSSEN (1892–1965)

by Iain O. Miller, ©2017

PREFATORY NOTE: Anyone who writes about Janssen must first acknowledge a debt to the excellent 1965 article by Ted Hart (1921–1970) in the “Record Collector”. Ted Hart was himself a singer and an accomplished musician; he was also a friend of Janssen’s and may even have studied with him. After Janssen’s death, his wife gave Hart access to whatever recordings and scrapbooks of reviews remained in their flat at the Ansonia Hotel in New York. In addition to material gathered during his own research, the present compiler has drawn extensively on Hart’s article for information that is currently unavailable elsewhere.

•     •     •     •     •

JANSSEN’S EARLY LIFE AND VOCAL STUDIES

Even during what is now looked back on as one of the ‘Golden Ages’ of singing, there was always an air of exceptional distinction around the name of the German baritone, Herbert Janssen. This distinction was remarked by critics and audiences very early in his career and now, a hundred and twenty-five years after his birth, it remains, undiminished, in the judgment of anyone with a love of fine singing.

According to his birth certificate, Herbert Janssen was born on the 23rd of September, 1892, at 59 Brabanterstrasse in Cologne, the son of one Hermann Janssen and his wife, Anna Luise Sophia, née Siewert. On this certificate, Hermann Janssen gave his profession as ‘Merchant’ and according to his son’s account he was the owner of a coal mine and a coal merchant. Janssen used to say that he was of Frisian origin. The family was not only well-to-do, but also extremely cultivated, with several writers, sculptors, and painters amongst its members. In fact, the well-known painter Johann Peter Hasenclever was Herbert Janssen’s great-grandfather. Janssen’s mother was very musical and was herself a gifted amateur singer. Naturally she saw to it that her son and her daughter Anna should, as children, take singing lessons from a Cologne voice teacher, a Madame Batz-Kalender. Even as a child, the young Janssen enjoyed giving performances of operas before family and friends using his model opera house and singing all the parts of, say, Oberon, or Undine, in a high soprano. He was also so talented a pianist that at one time he dreamt of becoming a professional pianist. Cologne was musically and artistically very lively and the Janssen family fully enjoyed the city’s cultural life. As he grew up, Janssen began to think of becoming a singer, but he kept these ideas to himself and the intervention of military service and a full four years of active service as a cavalry officer in the Great War delayed any decision.

At the end of the War, Janssen’s thoughts on the matter had matured and he announced to his family his wish to become a professional singer. They were absolutely appalled, and to subsequent generations, who know Janssen’s great artistry, their attitude will seem benighted. But one must remember that though they really were culturally enlightened people and took genuine and profound pleasure in music, from their point of view it was one thing for them to enjoy these things as gifted amateurs or as listeners of good taste, and quite another for their son to become a professional on the stage and to be paid to sing for the enjoyment of others.

Janssen’s father had died when he was quite young, and when Janssen announced his intentions, his mother and various uncles immediately gathered round and exhorted him to study the law or go into the church, as befitted a member of his family; they pointed to his elder brother, Ernst, who had studied medicine, as the example to follow. But during the War, Janssen had thought constantly and profoundly about his career and was absolutely determined to study singing. His family, on the other hand, was equally adamant that he should forget such outlandish ideas, come to his senses, and enroll in a law school.

Eventually a conditional compromise was reached: his family proposed that they would arrange for him to sing an audition before a famous voice-teacher from Karlsruhe, chosen by them, and if this teacher should give his approval, then the family would agree to finance Janssen’s voice lessons. If, on the other hand, he ruled against his prospects as a singer, then Janssen would abandon singing as a career and study law.

At the audition, Janssen was certain he had sung well and expected that his singing would be praised. But to his great astonishment, the teacher gave judgment against him: he had no voice and no hope of cultivating it into anything that would support a career. Fortunately, Janssen remained quite unconvinced by this but, in accordance with the agreement, he duly went to Berlin and enrolled in the university there, ostensibly to study law. In fact, he used to say, he never went near the law school. Instead, he sought out a singing teacher and began to study.

Throughout his career, reviewers, no matter what other virtues they mentioned, constantly commented on how “well-schooled” Janssen’s voice was. Comments to that effect crop up again and again to this day when his singing is discussed. Ted Hart quotes Janssen as answering the inevitable question about how he acquired this technical prowess with the quietly teasing remark, “Constant study and training—but in the right way”, this last phrase added “as if in subtle afterthought”, says Hart.

The “right” way for Janssen was the way of the Berlin voice teacher he had chosen to study with, the great Dr. Oskar Daniel. This extraordinary man, though often given passing mention in singers’ biographies, deserves a central place in an account of Janssen’s career. He was born in Oedenburg (now Sopron, in Hungary) in 1879. His mother tongue was German and he received a doctorate in law from Vienna in 1906. Because he was extremely musical, he had been studying singing at the same time and had become a protégé of Gustav Mahler. A student of Janssen’s quotes him as saying that Daniel had studied with the younger Lamperti, who taught in both Dresden and latterly in Berlin. I have not been able to confirm this with independent evidence. What is definitely known is that he studied singing in Milan with Vincenzo Lombardi (1856–1914) teacher of de Lucia and Caruso, and also with Vittorio Vanzo (1862–1945). He was taken on as a “jugendlicher Heldentenor” at the Trier Opera for the 1911 Season and seems to have remained there until the outbreak of the Great War. Apart from having an unusually beautiful voice, Daniel soon showed himself to be an extremely gifted teacher of singing and, as a person, he is described as being lively and friendly. He quickly rose to the top of his profession as a teacher and, by the time Janssen went to study with him, he was already famous and had many celebrated pupils. A list of his pupils would be too long to include here, but in fairness to his memory, one can scarcely neglect to mention that amongst singers who studied with Daniel at some stage of their careers were Maria Cebotari, Frieda Hempel, Göta Ljungberg, Margherita Perras, Erna Sack, Lotte Schöne, Paul Schöffler, Elisabeth Ohms, as well as Herbert Janssen. Famous actors or theatre personalities also studied voice production with him, either privately or at the Berlin Hochschule. Marlene Dietrich, Elisabeth Bergner, Erika Mann, and Klaus Mann were among them.

When Dr. Daniel was appointed professor of voice training at the Berlin Hochschule in 1922, he was already so famous that the Berlin newspapers were extraordinarily enthusiastic. In fact, such was his fame that the noted Viennese psychologist Dr. Leopold Thoma came to observe his classes and afterwards published an account of what he’d seen at the lessons and what he had discussed with the man he calls ‘The Master’. The article, journalistic, not scholarly in style, has as its title one of Daniel’s exhortations to his pupils: “The core of the tone at the point between the eyes” and underneath, “Draw the tone in from outside, not from inside!” Beneath this is a sketch, showing the pupils seated in a line, a pianist at a grand piano and ‘The Master’ standing beside the piano with his hand on his throat saying, “Not here! Concentrate the tone between the eyes!” Dr. Thoma goes on to describe the lesson and explains Daniel’s practice of group lessons (Lamperti did this too) and describes how each singer in turn gets up, with thumb or finger on the forehead, and sings before the others and then submits to the comments of the teacher and his fellow pupils. When he asks Professor Dr. Daniel why he has the singers hold their finger on the place between their eyes, Daniel replies with what, at first, must seem a perfect example of explaining obscurum per obscurius. He says:

The best way to explain is with a comparison. If you light a carbon-arc lamp, a point of light emerges at the point where the carbon rods meet, from which light rays are emitted. It is the same with the voice and the point between the eyes. This is my opinion regarding the building of the core of the vocal tone.

Oskar Daniel held an important position in Berlin’s cultural life and the artists and intellectuals of Berlin often met at his beautiful house in the Kaiserallee. Heinz Tietjen, Bruno Walter, whose daughter also took singing lessons from Daniel, Leo Blech, both Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Otto Klemperer, Emil Ludwig, and Max Reinhardt were all among the many regular distinguished visitors to the Daniels’ hospitable salon; years later, several recalled their visits to his house, the evenings of conversation and music surrounded by the beautiful furnishings, the wonderful Persian carpets, and the lovely paintings on the walls. The house and the life within it were to vanish, of course, with so much else of German high culture, in 1933.

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Janssen used all the money sent to him by his family for his voice lessons. For almost two years he kept these studies from them, but a sudden visit by his mother revealed to the family what had been going on. Of course, they were furious and funds were abruptly cut off. He was told that there would be no further support from them until he abandoned singing and began to study law. For Janssen, such a course was more than ever out of the question and he was obliged to finance his continuing studies with Dr. Daniel by giving voice lessons to beginning singers and by accepting such support as his sympathetic brother-in-law was able to give.

He studied diligently and in 1922 went for his first audition: remarkably, he was immediately engaged by Max von Schillings at the Berlin Staatsoper. He telegraphed a message to his family in Cologne: “Engaged Berlin Staatsoper” and was amazed to have a grand piano delivered to his flat almost within hours. It was a present and a declaration of peace from his mother.

There was more to be revealed, however. It was only eight years later, in the afterglow of Janssen’s engagement to sing at Bayreuth, that his mother dared to tell him a terrible truth about the crucial audition she and the family had arranged years before: the teacher from Karlsruhe who had told him he had no voice had been given a large sum of money in advance, with instructions from the family that he must discourage Janssen from ever attempting to become a professional singer.

JANSSEN’S RECEPTION AS A SINGER

Of course, Janssen’s triumphant success at his audition before Max von Schillings did not mean an instant advance into taking major roles. He made his debut, on horseback, on May 5th, 1922, in Schrecker’s Schatzgräber. Despite his years in the cavalry, he had to twist himself sideways in the saddle to sing, as the nervous animal refused to face the audience. Leo Blech, the conductor, remonstrated with him afterwards for not ‘singing out’! He then began the usual ‘cursus honorum’ as a comprimario, singing Melot, Montano, Silvano in Ballo in Maschera, as well as small roles in Tiefland and Palestrina. It is obvious, however, that even in his first season Blech, and others, were already aware that with Janssen, they had exceptional material. Oskar Daniel’s training was telling, and Janssen was given the important and highly declamatory role of the Heerrufer in Lohengrin as well as the lyrical role of Silvio in Pagliacci. The critics wrote: “A fine baritone, full of character”; “Mighty and noble toned”; “well-schooled and sonorous”. It was a remarkable first season.

In fact, Janssen’s first season was so successful that already, in his second season, he was entrusted with the major role of Wolfram in Tannhäuser. His performance of this role was immediately recognized as being of exceptional beauty and finish; so much so, indeed, that as early as December 1923 he was invited to the Odeon Studios to record two excerpts from the opera, his only acoustic recordings. He also added to his repertoire the roles of Sharpless, the Count di Luna, and that of Liebenau in Waffenschmied. Janssen used later to say that he thought that perhaps it was his singing of Wolfram that had enabled him so quickly to leave the comprimario repertoire and become a singer of major roles. Even now, nearly a century later, his singing of Wolfram’s music is held up as a standard of how well that role can be sung.

Hart, using Janssen’s own archive, gives an illuminating list of roles performed by Janssen at the Berlin Staatsoper in his first years. It is a daunting and demanding repertory. In the 1924–1925 season, he added Renato, one of his favourite and most successful roles, Iokanaan, the Tsar in Zar und Zimmermann, and the Count in Schrecker’s Die Ferne Klang. In the 1925–1926 season, he added Gunther, Kurvenal, Albert in Werther, the Secretary in Boris Godunov, and Lothario in Mignon. And, incredibly hard work though it was, in 1926–1927 he added no fewer than eight new, major roles: Escamillio, Tonio, Valentin, Orest, the Count in Figaro, Amonasro, Amfortas, and Carlo in Forza del Destino!

After his retirement, he recalled having once sung Silvio in a performance of Pagliacci in which Battistini sang Tonio. When and where can this have been? Janssen’s guest appearances are hard to trace: they began early on, first in and around Berlin itself, but eventually in Paris, Barcelona, Prague, Copenhagen, Antwerp and The Hague, Kiel, Geneva, Lyons, and in Dresden, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Kassel, and Vienna—all over Europe, in fact, except Italy. Janssen’s appearance with his great predecessor could have occurred in many places, but so far, it has not been possible to trace such an occasion. In any case, Janssen’s admiration for Battistini’s singing knew no bounds and I mention this because the German critics and audiences, from the beginning, found Janssen’s own singing “Italian” in character and highly idiomatic for Verdi and other Italian composers. One German critic wrote of him as “a German singer who has the Italian quality, the lyricism, the flowing, fresh vocalism ...” In Berlin, he was described as “Janssen, the Belcantist”, this familiar epithet no doubt referring to his ‘instrumental’ flow of beautiful tone. Janssen himself once said that he had spent nearly an entire year singing “Il balen” every day, until he felt that he had this demanding aria perfectly under control. He would also recall how, when he was beginning his studies, he wanted to sing nothing but Arie antiche.

It must be emphasized that within Germany, Janssen sang Verdi and Italian opera a great deal and that he always felt a special affinity towards this repertoire. In addition to the Verdi roles already mentioned, he was a famous Rigoletto and Iago. He also sang Charles V in Ernani and Posa in Don Carlo with great success. It’s a great shame that he was able to record almost nothing of his preferred repertory. There is the Rigoletto duet with Lotte Schöne of which one critic remarked, “Nearest the art of the Italian comes Herbert Janssen with his smooth baritone”, and of which recording Herman Klein wrote that Janssen was first class and had “the right sort of appealing voice for Rigoletto.” Two takes under Blech of “Si pel ciel” from Otello with Melchior were never published but three takes of the singers’ much later recording of the same music have survived. There is the duet from Butterfly with Margherita Perras, but nothing else to help one imagine Janssen’s voice and art in Italian music.

Among contemporary operas in which Janssen performed, by far the most important was the 1927 Berlin premiere of Busoni’s masterpiece, Doktor Faust under Blech, whom Busoni had always especially admired. The great Friedrich Schorr was in the title-role, Frida Leider was the ‘Duchess of Parma’, and Janssen was the ‘Maiden’s brother, a soldier’. Janssen’s scene, with its pealing organ music, and its grandly declamatory line, must have been glorious to hear. Certainly, he enjoyed singing it, as he told Oskar Daniel, who had little sympathy with the music and had come backstage to commiserate with “poor” Janssen for having to sing in the opera. Reviews of his performance, however, were full of the highest praise and several critics thought Janssen’s performance was some of his best work to date.

Other less commonly performed operas were also in Janssen’s repertory. He took part in Karol Rathaus’s Fremde Erde, Moniuszko’s Halka, and Herbert Windt’s Andromache.

For the May-to-June season of 1926, Janssen came to Covent Garden for the first time. He was to appear there every year until the outbreak of the War and was highly esteemed from his very first appearances. In his first season he sang Gunther and Kurvenal only, and the critics were enthusiastic. In the Covent Garden of 1926, Janssen immediately stood out even where singers of an older generation such as Melba, Chaliapin and Journet were still performing, and where Schorr, Leider, Lotte Lehmann, Melchior and Schumann were also singing. His Gunther was called “a remarkable piece of singing” and “unusually convincing” and his Kurvenal “combined power and sympathy”. Indeed, throughout his career, his singing of Gunther always provoked surprised delight at what Janssen could make of that unsympathetic role. It was as though the critics were noticing, were hearing Gunther’s music for the first time. I think that the surprise and the delight of those audiences can be shared by us unusually well in the excerpts recorded live at Covent Garden under Beecham: although we cannot see Janssen’s acting of the role, there is something instantly arresting about the way his voice takes charge of the entire stage and commands attention. In fact, this is always true of Janssen’s singing and it is one of the more striking virtues of his art. It stems, I think, from the stance which Janssen takes up towards the music. It is a question of address, of bearing, of tremendous presence: Janssen used to call this quality “Heil”. It is also, of course, to do with the voice itself, its placement, its firm tonal core, and, not least, its great beauty. Even after the high drama of Hagen’s summoning of the Vassals, the almost magical effect of Janssen’s voice in the brief solo which follows, recalls Homer: he begins to sing “and down the shadowy halls, all were silent, seized by rapture.” Yes, it’s like that.

Janssen remained an honoured guest at Covent Garden until the close of the 1939 season. And, while he was indispensable in the Wagnerian roles, he was occasionally given the opportunity to display his talents outside Wagner: as Hidraot in Gluck’s Armide with Leider and Widdop, where he “sang finely” and where his “fine, resonant voice was a joy to hear”; as Prince Igor, where, in a cast that included Kipnis, Janssen was the only singer praised for his style, while the remaining singers were thought “too German”; as Orest in Elektra; Don Fernando in Fidelio; and as the Speaker in the Zauberflöte, where Herman Klein found him “simply perfect” and Cardus thought there was “more wisdom in one syllable of Janssen’s Speaker” than in all of Sarastro’s role. The air of wisdom in Janssen’s singing is something that comes back repeatedly when critics try to describe its effect.

It was in Wagner, however, that he left his stamp most definitely at Covent Garden. He sang Donner in Rheingold, as well as the major roles for which he is chiefly remembered: the Dutchman, Wolfram, Telramund, Gunther, Kothner, Kurvenal, and Amfortas. His Dutchman was considered one of his finest achievements: Ernest Newman wrote of it that it was “one of the truly great things of the operatic stage today; here is a sufferer who carries on his shoulders not only his own but the whole world’s woe.” And Legge, writing as ‘Beckmesser’, wrote: “As in all his work, he stood apart from all the rest of the company by reason of his exquisite singing and his complete absorption in the character.” Finally, many years later, Will Crutchfield, referring to the live recording of one of these Covent Garden performances of Holländer, would write of the “almost unbelievably beautiful singing from Flagstad and Janssen.”

Wolfram was a role that suited Janssen’s style and aesthetic perfectly. When Siegfried Wagner and Tietjen invited him to make his debut as Wolfram at Bayreuth in 1930, he went to his first rehearsal with Toscanini and sang through the role without interruption from the conductor. When they reached the end, Toscanini simply closed the score and said, “I see that it will not be necessary for us to see one another until the first full dress rehearsal.” When the recording of this production, under Elmendorff, was released by English Columbia, Herman Klein wrote an ecstatic review of it. Warning himself, at the start, not to use up all his superlatives too soon, and having praised the entire production, he comes to the Tournament of Song which he says is performed on the ‘grand scale’ and then he adds: “I think the supreme touch of beauty … comes from the singing of the part of Wolfram by that admirable artist Herbert Janssen; it is not less replete with poetic than vocal charm.”

It was much the same with Tristan. Berta Geissmar, the learned and highly musical secretary, first to Furtwängler and later to Beecham, tells us that no matter where in Europe the opera was to be sung, Leider, Melchior, and Janssen were secured first, as a team, and the Brangäne and King Mark allowed to vary according to availability. Neville Cardus wrote of Janssen’s Kurvenal that it was “one of the most movingly beautiful pieces of work I have ever known … his singing and acting alike were wounding to the heart in Act 3.”

Janssen’s Amfortas, too, received extraordinary praise from the critics—indeed it still does. Walter Legge, writing as ‘Beckmesser’ once again, wrote of a 1937 Parsifal: “He still stands immeasurably superior to other German baritones, tenors and basses in vocal culture, and without sacrificing any beauty of tone, he conveys even more vividly than before the drained weariness of a man racked by spiritual and physical suffering.”

Friedelind Wagner records that when Janssen had suddenly to substitute for a Bayreuth Amfortas who was indisposed, the famously demanding conductor Karl Muck called from the orchestra, “That’s the first Amfortas I’ve heard since Reichmann”, the creator of the role and a pupil of the elder Lamperti.

The indelible impression left by Janssen’s Amfortas and Wolfram comes across well in an article written for Opera by the music critic, Alec Robertson (1892–1982), just after the singer’s death. Robertson says that he had been a ‘regular’ at Covent Garden since 1910 and first heard Janssen there in 1927 as Amfortas. At the end of the first act, he and his fellow regulars had decided that they had been listening to a “great” singer and Robertson adds that for him, Janssen’s was the most beautiful baritone voice he had ever heard. Nearly forty years after the event, he can still vividly recall the singer as a stage presence and how, even after the “revelatory experience” of Chaliapin’s acting, he was “greatly impressed by the power of Janssen’s acting in his various roles.”

I recall, especially, his economy of gesture. In the Act I Grail scene of Parsifal, he did not flail his arms about in Amfortas’s anguished solo, so that when he did raise them up at the impassioned cry of ‘Allerbarmer, ach! Erbarmen!’, the supreme gesture conveyed all the terrible suffering of the penitent knight.

Equally moving, in a quite different way, was his tender gesture to Elisabeth in the last act of Tannhäuser, asking to accompany her up the mountain side, and the way [his] eyes followed her up the path. The poignant beauty of his tone in ‘O Star of eve’ is something I shall never forget.

He remembers, too, Janssen’s “touching” Kurvenal and how his portrayal of Kothner was “the very spit of a petty official anxious to make the most of a moment of power and the display of his vocal virtuosity.”

These snippets of reviews and memories don’t, of course, tell us all we want to know but they do, I think, give a glimpse of what was special about Janssen’s art: the beautiful and very individual voice, instantly recognizable; the perfectly even emission and Italianate legato; the sensitive response to the words as set to music—what Ernest Newman called “that fine jeweller’s art of his”; and an extraordinary ability to make, through his singing, each character entirely distinct. Legge, writing about a 1936 Meistersinger, sums up this last talent with characteristic vigour:

Janssen’s Kothner was the best individual figure on the stage … The Isolde and Brünnhilde of Flagstad are patently one woman, and Bockelmann’s Wotan is disturbingly like his Sachs, but there are no points of similarity between Janssen’s genial Kothner, his suffering Amfortas, his stupid, frustrated Gunther, and his rugged, devoted Kurwenal. There is only one feature common to the characters Janssen creates—they invariably sing as well, if not better than, anyone else on the stage.

The fact that this ability to give life to a character arises not only from his skill as an actor, but from the way Janssen sings and colours his voice, means, I think, that we can still collect a good deal, if not all, of what Legge is talking about from Janssen’s records.

But what records? The question arises because Janssen’s recording career has certain oddities which have been remarked by all of his admirers. After all, when one considers his operatic successes and popularity in Berlin, in the summer festival at Zoppot, at Bayreuth, Covent Garden, Paris, Prague, and Barcelona—where, incidentally, he sang Kurvenal to Melchior’s first Tristan— one would have expected a rich and varied operatic discography. Instead, one is confronted with relatively few recording sessions for continental European companies and a patchy repertoire curiously unrepresentative of his most famous stage roles apart from that of Wolfram. There are the two duets previously mentioned from Butterfly and Rigoletto, Valentin’s Cavatina and Death from Faust, an aria from each of Lortzing’s Waffenschmied and Zar und Zimmermann, a duet with Ljungberg and a solo from the Benatzky operetta Die drei Muskatiere, and some solo scenes from Tannhäuser. From the other Wagner operas, in which, after all, he had major successes, the only prewar studio recording is the unissued trio from Act II of Götterdämmerung. There was an attempt by Electrola in 1928 at a live recording from the Staatsoper of a complete Cavalleria rusticana with Janssen as Alfio, but the masters no longer exist and no excerpts were issued. One can only wonder why the European companies recorded so little. It seems that from 1930 onwards, all Janssen’s prewar records were produced by (or for) English Columbia, or HMV.

Janssen himself seems to have minded that opportunities were being lost: in a letter from him to his English producer, Walter Legge, in early 1936, he actually writes, “I would of course be only too happy to make some new Lieder records but I regard it as much more important at the moment to make orchestral recordings (Amfortas or suchlike) which would indeed sell fabulously well in London during the season and equally in Bayreuth.”

But Lieder were at the centre of Legge’s interests just then. In 1932 he had founded the London Lieder Club, in part, at least, to provide support for the Hugo Wolf Society records, which had just been launched. Recitals at the London Lieder Club were very grand affairs altogether: they took place in the Dorchester Hotel—and later at the Hyde Park Hotel—on Sunday evenings over two months and subscribers paid a fee of three guineas for the series and wore evening dress. The patrons included ten ambassadors and even royalty. (One hopes that the atmosphere of the concerts was one of intelligent pleasure rather than the devotional one which often prevails at such gatherings.) Certainly, the audience heard the greatest Lieder singers of their age, amongst them Gerhardt, Tauber, McCormack, Hüsch, Schorr, and Janssen. A programme of one of these concerts tells us that Janssen, accompanied by Ivor Newton, sang a group of Brahms, followed by Schubert, ending the first half with Die Allmacht, a recording of which is published here for the first time. The second half began with songs by Schumann and ended with Wolf. The programme prints the words of each Lied but only in German, which the audience was evidently expected to understand.

It is likely that Janssen appeared in every one of the Lieder Club’s annual series of concerts, but I have found no certain corroboration of this. In March of 1938, he took part in the second Serenade concert at Sadler’s Wells, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Menges and sang the three Harfenspieler Lieder, in Wolf’s own orchestrations, with great success. (He also sang the Count’s third act aria from Figaro in the second half of the concert.) Hart mentions that as early as 1924 Janssen had become eminent as a concert artist and that he would include opera excerpts on these occasions. He quotes a critic who praises Janssen for his “joyful song-art”. But despite the obiter dictum attributed to Janssen to the effect that he “only sang opera so that [he] could sing Lieder”, I have only definitely traced one Lieder concert in Germany: a concert of Richard Strauss’s music, with the orchestra conducted by the composer, at which Janssen sang four of the larger songs: Pilgers Morgenlied, Hymnus, Notturno and Nächtlicher Gang. Later performances of the first two of these, taken from recordings in Janssen’s own collection, have recently appeared on Marston’s edition of Strauss songs.

Whatever his concert activity in the field of Lieder may have been, Janssen’s recordings of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and Strauss continued to appear throughout the 1930s. But, despite Janssen’s pleas to Walter Legge, no opera recordings were made in the studio in this period. Live recordings were made as “technical tests” from performances at Covent Garden and included parts of performances of Götterdämmerung with Leider and with Flagstad; a complete Tristan with Melchior and Flagstad; Janssen’s part in Holländer, again with Flagstad; and most of his wonderful performance as Amfortas in Parsifal. But of these, the only record issued at the time was a brief excerpt of his previously mentioned singing of Gunther under Beecham, and Janssen’s dream of making further operatic recordings remained unfulfilled for the time being.

The London Lieder concerts and records formed a sort of parallel career for Janssen. The records were extremely well received at the time of their release and have remained ever since among the great classics of the gramophone. Ernest Newman dubbed Janssen the “Prince of Lieder singers” and, in due course, Legge, in a letter to the Gramophone, raised him to “King of Lieder singers” and when Elgar brought Delius an album of the Wolf Society Lieder to listen to, Delius, although he disliked Wolf’s music, nevertheless wrote, “Herbert Janssen sings [the songs] beautifully with the deepest feeling, every syllable declaimed perfectly, with just that graveness of voice that gets to the very heart of the words”. In our own time, J.B. Steane, a great admirer of Janssen’s singing, was still wishing that it had been Janssen who had recorded the Winterreise complete for HMV.

Years later, Legge wrote a description of how he remembered the preparation that went into the recording sessions of Lieder with Janssen and Gerald Moore, describing them as some of their happiest working hours:

Time did not matter. Day after day, at Abbey Road, or in Gerald’s charming studio, we worked at Wolf and Schubert songs, phrase by phrase, bar by bar, nuance by nuance. Then, after an evening’s recording at Abbey Road, there was the excitement of hearing the first pressings and, in the light of that experience, more rehearsal before recording again. In some cases the production of what we considered a satisfactory recording of a song was spread over years. And when we were satisfied, there was the pleasure of taking the records down to Ernest Newman for his approval.

JANSSEN FLEES HITLER’S GERMANY

In her book, The Baton and the Jackboot, Berta Geissmar gives a detailed picture of how very quickly things deteriorated in Germany after Hitler came into power in early 1933. Oskar Daniel was one of the first to be dismissed from his post at the Hochschule, on “racial” grounds, to the great dismay of his students and to the outrage of people like Janssen. This event, together with what his friend, Ted Hart, calls his independent judgment and high principles fixed a gulf between Janssen and the Nazis and having a certain esprit, he was given to making derogatory remarks about the regime and its supporters in a dangerously public manner. In spite of this, Janssen’s international prestige was such that, for the time being, he was kept on at Bayreuth and the Berlin Staatsoper and also allowed to continue to sing outside Germany. But his known attitude towards the Nazis, together with his satirical and biting remarks about them, made him an obvious target for their revenge. Stories circulate with different versions of what precipitated the final fall of the axe, but entries in Goebbel’s diary in the summer of 1937 make it clear that the Nazis were determined to find some pretext for arresting Janssen and only waiting for the opera season to end before they acted. One story has, I think, the ring of truth: Janssen, after singing before Hitler in 1937, had been summoned to dine with him and had said too publicly, “I may sing for that man, but I will not eat with him” and had ignored the invitation. Whatever the immediate cause may have been, Geissmar makes it clear that years of jealousy and gossip in opera circles, and the constant spying, which is part of daily life in dictatorships, probably all played their part.

At the end of October 1937, the Gestapo pounced, but not before Janssen was warned—in all likelihood by Winifred Wagner or Heinz Tietjen—that they were on their way to arrest him. He escaped in the nick of time, and made his way to Berta Geissmar in England, arriving penniless and looking gaunt, according to Friedelind Wagner. Geissmar took him straight to the BBC to see Toscanini, who was rehearsing for his broadcast of the Beethoven Ninth on November the 3rd. The sympathetic Toscanini could offer him engagements for the next Salzburg Festival and Janssen gladly accepted them. HMV provided him with some money owed from his record royalties and Beecham, with characteristic kindness, immediately included him in a concert scheduled for November the 7th, where the resilient Janssen sang “Die Frist ist um” from Holländer, of all taxing scenes.

Back in Germany, Erna Carstens, his companion of many years, was picked up and interrogated by the Gestapo. She handled herself with great intelligence, pretending to hate Janssen, and was finally released. She, too, made her way to England where she and Janssen soon married.

Janssen’s life and career were obviously now in a state of crisis. All his savings, German and international, were locked in Germany. Furthermore, his refugee status put an end to certain recording projects already under way and planned. Legge had assembled a team of singers to record the complete Schwanengesang, the second volume of the Brahms Song Society set, and to complete the sixth and start the seventh volume of the Wolf Society sets. Before he fled Germany, Janssen, together with Gerald Moore, Marta Fuchs, Rosewaenge, Karl Erb, Hüsch, and Legge had all met in Berlin for recording sessions, and Janssen had made what were to be his last Berlin recordings at the end of August of 1937. (Some of these sides are published here for the first time.) Further sessions had been planned for September 1939 in London, but the outbreak of war put an end to these plans, and the Brahms volumes and the Schubert cycle were never completed.

As for the opera recordings Janssen was so anxious to make, he had, in fact, been wanted for the Speaker in Beecham’s projected Berlin recording of Zauberflöte, together with Tauber and others. But by this time both Tauber and Janssen were refugees from Hitler’s Germany and the recording had to be made without them.

After his arrival in England as an exile, Janssen had to start a new career wherever he could find engagements. He was, of course, very busy at Covent Garden throughout the 1938 season, had several good engagements in Paris in Figaro, and he had been engaged immediately and with much joy by the Vienna Opera in December 1937. There, between early December and the first days of March, he sang Telramund, Scarpia, Don Fernando in Fidelio, Tonio, Scarpia again, Amonasro, and a repeat of Telramund. On the 19th of December, 1937, Janssen wrote from Vienna to Walter Legge:

Everything is marvellous here. The audience idolizes me and the newspapers are full of the highest praise. Nevertheless, I do not want to stay here permanently… Yesterday, I sang Scarpia here with tremendous success and after that have 12 evenings with the Opera here up to the 12th of May.

It was not, of course, to work out like that: the Anschluss took place on the 12th of March, 1938, and once again Janssen and his wife, who had joined him in Vienna after clearing out as much as she could from his Berlin flat, were barely in time to escape the Nazis’ clutches, on this occasion, it is thought, with the help of the distant Toscanini, through connexions set up by him.

In addition to his definite engagements at Covent Garden, Janssen was also considering offers from an agent to sing in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, at the Metropolitan, and in Buenos Aires and “as many concerts as [he] wanted”. But despite his Vienna success and the hope of work in America, he wrote to Legge in January that his nerves were in shreds with tension and begged him to remember that they were not made of steel and also that it was in their common interest for him to remain “fit enough to work as long as possible.”

Obviously, he was conscious that he was at a turning-point in his career. His life savings were gone and, clearly, finding engagements in Europe was getting ever more precarious owing to the political situation and his refugee status. Nazi sympathizers among the singers brought to Covent Garden from Germany created tension there by attacking their anti-Nazi colleagues. There was also the major problem of his repertoire: outside Germany and Austria, nearly all his engagements were for Wagner, not for the Verdi or the other Italian and French operas he loved, and Janssen must have realized that unless he took rather drastic steps, his repertoire would be limited to only a very few operas. I think it was at this point that Janssen began to consider attempting other, heavier Wagner roles.

The change in Janssen’s thinking about repertoire is evident in his surviving correspondence. In the January 1938 letter to Legge mentioned above, he reminds Legge that the previous September, he had told both Beecham and Legge that he would not sing the role of Sachs in Meistersinger, adding that Tietjen must already have told them that the part was unsuitable for him to sing and would harm him, if he tried it. Yet as early as December 1939, having spent the previous summer studying the role, he was to undertake Sachs twice at the Metropolitan in New York. Furthermore, after singing the Wanderer in Siegfried in four performances at the Teatro Colón in October of 1938, he was evidently heartened enough to go firmly against the advice of both Legge and Beecham, writing to the former in May of 1939 that “after mature reflection and for many pertinent reasons, I am sticking to the decision I have already given you to sing a Wanderer or Wotan this season—come what may.” He actually asks Legge to stop “tormenting” him on the subject and says that he has written a similar request to Beecham.

JANSSEN’S AMERICAN CAREER

Janssen arrived in America, where he would live for the rest of his life, on the 17th of January 1939. In the light of the above remark concerning the heavy Wagner roles he undertook there, it is clear that we must try to make a more carefully balanced report of his career in the Americas than the summary one so often found in encyclopaedic sources. This account states baldly that Janssen was “induced”, “persuaded against his will”, even “forced” to sing these roles owing to the gradual withdrawal of Friedrich Schorr, his incomparably great predecessor at the Metropolitan, and the lack of any more suitable substitute. As we can see from Janssen’s own words quoted above, at least at first, the decision to sing these roles was very definitely his own. The ‘standard’ account goes on to say that the singing of these roles did, in fact, harm his voice and, though he retired at the perfectly reasonable age of sixty after a career of thirty years, that by singing these roles he significantly shortened his career. Both the written evidence of the reviews, however, and the aural evidence of live recordings of Janssen’s singing of the Wanderer, Wotan, and Hans Sachs in New York and Buenos Aires, suggest once again the need for a distinctly more nuanced understanding of what actually happened. So, to get this matter cleared up before embarking on a chronicle of his reception and career in America, let us see what this evidence shows.

As we have already noted, Janssen sang his first Wanderer in Buenos Aires in October of 1938. Erich Kleiber was the conductor and his fellow singers included Konetzni, Max Lorenz, and Rise Stevens as Erda. A recorded excerpt from Act I of the Wanderer’s scene shows that Janssen sounds just wonderful and sings his part very beautifully, as one would expect. The first performance of which I’ve seen reviews, however, took place unexpectedly, and with the Metropolitan Opera in Philadelphia on January the 24th, 1939, before his official debut in New York as Wolfram, four days later. Of his performance in Siegfried (under Leinsdorf and with Flagstad and Melchior) Henry Pleasants wrote:

There was a new Wanderer in the person of Herbert Janssen who was making his American debut and who seems to be about the best German baritone to have trod the boards of the Academy since Friedrich Schorr’s voice lost its glow. Mr. Janssen rejoices in a mellow instrument not extraordinary in size but rather more extensive in range than is customary in German baritones and easily, if not faultlessly, produced. His conception of the part was along conventional lines and suggested a good deal of previous experience.

Another reviewer remarked that “Mr. Janssen brought breadth of style to his characterization, sang with a voice fresh and resonant and was well received by the audience.”

Of a later performance in the same role, in February 1944, Oscar Thompson wrote that Janssen’s performance was a “highly creditable achievement and one soundly based on the traditions of the past”, but also remarked that his voice was “scarcely heavy enough for the Erda scene”. [Italics added.]

Turning to his performances of the Walküre Wotan, one has the added advantage of two splendid recordings of live performances: the first is the Metropolitan’s own issue of the opera from 1944 and in this performance Janssen is in superb voice and never sounds over-parted. His brilliant high range actually sheds a new light on the music, which is, of course, more usually sung by darker and heavier voices, which emphasize and give weight to the low-lying parts of Wotan’s music. And despite the “lighter” character of his voice, Daniel’s training ensures that even when singing on the same stage and to the same microphones as Helen Traubel, his voice never sounds too small or out of balance.

A later live performance, this time of (a somewhat cut) Act III alone, again with Traubel, but under Rodzinsky, took place in Carnegie Hall in November of 1945. It is a great pity that this performance, in superb sound, is less well-known than the studio recording made with the same forces the previous May after a tiring season and when Janssen was in noticeably less-good voice. Once more the impression on today’s listeners is of a Wotan one would love to hear in a contemporary performance: again, the music is beautifully and feelingly sung.

How did contemporary reviewers find Janssen’s Walküre? Well, Jerome D. Bohm says this, for example:

“Mr. Janssen’s Wotan […] is an impressive delineation, both in song and action, suggesting with plastic gestures the various qualities, noble, tender, and wrathful of the ruler of Walhalla. Some portions of the music lie too low for his high baritone voice to encompass resonantly, but for the most part he sang admirably, often with dramatic intensity, as in the climatic “Das Ende” of the second act narrative, or with touching tenderness in the second half of the ‘Abschied’”.

Of another performance, the same reviewer writes that Janssen’s Wotan “was not only voiced with unfailing tonal sumptuousness and full realization of the many-faceted musical aspects of the role, but ... distinguished dramatically as well.” Olin Downes, too, was impressed, finding Janssen’s Wotan “beautifully sung with all the essential sonority and bigness of line”. Of his Rheingold Wotan, the same critic observed that “the finest singing of the evening was Mr. Janssen’s, and it was paralleled by his histrionic excellence”.

Turning to the other heavy role supposed to have been too much for Janssen, that of Hans Sachs, once again, in a live recording and in the reviews, we find something rather different from the ‘standard’ account. In those early, rather unexpected performances of the role in December 1939, after he had been singing Kothner to great applause, the critics, while acknowledging much beautiful singing, found his characterization not yet fully evolved and wondered if his lyric baritone would ever acquire the power to do the music full justice. By 1945 though, the year from which we have a live performance from the Met, things had changed. Janssen had been working hard at his conception of the role and the critics were now impressed. The distinguished critic, Max de Schauensee, a connoisseur of opera who had a long experience of both European and American performances, gave a glowing review of the whole performance that he heard in January of 1945. Of its Sachs he writes:

Herbert Janssen’s voice may lack some of the weight and depth for the music of Hans Sachs, but his singing is so beautiful in quality, his style so noble and distinguished, just to hear him was a constant pleasure. Mr. Janssen’s interpretation of [Hans Sachs’] character was also a matter of rejoicing. Sachs’ human and affectionate traits were vividly portrayed. The character was never heavy or stale.

By November 1947, Bohm, in the Herald Tribune, wrote that for him,

The most satisfactory aspect was the moving assumption of the role of Hans Sachs by Herbert Janssen. It has taken this distinguished barytone [sic] several years to achieve the complete insight into the many-faceted character attained at this performance. Now he has succeeded in blending the cobbler poet’s manly tenderness, his mordant humor and philosophical resignation into a well-rounded, expressively voiced portrait.

A week later, even Irving Kolodin, who was not usually well-disposed towards Janssen, described Janssen’s Sachs as “vocally magnificent”! And that most thoughtful commentator on the Met broadcasts, Paul Jackson, considered that the previously referred-to broadcast from 1945 was, of the many surviving opera broadcasts with Janssen, the performance which most “fully reveals Janssen’s artistry.” In his wonderfully evocative description of this performance, he begins by saying that “Janssen is an able successor to Schorr” and I do not think that there can be any higher praise than that. Jackson is particularly emphatic about how Janssen’s tone, though unsparingly spent throughout the opera, remains opulent.

One can hope, as we suggested above, that these letters, reviews, and sound documents will provide a more balanced version of Janssen’s venture into heavy roles. From now on, I think, the emphasis should be put on the fact that Janssen described himself as less temperamentally sympathetic towards these roles than he was towards others in his repertoire. No doubt, too, pressure was applied by the Met management to have him sing the heavy roles more often than he would himself have chosen to. But that he himself first, deliberately, and in the teeth of three of his mentors’ advice to the contrary, chose to study and sing Wotan and Sachs, and that he came to do so with critical and popular success and great distinction, these are indisputable facts. None of this, of course, alters the fact that Janssen’s voice did darken with time, but this is unsurprising in a hard-working singer who is approaching the age of sixty.

Turning now to the chronicle of Janssen’s career and its critical reception in the Americas, we can see a further restriction in repertoire, especially in the case of his roles at the Metropolitan Opera. Just as the very large number of roles that he sang in continental Europe was reduced to a much smaller number when he went to Covent Garden, so, when he joined the Metropolitan, his repertoire was reduced even further: apart from a few appearances as the Speaker in Zauberflöte, as Don Fernando in Fidelio, and as Jokanaan in Salome, he was really limited to his Wagnerian roles.

In Buenos Aires, he had a rather wider choice: in addition to his appearances in Wagner, he sang Homonay in Johann Strauss’s Der Zigeunerbaron in 1940 and in the same year the title role in Weinberger’s Svanda Dudak. In 1941, he was back to his role of Papageno in the Zauberflöte, and sang Doktor Falke in Die Fledermaus, a role he greatly enjoyed. In 1943 he sang Don Fernando in Fidelio and Orest in Elektra. But in 1946 and 1947, his last two seasons there, he sang only Wagner.

At the Metropolitan Opera Janssen was esteemed by critics and audiences from the first. Of what was only his second appearance as Wolfram there, in company with Melchior, Branzell, and Jessner, Oscar Thompson wrote:

Lyricism of a kind that never yet made an opera or a music drama less enjoyable played an enlarged part in the beginning of the Metropolitan’s Wagner cycle yesterday afternoon, thanks to the participation of the company’s new German baritone, Herbert Janssen. His beautifully sung Wolfram was an important factor in the success of a sturdy and in many respects admirable, performance of Tannhäuser conducted by Eric Leinsdorf. […] Mr. Janssen treated the several airs of Wolfram much as the highest type of song interpreter might treat Lieder of Schubert or Brahms. That is to say, he sang them with affectionate regard for their poetic feeling as well as their musical qualities. His tone was warm and unforced, his style that of one who knew and respected the uses of legato. Singing so poised, so smooth, so expressive, and of such technical excellence will always be welcomed by the discriminating.

When Janssen first sang the very different role of Telramund at the Metropolitan together with Flagstad and Melchior, the same critic wrote:

…The baritone sang the role with the lyricism that had distinguished his Wolfram in Tannhäuser, but also with the dramatic weight necessary to carry conviction in the charge against Elsa and the long colloquy with Ortrud in the second act. His production remained that of a well-schooled vocalist who has no need to force the tone and who aspires to preserve rather than shatter a melodic line.

As usual, his Gunther was always found “miraculous”, “unusually distinguished” and “vocally admirable”. His Kurvenal, too, was found to be “moving and expressive” and was singled out from time to time as being some of a performance’s “finest, and most touching singing and acting”. Among the roles for which he was so especially admired at Bayreuth, Berlin, or Covent Garden, only his Dutchman seems to have disappointed American audiences, although critics still praised the fine singing. In the Dutchman’s case the reason for this appears to be simply that audiences were used to the role’s being sung by burlier, darker, bass-baritone voices.

As for Parsifal, Noel Straus writes that Janssen “delivered the music of Amfortas with his accustomed richness of tone and keen understanding of the needs of the role” and this reaction recalls Janssen’s European reception as Amfortas. Of Janssen’s Kothner in Meistersinger there was no doubt that it was masterful, Quaintance Eaton finding it a “magnificent portrait, unctuous, condescending, pompous”.

Against those who argue that Janssen’s voice suffered from significant deterioration as the years passed, two last comments about performances from nearer the end of his career may serve as assessments that give us a more balanced picture of critical opinion in his own time and in ours. If the singing of the heavier Wagner roles had really greatly damaged his voice, it is hard to understand how his singing of the lyric role of Wolfram could provoke the following review—almost an echo of Herman Klein’s review of the 1930 Bayreuth recording—from Noel Straus as late as November 1947, when Janssen sang with Torsten Ralf, Thebom, and Varnay:

The most completely satisfying singing was provided by Herbert Janssen, who delivered Wolfram’s music with rich, mellow, finely controlled tones and gave a really distinguished portrayal, one that was both deeply felt and nobly projected. Rarely is Wolfram’s aria at the song contest in the ‘Wartburg’ made as interesting and vital a part of a Tannhäuser performance as Mr. Janssen found possible to achieve with it, and all of his other work was on an equally high plane.

The scrupulous and reflective commentator on the Met broadcasts, Paul Jackson, found Janssen’s 1950 performance of the very demanding role of Telramund, only two years before his retirement, to be, like the previously mentioned Meistersinger, among the very best surviving recordings of his Met career:

Janssen is in marvelous form…. Though his unique qualities are little served by Telramund’s surly grumblings, the fifty-[eight] year-old baritone sings with complete vocal freedom, his top voice (which could be recalcitrant) particularly resplendent. He prefers passion to self-pity, relying on quantity of tone to convey the miscreant’s anger and despair. And there are always those sensitive Janssen moments […] Yet when Telramund must rage, […] Janssen hurls his mighty mix of declamation and sustained tone with unrelenting force.

And in the same year Olin Downes wrote that he was still singing Amfortas “admirably and with feeling”.

In addition to his work for the Metropolitan Opera in New York and elsewhere and his appearances at the Colón opera in Buenos Aires, Janssen took part in a good deal of concert work: we have reports of concerts with Barbirolli, Reiner, Rodzinksy, and Walter, as well as much charity work for causes as diverse as the Met Opera Fund, toys for poor children, Danish relief, animal welfare, and so on. Live recordings exist of a St. Matthew Passion under Walter, as well as of a St. John Passion under Kleiber, a wonderful Brahms Requiem under Toscanini, an Elektra under Mitropoulos and a Fidelio from 1944, also under Toscanini, where Janssen is—rather oddly—cast as Don Pizarro. Reviewing the latter recording in 1956, the very sensitive critic Dyneley Hussey writes: “There is a good Pizarro too, Herbert Janssen, whom it is a pleasure to hear again. The singer must have been near the end of his career when this performance was given but his voice sounds strong and he avoids the snarling villainy which has to make do for malevolent power.”

A Lieder recital at Town Hall in 1941, with Otto Seyfert as accompanist, was, according to Noel Straus, “fervently welcomed by an audience that punctuated the recital with ovations after every song and insisted on a number of encores.” Straus himself, however, thought the recital a failure and Janssen completely unsuited to the singing of Lieder! He lists as missing from Janssen’s art exactly those virtues for which his Lieder-singing was so highly esteemed in Europe, commends him for his “brilliant work” in opera and suggests that it is there that Janssen is in his element.

After his retirement from the Metropolitan in 1952, we find references to at least two more public appearances, one at a Fritz Busch memorial concert in Carnegie Hall in 1953 and, a month later and again at Carnegie Hall, a recital with Erna Berger, where he sang five Lieder.

His recording career in America was, once again, curiously intermittent. There are only a few published, studio recordings: a set of a cut Act III of Tristan with Melchior, recorded in 1942 and 1943; four sides from Parsifal available only in the Argentine; two excerpts from Tannhäuser; the Act III of Walküre already referred to; and finally, between 1945 and 1947 three scenes from Meistersinger. In 1945, there were a few sessions of Lieder recordings: nine songs by Grieg on eight sides and two sides each of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Wolf. Although these were all to remain unpublished, fortunately it had been documented that Janssen had had test pressings in his possession and that after his death his widow had guarded his records with the care of a curator. (Vinyl pressings of most of them were later deposited with the Library of Congress by A. F. R. Lawrence.)

Before coming to Janssen’s work as a teacher we must briefly review his first postwar appearances in Europe, where he returned to his non-Wagnerian repertoire. In June of 1950, Janssen appeared in six performances at the Vienna Opera: two as Amonasro, two as Don Fernando, and one each as the Speaker and Jokanaan. Then, in October of the same year, he made his only postwar appearance in London. The concert took place in the context of the Philharmonia Society’s chamber concerts and looks as if it may have been a somewhat improvised affair, with Janssen and Gerald Moore sharing the stage with the Pasquier Trio. Furthermore, Janssen seems to have been rather out of voice that night. The Times reviewer wrote that it was a pleasure to welcome him back after some dozen years, but added:

Since we last heard him, his vocal tone seems to have lost some of its roundness in the middle register. And the upper partials over-power the fundamental frequency of the note. This was not so in mezza voce singing, which brought moving tenderness to Wolf’s setting of ‘Anakreons Grab’, nor at the top of his compass (he crowned the interpretation of Strauss’s ‘Zueignung’ with a nobly ringing top F sharp). But above all, Mr. Janssen had lessons to teach every aspiring singer of lieder, lessons of enunciation, breath-control, variation of colour, and musical style.

An interesting and thoughtful review in the Scotsman is in basic agreement with the Times reviewer. Its author thought Janssen was fifty-four—in fact, he had recently entered his fifty-ninth year—and he added that Janssen’s voice seemed “a little past its prime”. He mentions a “lack of various shades of tone quality” and an occasional lack of resonance. At other times, however, “These faults faded into the background and, in his final encore for example, ‘Zueignung’ by Richard Strauss, the singer achieved perfection and a powerful F sharp that all but cracked the chandelier.” In general, he thought Janssen’s singing was “Not only a delight, but a lesson in the art of Lieder singing …” and he concludes his review: “Above all, there was a complete identification with each song: this was a test of musicality, character, and histrionic ability that Janssen passed with honours.”

JANSSEN’S TEACHING CAREER

Janssen retired from the Metropolitan in 1952, his last Met broadcast being, surely deliberately, in the role of Kothner in Meistersinger, just as his first 1939 Met broadcast had been. From now on, apart from the odd public appearance as noted above, his professional life would be devoted to the teaching of singing.

Actually, even when he was singing professionally himself, Janssen had always been glad to give advice or even vocal coaching to his colleagues, who respected his knowledge of the subject. This continued after his retirement: he is known to have coached Astrid Varnay and even a singer from a very different aesthetic world, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, for example, would occasionally consult with Janssen about matters of technique. Theodore Uppman, too, while carrying on with his career at the Met in the mid 1950s, came regularly to Janssen for vocal coaching in connexion with method: for as Ted Hart points out, it was method that came first for Janssen the teacher. A student recalled how Janssen used to say that he thought it was stupid of his pupils to rely on their youth and stamina as long as they felt well and to want to use ‘method’ or ‘technique’ only when they were ill!

When we first mentioned Janssen’s early move to Berlin, we deliberately said that Janssen chose to study with Dr. Oskar Daniel. It was already a choice actually based on Janssen’s musical aesthetic and it seems that he chose his teacher in the belief that method and aesthetic would interact with one another to help him to express the artistic effects he envisaged. He was to prove one of Daniel’s most eminent pupils and throughout his teaching career he would always begin to teach a new student by referring to his teacher; furthermore, with gifted pupils he would use the same, very demanding Daniel exercises that had caused him difficulty when he was a beginner. There are a few more scraps of historical information that have come down to us through students about Janssen’s own understanding of his teacher’s method and we will run through them briefly.

The well-known record historian, Dr. John Stratton, himself a gifted and accomplished singer, did a period of intensive study with Janssen in the mid-1950s. In 1966, Dr. Stratton published a long article in Recorded Sound, in which he put forward a hypothesis—not a thesis—about how a study of the different “schools” of singing method, as manifested in early recordings, might explain the rise of the sort of singing that gave birth to opera. To one of the schools he analyses he gives the name of Lamperti and he describes it as a “shrewd reappraisal” of the classical Italian method. Amongst its distinctive features are a minimum dependence on breath-pressure, and what Stratton describes as a growth of tone through a “quickening of nerve-awareness in the cavities of the upper face, particularly those between the eyes.” He goes on to describe two phases, or what Janssen called ‘movements’: for cantilena, the ‘sniff,’ “a sort of drawing up and sucking in of the sound” and, for fioritura or for declamatory music, a more assertive nerve-action, “a ‘stroke’ outwards from between the eyes”. The echoes of Oskar Daniel’s remarks in 1922 to the interviewing psychologist are obvious. The vibrancy of the voices trained in the “Lamperti” method, says Stratton, is not derived from increased breath-pressure, but is the “counterpart of the amount of determination with which the primary nerve-action … the ‘sniff’, is made.”

The enthusiasm that had always characterized Janssen’s singing and gave it the exultant quality of a singer who relishes the physical sensation of producing beautiful sounds, survived in his teaching: he was a genial instructor and would occasionally join in with a suitable student, singing with him right up to a full, high A natural. Furthermore, just like his teacher, he would have his pupils sing with thumb to forehead and call to them as they sang, “Sniff life into the voice!” And more mysteriously still, using, as he said, the ipsissima verba of one of Oskar Daniel’s mantras, he would instruct a student to “Sniff the butter from the bread, but not the bread!”

These are acroamatic matters and they are only too obviously very difficult to explain clearly in words. Nevertheless, the family resemblances between Janssen’s placement and method and those of other well-known contemporaries of his are plain to attentive listeners: Schorr, whose sublime voice had been trained by Adolf Robinson, a Lamperti pupil, and Schlusnus, whose teacher, Louis Bachner, was a colleague of Oskar Daniel at the Berlin Hochschule, come to mind. Despite differences in timbre and weight of voice, the wonderful “shimmer” of light that appears to play over the surface of their voices, the instrumental concentration of tone and the gleaming high notes are common to all these singers. Other singers of the same “school” are cited in John Stratton’s fascinating article, mentioned above.

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Janssen and his wife had been granted American citizenship on December the 9th, 1946 and they continued to live in their handsome suite at the Ansonia hotel, surrounded by their extensive library and by their music, until Janssen’s death there on June the 3rd, 1965, after a short illness. According to the New York Times obituary, published the next day, it was at Janssen’s own request that he was cremated with no service other than a reciting of the Lord’s Prayer. Erna Janssen returned to Germany where she died, it seems, in about 1981.

As a person, Janssen was very nearly the opposite of the roles he was most famous for singing. He was described in a 1937 English profile as looking like “the most cheerful member of an Old Boy’s cricket side”, and his sense of play, together with his satirical, irreverent wit gave his colleagues, with whom he was very popular, much pleasure. Although he took his teaching seriously, he was modest about it and liked to describe himself as merely a “vocal plumber”. He was also a loyal friend: after Oskar Daniel had been forced out of Germany and was living in cruelly straitened circumstances with his family, first in Paris and later in Switzerland, Janssen kept up what amounted to a running conversation with him through constant correspondence and, until his emigration to America, would meet up with him whenever possible. There are indications, too, that after his arrival in America, Janssen had been at the centre of an attempt by Daniel’s friends and admirers to rescue him from his penurious Swiss exile and bring him to America for treatment of his leukemia. Before this could be arranged, however, Daniel had died in March of 1940.

After the end of the war and in spite of their profound political differences, out of gratitude for the warning that had saved him from the Gestapo, Janssen and his wife also sent food parcels to the beleaguered Winifred Wagner.

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Notwithstanding his great reputation as a singer, there was also an element of sadness in Janssen’s American career. Out of a repertoire of an estimated seventy-four roles, he was allowed, in accordance with the unyielding policy of the Met management, to sing only fourteen at the Met. And half of these fourteen he sang fewer than eight times, some not more than twice. Being limited to repetitions of the same few roles over and over again, year after year, was disheartening and stiflingly restrictive for a sensitive, versatile, and musically cultivated singer like Janssen. There is little doubt that despite the acclaim of audiences and critics, he was occasionally overcome by melancholy and a sense of being undervalued.

A SUMMING-UP

When talking of Janssen’s singing, one must emphasize that the cultivation of a particular type of voice is itself an act of interpretation, of aesthetic choice. The plangent quality of Janssen’s voice (which recalls Wagner’s remark about “the melancholy that lies at the heart of all tone”) expresses an element of Janssen’s aesthetic. This is equally true of the changing colours of the inflexions of his voice. Such qualities were not only esteemed throughout Janssen’s career, but are mentioned again and again by critics of our own generations. Will Crutchfield’s remarks about “unbelievably beautiful” singing have already been quoted and again, referring to a reissue of a live Tannhäuser performance from the 1940s, he says how Janssen’s Wolfram is “balm for sore ears”. Alan Blyth, writing of some of his Lieder recordings, describes how the singer catches “the inner mood of his chosen songs through his aching, introspective voice” and his “insightful” singing. But it is of course J. B. Steane who has some of the most vivid descriptions of what it is that makes Janssen a very special singer, a singer who inspires not only respect and admiration, but also our affection. Comparing him to two of his outstanding contemporaries, Schlusnus and Hüsch, he writes that Janssen, “Even in his prime, was probably a little more risky, but his singing went deeper, was of a richer, softer texture and had a greater capacity for both tenderness and anxiety.”

I like this description: it seems to me to suggest the sense of human vulnerability that Janssen’s aesthetic often expresses, for this is a vital part of the particular way he captures the emotional tone of the words and music he is singing. Method and aesthetic are constantly intertwined in Janssen’s singing, and Steane, great critic that he was, sees this clearly: referring to the recording of ‘Die Lotusblume’, he points out how it is Janssen’s “secure breath control” that supports the “evenness of line and texture”, but which, at the same time, does not deprive the voice of its “natural, humanizing degree of vibrato.” [Italics added]

The elegiac timbre of his voice has often been remarked on by critics and in his interpretation of Wotan for example, it gives a wonderfully—if paradoxically—human quality of fatherly tenderness and suffering to his interpretation of the god’s farewell to his daughter. It is the voice of the wisest and saddest of men. That is perhaps the most striking difference between Janssen and Schorr in this music: the greater weight and controlled but formidable power of the latter’s voice give other-worldly nobility to his singing of the same music so that it seems to come from a transcendent distance.

In Lieder singing, Janssen’s great strength is, I think, his ability to keep the words and musical line of the Lied in a fine balance. There is never manipulation of the words at the expense of good singing: he responds to the words with a thoughtful and intelligent sensitivity and he never allows them to ‘take charge’ of the performance and induce the voice to resort to crooning, bulging, or barking, all of which he would have considered ‘un-singerly’ devices. What he expresses so memorably, he does always through beautiful singing, by assimilation of the words into the musical line so that they become part of it, rather than excrescences on it: for after all, words are not our only means of expressing meaning or significance and often what is most wonderful or moving in a performance is achieved through a musical gesture or the expressive shaping of a phrase.

In 1922, Oskar Daniel wrote an article on singing in which he says that a singer should not assemble a performance as a mosaic of mere nuances: for that can only stimulate the audience intellectually. Instead, he says, the singer should concentrate on the ‘Grande Ligne’ of the music, and then, being “under the singer’s spell”, the listeners themselves participate and form their own nuances.

I think Janssen will have found these thoughts highly congenial to his own aesthetic.

•     •     •     •     •

In 1936 in the Gramophone, Legge summed up Janssen’s art: “His voice is of ravishing quality, he is musically and mechanically a faultless singer, and a magnificent actor … Janssen, I make bold to say, is the greatest artist on the contemporary operatic stage.”

When one thinks of the singers who were on the operatic stage in 1936, it becomes clear that Legge is making an extraordinarily strong claim for Janssen and that, far from anticipating challenges from his readers, he is expecting their agreement. In fact, a later correspondent wrote a long letter to the Gramophone in which, invoking many years of experience of opera performances at Covent Garden and elsewhere, he contrasts the singing of Plançon, Battistini, de Reszke, Journet, Scotti, Bonci, de Luca, Melba, Schumann-Heink, Sembrich, and others of the ‘Golden Age’ with the lesser art of many of their modern counterparts, but goes on, however, to say: “As proof…that music today can be tackled with a beauty of technique and a vocal colouring of the highest order, one has only to hear Herbert Janssen. Here indeed is the standard set by those of the last generation and handed down … to those who, like Janssen, can uphold it.”

When we reflect on the names listed above (together with all the other names we might like to add) we realize that these are not the names of those we invoke simply as examples of great singers; these names belong to those whose various ways of singing are what we mean by great singing: they are touchstones of the art and their records are what we point to as standards, models, or ideals, when we want to show just what singing of the highest order is.

Janssen’s art is one of these touchstones. Although more than fifty years have passed since his death, we still find the noble distinction of his singing movingly, even urgently present the moment we put on one of his records and hear that unmistakable and beautiful voice begin to sing.

It is a pleasure for the compiler of the above notes to give warm thanks to the following for their help with research and with advice:

Professore Dottore Osvaldo Alemanno; S.R.M. Beauroy; Stephen Clarke; T.E. Currier; Antje Kalcher of the Archiv der Universität der Künste, Berlin; D. L. Matthews.

JANSSEN ON RECORDS

by Michael Aspinall, ©2021

The phonograph documents an impressive flowering of great German singing in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, a golden period not only for operatic baritones but also for concert artists. Three baritones in particular demonstrate that a well-managed career as an operatic vocalist can be a fruitful foundation for Lieder singing. Heinrich Schlusnus (1888–1952), Herbert Janssen (1892–1965), and Gerhard Hüsch (1901–1984) were near contemporaries who had in common the artistic integrity and the technical command to be able to reproduce in their Lieder singing all the interpretation marks indicated by the composer, as well as additional refinements of their own. The slightly older baritone Joseph Schwarz (1880–1926) sings in a recognizably earlier nineteenth-century style, closely modeled on Battistini: rich indeed in glorious detail of expression, but, in Lieder, tending not to observe note values so meticulously as the singers of the next generation. They had all learned to sing in a basically “Italian” vocal style, with a sinuous legato line based on portamento di voce and including a certain amount of rubato not written in by the composer, though each one had cultivated his own personal manner. They had been trained in the blending of registers to the extent that they were able to rise effortlessly to brilliant high notes and even to declaim long phrases in a high tessitura without fatigue. They had developed perfect control of the breath, enabling them to “bow” the musical line like a fine string player. None of them seems to have ever recorded an ugly sound.

PERSONAL PECULIARITIES OF JANSSEN’S TECHNIQUE

Although Janssen’s voice may have lacked the burnished richness of Schlusnus or the plush warmth of Hüsch, it is a lovely, limpid, and firmly focused baritone voice freely produced with no sign of throatiness. Even the imperfect quality of surviving live performance recordings cannot blur our immediate impression of listening to a distinctly individual, authoritative, and nobly eloquent voice, sometimes exposing, by contrast with his easy, unfettered vocal emission, the limited technical training of his colleagues. A very light, unobtrusive vibrato seems to be under perfect control for it only presents itself when the singer calls upon it. After about 1930 he had to be careful about tackling the passaggio, the blending of the chest and head registers, for in this range Janssen is not always able to maintain the purity of tone on certain vowels, where we can detect a breathy sound, mostly when he is singing softly. For example, on the first page of Wolf’s “Denk’ es, o Seele!” he sings two short phrases set entirely on the C above the bass stave: “Ein Rosenstrauch, … wer sagt”. In the published recording (DB2706), the attack on “Ein” is not well placed and supported, but “Rosenstrauch” comes out with perfectly focused tone on the “O”, which then slips into a hoarse sound on “Strauch” (CD 2, Track 14). The attack on “wer” is perfectly clean and focused, but the following “A” in “sagt” is hoarse. These technical points, so fascinating to the vocal student, will not worry the listener who falls under the spell of this great artist’s voice, mind, and art. Janssen is very individual; certain phrases of his haunt the memory, and sometimes even the faintly hoarse notes strike home emotionally.

The singing of Herbert Janssen is distinguished by a clear and refined pronunciation of the German language that is a delight to hear, an echo of a vanished age of elegance and refinement. His precisely articulated but never exaggerated consonants do not interfere with the vocal line, which is formed from perfectly equalized vowels. Final consonants are never harsh, separated off, or over-prolonged, but simply and neatly mark the end of a phrase. All is eloquence, but this eloquence is tempered by the singer’s sensitivity to words and music and by his flawless taste. He does not bother to color or stress individual words though the voice always seems to catch the mood of the song. He expresses his meaning without overloading the songs with “interpretation” while his delightful manner and delicate sensitivity to poetry and music make him a good storyteller, his carefully trained voice seeming to spontaneously reflect his thoughts. The vocal range seems to be from a resonant low A to a ringing high G. Other writers have noted that Janssen sometimes does not manage to tune certain notes precisely: this occurs mainly when he is singing in a tessitura uncomfortably low for him.

OPERA

It is disappointing to find how few operatic records Janssen was called upon to make—strange, too, when copies of the Ultraphone disc of two pages from Act III of Tannhäuser are regularly to be found in German flea markets, meaning that it must have been a best seller. His various recordings from Tannhäuser find him at different stages of his career and vocal development. The acoustic Odeon record of Wolfram’s lovely arioso from the first act, “Als du in kühnem Sange”, is a masterpiece of legato singing, a truly persuasive interpretation of the friendly Wolfram’s urging (CD 1, Track 7). At this stage of his career Janssen seems not to have used the glottal stop, which was frowned upon in classical German singing in the nineteenth century, and he omits the “H” in such phrases as “ihr Herz”, a singers’ mannerism that would soon disappear from German singing. In the abridged recording of Tannhäuser made at Bayreuth by Columbia in 1930, he manages to preserve a general sense of the flow of the musical line, though the fatal Bayreuth tradition has partly influenced his style: a certain over articulation of the consonants leads to a more marcato effect (CD 1, Track 9). Of this recording, Herman Klein wrote: “I think the supreme touch of beauty, individually at any rate, comes from the singing of the part of Wolfram by that admirable artist Herbert Janssen; it is not less replete with poetic than vocal charm.” (William R. Moran, ed. Herman Klein and the Gramophone, Amadeus Press, Portland, Oregon, 1990.) His three recordings of Wolfram’s lovely recitative from Act Three, “Wohl wußt’ ich hier sie im Gebet zu finden”, might serve forever as lessons in how Wagner’s music should be sung: with a majestic solemnity, a pure and warmly human tone (CD 1, Tracks 8 and 11; CD 5, Track 3). Janssen takes his cue from Wagner’s instruction pp in the accompaniment and sings practically all the scene in a reverently hushed voice, with noble line, limpid enunciation of the words and careful attention to the composer’s indications. The Aria “O du mein holder Abendstern” is also a model interpretation, the sensitive singing replete with charm and deep feeling, the voice vying with the cello (CD 1, Track 12; CD 5, Track 4).

The 1928 Electrola record of Valentin’s two big scenes from Faust (or rather, Margarethe) is also successful: we hear the golden voice of a “youthful heroic” baritone (young indeed) declaiming these famous melodies with superb dignity and eloquence (CD 1, Tracks 3 and 4). The duet from Madama Butterfly, generously covering both sides of the original 78, goes on to include Butterfly’s aria “Che tua madre” (some cuts are made to fit it all in) (CD 1, Track 2). Janssen, in flawless voice, is worthily partnered by the enchanting Greek soprano Margherita Perras (1908–1984), also a student of Oskar Daniel, who might well have been very proud of both of them. They capture perfectly the alternating of “conversational” passages with those of emotionally charged singing, their enunciation of the excellent German translation perfectly musical and distinct. He is the most gentlemanly Consul imaginable, an aristocratic presence, his voice always elegantly flowing in the higher passages without any shouting. Perras has a beautiful and perfectly produced voice with a brilliant head register: a true Italian dramatic soprano might produce more volume at the top when Butterfly enters holding her child triumphantly aloft, but the soaring head tones of Perras are deeply moving. The orchestra plays well, with a sensitive first violin working hard emotionally; unfortunately, either some orchestral parts were not delivered in time or some players forgot to turn up, because important chords are missing in the hysterical finale of Butterfly’s aria. This great record reminds us that there are many others from the period offering familiar Italian numbers in French, German, Russian, and even English that might be better known.

In another duet, from Rigoletto, with the enchanting Lotte Schöne as a delicately expressive Gilda, Janssen is not quite in his best voice, sounding a trifle hoarse, but in compensation he is able to reproduce all the shadings that Verdi demands but which we rarely hear (CD 1, Track 1). A German baritone in those days could not ignore the operas of Albert Lortzing (1801–1851), and Janssen recorded an unusual, short Andantino con espressione sung by the Graf von Liebenau in the Act One Finale to Der Waffenschmied, “Du läßt mich kalt von hinnen scheiden”, in which the composer’s indebtedness to Bellini and Donizetti is highlighted by Janssen’s beautifully poised singing, especially in the exquisite piano passages (CD 1, Track 5). The same may be said of the other side of the record, featuring two strophes of the Tsar’s well-known aria “Sonst spielt’ ich mit Zepter”, a piece of unashamed nostalgia carefully and feelingly sung (CD 1, Track 6).

Although German opera singers attached by contract to a particular theater were, and sometimes are still, expected to “help out” by appearing in operettas, musicals and even straight plays, Janssen’s first appearance in an operetta (Die Fledermaus) did not happen until he was singing in Buenos Aires. However, early on Electrola invited him to record an aria and duet from Ralph Benatzky’s Die drei Musketiere, tuneful music if not Benatzky’s most memorable. In his song “Ich liebe dich” the voice seems a trifle throaty, but Janssen sings well, rhythmically and fluently, with really lovely high notes (CD 1, Track 14). In the duet “Du schmeichelst in mein Herz dich ein” (“You insinuate yourself into my heart!”) he competes successfully with the lovely voice of Göta Ljungberg: his high notes are more secure than hers and, again, he throws himself into this gay music with verve and charm (CD 1, Track 15).

While singing at the Teatro Colón in 1943, Janssen recorded two souvenirs of his famous interpretation of Amfortas in Parsifal. The surviving multiple takes of each of these two scenes are all remarkable for the appeal and dignity of Janssen’s singing. The extract from Act One, “Nein! Lasst ihn unenthüllt!”, offers an interesting example of the mingling of two different vocal styles: Janssen had been “raised”, through Oskar Daniel, in the school of Lamperti, but when he sang at Bayreuth he seems to have partially adopted the notorious tradition of the “Bayreuth bark” (CD 5, Track 5). He tends towards a too emphatic delivery in some of the more dramatic passages, reserving his beautifully flowing legato for the more tuneful parts of this noble page of declamation. In take 1 he is particularly eloquent in the phrases that describe the piercing of the Saviour’s side. In all three takes, but perhaps specially in the second, he rises easily to the uncomfortably placed high G at “daraus es nun strömt hervor”, producing a brilliant head note of tenor quality to which, understandably, he clings triumphantly for rather longer than prescribed by the composer! Two similar takes of the Act III scene “Ja, Wehe! Weh’ über mich” are equally moving for their beauty and sincerity: Janssen’s touching pronunciation of the word “Wehe” (Woe!) is inimitable and in the last bars he offers a parade of easily taken Fs, F-sharps and another G (CD 5, Track 6). Together with Lauritz Melchior, Janssen recorded three takes of the duet “Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro!” from Verdi’s Otello, in the second of which Melchior’s voice is reproduced in all its thrilling intensity as he sails up to the high A and B-flat (CD 5, Track 7). Where Verdi has written molto sostenuto at the beginning of the oath, Melchior does indeed sustain a formidable legato. Janssen begins with a wonderfully insinuating pianissimo, demonstrating his technical mastery as he plants in Othello’s mind the wicked hints about the handkerchief, and in the duet proper maintains a smooth line in the difficult triplet passages, taking the high F and F-sharp in his stride. This is a satisfying version of the great duet (cruelly written for both voices) and one only wishes that both singers had worked harder at their Italian pronunciation.

In 1945 Janssen was still in almost unimpaired vocal form when he recorded Sachs’s two monologues from Die Meistersinger for Columbia in New York, sensitively conducted by Paul Breisach. In the Fliedermonolog we hear that Janssen has mostly discarded portamento di voce but will dutifully execute this ancient grace when Wagner has written it in, as at “nun sang er, wie er musst’” (CD 6, Track 17). The style of this monologue owes much to the Italian buffo traditions, and thanks to his fine training Janssen shows true eloquence in his articulation and phrasing. He takes in his stride awkward phrases such as “was unermesslich mir schien”, rising to D above the stave and then descending to the low A. His D is still a model that any baritone might sigh to emulate, a brilliantly placed note that he can modulate into a variety of colors, thanks to his expert blending of the registers. His singing is beautiful throughout and he occasionally gives us his lovely pianissimo. In the “Wahn, Wahn” monologue Wagner tempts him into a too staccato delivery, but relief comes with the soft high E of “Johannisnacht” (CD 6, Track 18). Admirably conducted by Max Rudolf, the Quintet from Die Meistersinger includes the introductory passage “Mein Kind, von Tristan und Isolde” in which Sachs ties up all the loose ends, invites Eva to sing and the American soprano (of Lithuanian parentage) Polyna Stoska opens the Quintet with an appealing performance of Eva’s lovely solo, even managing a genuine trill; later, when the going gets heavier, she occasionally becomes rather tremulous, though her high B-flats are brilliant and steady (CD 6, Track 19). Torsten Ralf manages an attractive pianissimo at Walther’s entrance, and Herta Glaz is a reliably solid Magdalene. Janssen is mostly only distantly audible as he is singing softly, but we can hear how neatly he executes the florid passages and how trustworthy is his legato.

JANSSEN “LIVE”

There are numerous live performances of opera surviving with Janssen, and one of the most mouthwatering is a set of unpublished records from a performance of Die Götterdämmerung at Covent Garden on 14 May 1936, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham (CD 2, Tracks 16 and 17). Beecham’s conducting is vigorous and exciting, occasionally too loud, but mostly he observes Wagner’s dynamic instructions, lovingly caressing the soft sections and, in the main, he is not inconsiderate of the needs of his singers. Poor Gunther was not an obvious role for the refined art of Janssen, but he does bring the character to life in the second act, especially in his proud presentation of his bride to his folk: “Brünnhild’, die hehrste Frau”, declaimed with beauty of tone and elegant line. Later, in the passage leading up to the blood-brotherhood trio, he shows Gunther’s noble reluctance to act in a cowardly fashion. Regrettably, his part in the scene is shorter than that of Hagen, sung by Ludwig Weber, a fine bass apparently having an off night, his rich voice sounding gruff and hoarse—but perhaps he was simply overacting the villain’s part? I wonder if Janssen’s changing “die dich auch ja gebar!” into “die mich auch ja gebar!” is a Bayreuth tradition correcting a possible misprint in the score? Janssen seems to be further away from the microphones then the others, but we get glimpses of his lovely style, as in the legato of “Blutbrüderschaft schwuren wir uns!” or the moving passage in which Gunther fears to kill his sister’s husband: “Doch Gutrune, ach! Der ich ihn gönnte!” Frida Leider dominates the whole scene with her thrilling and radiantly lovely singing; her solid vocal training is always in evidence, and the only sign that she was nearing the end of her great career is the obvious effort to reach the high B-natural, but it should not be overlooked that on the high B-flat of “Gutrune heisst der Zauber”, Leider executes in her excitement and enthusiasm what the Italians call a suono ribattuto, repeating the note so that we get a double B-flat!

Also from Covent Garden comes a recording of lengthy excerpts from Der fliegende Holländer (1937) in which we can admire the glorious singing of Kirsten Flagstad in her first essay at the role of Senta (CD 2, Tracks 18 and 19). Janssen’s performance, in a role too low for his high baritone voice, is outstanding from beginning to end. (In the nineteenth century a high baritone singing this part would have resolved the problem by singing the lowest notes an octave higher; Battistini used to sing the entrance aria in concert, in Italian, transposed a tone up.) Janssen does not shun any of the low notes, however weak his voice may be in that range, and he even contrives to make some kind of vocal sound on the low F! His Dutchman has all the nobility required to justify Senta’s perplexingly capricious choice and to contrast with the vulgar jollity of Daland. His singing of the Dutchman’s doleful entrance aria “Die Frist ist um” is perhaps a little too staccato, though the voice is never rough and the eloquence of the phrasing is frequently arresting in its beauty. There is never a hint of forcing in his easy negotiation of the higher-lying passages, while the drama of the narrative is fully recreated. Singing with Flagstad in the great duet “Wie aus der Ferne” Janssen becomes more lyrical. Both of these accomplished singers suffer from a weak lower register, for Flagstad’s chest register was never properly developed; this is a grave disadvantage in Wagner’s music but, needless to say, she can compensate with floods of lovely and noble tone in her medium register and in 1937 she still had a certain command of her head register, giving some lovely soft singing around the upper F. Some of the frequent high B-naturals in Senta’s part were removed by judicious cuts, but it must be said that she attacks this note bravely every time and mostly hits it dead center. It is in the medium range that we hear her developing her irritating habit of attacking notes from below. Despite what might have been an unequal match between soprano and baritone where sheer volume of voice is concerned, Janssen holds our attention by the loving care he lavishes on his music, which he clearly knew backwards (she didn’t, not yet); his soft singing is lovely, his phrasing distinguished by its elegance. Although they rush the great double cadenza, shamelessly copied by Wagner from Les Huguenots, they should have brought the house down with their enthusiasm and brilliance, but the Covent Garden audience was too disciplined to applaud—even though the composer had cunningly left some sort of an orchestral pause to accommodate eventual public enthusiasm. This recording is a prize indeed.

We have decided to include the guessing game (usually more grandly referred to as the “Riddle Scene”) between the dwarf Mime and Wotan (“The Wanderer”) in Act One of Siegfried from a live performance at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires in 1938 (CD 5, Track 2). Despite imperfections in the amateur recording, we can hear at once that Janssen’s is the voice of a god (how could Mime possibly have been fooled as to the identity of his rather encroaching visitor?). When the Wanderer asks that a weary traveler might rest by the evil blacksmith’s hearth—“Dem wegmüden Gast gönne hold des Hauses Herd!”—the tone of the voice is solemnly majestic, nobly sympathetic. Later in the scene Wotan makes Mime jump out of his skin with some imperious declamation in the upper register, at “Hier sitz’ich am Herd”, but Janssen carefully observes Wagner’s pp marking at “Auf wolkigen Höh’n wohnen die Götter” and how nobly the great artist molds this grateful, arching phrase in his smoothly flowing legato. There are two extensive cuts in the music, and considering the painful performance of Erich Witte, quacking and barking, almost talking Mime’s music, this was not such a bad idea, robbing us, however, of many expressive phrases of Wotan’s that we should have liked to hear from this supremely distinguished singer.

A patchy recording of a broadcast of Bach’s St. John Passion gives us a unique and revealing glimpse of Janssen as a singer of eighteenth-century religious music (CD 5, Track 1). The disappointingly short role of Jesus was conceived for a bass, rather than a baritone voice, but Janssen sings smoothly, with his usual model legato and clear, unmannered pronunciation of the words, making a noble thing of the aria with chorus “Mein teurer Heiland” (My beloved Savior), which includes some agility passages and uncomfortable intervals; we forgive him for not attempting the trills. The classical Italian vocal technique in which Janssen was trained allows his voice to float so freely on the breath that the artist can lightly swell or diminish any tone in his scale, and as we have noticed before, his clarity of enunciation is perfectly integrated into his flowing legato. (This recording testifies also to Janssen’s masterly handling of the recitatives, most beautifully sung, with moving eloquence: he finds exactly the right tone for the last word on the Cross, “It is finished—Es ist vollbracht”.)

We are fortunate to be able to join the audience at a 1945 concert by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under their conductor Artur Rodzinski that included Act III of Die Walküre with Helen Traubel and Herbert Janssen as Brünnhilde and Wotan. We have chosen “Wotan’s Farewell” as the closing item of this set (CD 6, Track 20). It was often said that Janssen had never wanted to sing the heavier Wagner roles and that only the retirement of Friedrich Schorr led him reluctantly to undertake them. He sang his first Walküre Wotan at the Met in 1943, eventually chalking up 18 performances of the role there. Janssen’s careful study of Wotan’s music is a revelation. The voice is easily emitted and responsive to every dramatic nuance, while we hear how the excellence of the basic technique he had learned helps him overcome every possible obstacle. Wagner asks a lot from his Wotan: in the angrier, expostulatory parts of the confrontation between father and daughter Janssen tends to a now sadly familiar staccato emission, but whenever a singable melody pops up he rejoices in the opportunity to demonstrate his mastery of legato singing. He opens the “Farewell” with a lovely, tenorish high E on “Leb’wohl”, continuing with smoothly flowing tone to the end of the page: on the last repeat of “Leb’wohl” he executes a beautiful diminuendo on the sustained C. The next phrase begins “Muss ich dich meiden” and Wagner has marked it molto appassionato: Janssen remains truly godlike (or is he just being a German gentleman of the old school?) and expresses the deep feelings of the Farewell in two pages of model legato singing. The voice is so immediately responsive to the artist’s intention that he is able to execute a diminuendo wherever it is indicated by the composer, or where Janssen thinks it might be appropriate, all leading most movingly to Wotan’s regretful “Freier als ich, der Gott!”. Now Wagner leaves the culmination of this great scene, the last embrace of father and daughter, to the overwhelming crescendo in the orchestra. A peaceful contrast ensues: Wotan’s “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar” is marked pp and lento, and all this passage is most beautifully sung. Perhaps as a result of overindulgence in the famous “bark” earlier in the evening, the great singer’s timbre is now not of pristine freshness, though still pleasantly warm as he lovingly molds these touching phrases, drawing upon endless shadings of piano and pianissimo singing. These two pages of supremely eloquent singing end with the almost unbearable moment when Wotan clasps Brünnhilde’s hands and kisses the godhead from her. Wagner must have hoped for, but could hardly ever have heard, such an exquisite realization as Janssen offers in his deeply felt and quietly sung interpretation. What a singing lesson! The scene ends with Wotan summoning Loge in a declamatory page, rather taxing after what has gone before, but Janssen is able to call once more on his head register to end on a well-placed high E. Apart from the glorious recording by another high baritone, Lawrence Tibbett, who enjoys the priceless advantage of Leopold Stokowski’s support on the podium, it would be difficult to find a performance of the scene which brings to the score so much of the nineteenth-century Italian conception of beautiful singing.

JANSSEN THE LIEDER SINGER

It is interesting that Janssen should have sung in opera in order to make his name, so that people would come to hear him singing Lieder. Hüsch and Schlusnus also continued to sing in opera, mostly in German-speaking countries, while carrying out widespread international tours as recitalists. During their heyday, the nineteen-thirties, the Lieder recital had already become an established cultural phenomenon outside Germany, thanks largely to the pioneer work of Lilli Lehmann, Marcella Sembrich and specialists such as George and Lillian Henschel, Julia Culp and Elena Gerhardt. Phonograph records testify to the great changes in the style of Lieder singing that gradually evolved after the Great War of 1914–18, changes stemming from the growing notion among musicians and critics that performers should confine themselves to executing only the notes written in the score—an unhistorical idea, though it may seem obvious enough to the music lover who is unfamiliar with recent studies of performance practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Lotte Lehmann’s wonderful Odeon record of “An die Musik” shows us an artist born in 1888 spontaneously singing Schubert’s song into the microphone in 1927 in the “old” style that she had absorbed during her musical training before the 1914–1918 war. [Marston 56004-2 contains all Lotte Lehmann’s electrical recordings for Odeon, 1927–1933.] In later recordings a more puritanical critical environment led Lehmann gradually to reduce or eliminate certain nineteenth-century stylistic features. Janssen is another artist, her contemporary, who modified his style to fit the times, as we shall hear when we compare his recordings of Strauss with those of Wolf.

The lack of an organ-like tone perhaps detracts from the impact of Schubert’s “Die Allmacht” and the tessitura is too low for him; however, he affects some telling contrasts and is fairly flexible in rhythm (CD 3, Track 17). He omits some of Schubert’s simple ornaments. Finding himself working with the great accompanist Michael Raucheisen (on DB 3024), Janssen allows himself to sing the familiar “Ständchen” very much in the old-fashioned style, with considerable charm in his lingerings and whisperings, but the tone is not always properly focused and the execution of Schubert’s acciaccature and other ornaments is sketchy (CD 3, Track 5). “Der Doppelgänger” is almost too calm a performance, lacking the frightening power of Kipnis (not to mention Chaliapin!) (CD 3, Track 6). Surely the splendid record of “Ihr Bild” should have been published (CD 3, Track 14)! Janssen catches the atmosphere of the song at once and is in his best voice. He makes a dramatic crescendo finale, yet with his usual aristocratic restraint, on “daß ich dich verloren hab!”. In “Der Atlas”, on the other hand, his staccato manner is unconvincing (CD 3, Track 13). In the Romance from Rosamunde he sounds like a very agreeable, friendly, compassionate person (CD 3, Track 10). In one or two semiquaver passages the notes are suggested rather than clearly articulated, but in compensation his emission is always easy and unforced, and we never feel anxious when a climax or an awkwardly written phrase looms up, for we know that he will sail through it without any fuss. “Der Wegweiser” is most beautifully sung, again without over-dramatizing, though he delicately suggests a trembling apprehension as he sings “I must follow a pathway from which no man ever returns” (CD 3, Track 8). In “Die Stadt” he sounds at first slightly hoarse in the softer, high-lying, sustained passages, but the thrilling full-voiced climax makes clear his intention of creating a striking contrast (CD 3, Track 15). “Ganymed” is an enchantingly light and graceful performance, a welcome contrast to so many more serious songs and a lesson in the elegant use of portamento (CD 3, Track 7).

Perhaps in the opening of Schumann’s “Die beiden Grenadiere” both Janssen and Raucheisen are slightly too staccato and blustery, but the second part is movingly expressed, with due reticence but profound conviction (CD 3, Track 18). In both “Die Lotosblume” and “Widmung”, Janssen and Gerald Moore were facing heavy competition from the Parlophone-Odeon companies with Lotte Lehmann’s superbly old fashioned and gushingly expressive interpretations, backed up by a then fashionable but today deplored studio orchestration: it is interesting to hear that Janssen’s performances, though expressed with gentlemanly reticence, are not dissimilar from Lehmann’s (CD 3, Tracks 19 and 20). “Die Lotosblume” offers a lesson in how even a slightly worn voice, when floating properly on the breath, can still master the necessary legato to realize all the beauty of the song.

In preparing to listen to the Brahms and Strauss songs we almost feared that Janssen, in comparison with Hüsch and Schlusnus, might perhaps lack the luscious tone required for such perfumed music, but he sings “Wie bist du, meine Königin” with all the appropriate loving devotion (CD 3, Track 1). However, the song still belongs to Schlusnus, whose approach is passionate and erotic (especially in the 1935 recording) and who does not lose quality when he sings softly. Also, Schlusnus has a more memorable way with the word “Wonnevoll” (“full of awed rapture”). The different methods with which these two baritones sing the downward portamento on this word deserve some attention: Janssen executes the portamento every time on the consonant “N” (an orthodox but not an easy vocal feat), whereas Schlusnus only does this twice, all the other times making an “Italianate” portamento on the “O”. Schlusnus never introduces a glottal stop in this Lied, whereas Janssen does. In another Brahms song, “Nicht mehr zu dir zu gehen”, Janssen’s voice is as richly dark as a liqueur-soaked prune, and he introduces many echo effects: a memorable record indeed (CD 3, Track 2). He also gives a fine performance of “Auf dem Kirchhofe”, contrasting the stark and somewhat brutal opening section (Gothic horror) with the most beautifully sung, soothing final section (CD 3, Track 4).

Janssen, Hüsch and Schlusnus all recorded “Zueignung” by Strauss (a favorite end-of-recital number of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s, in which she, too, would revert to her theatrical alter-ego, joyously releasing the full flood of her hitherto rather restrained volume of voice). It is interesting to compare them. Hüsch offers a masterly account of the song in the orchestral version, his luscious sable timbre in evidence from the lowest to the highest note. He anticipates the high F-sharp at the climax by coming in on the beat together with the orchestra, thereby destroying the effect of syncopation—how fascinating to discover that Strauss himself authorized this, for Schlusnus does it too in 1920 with the composer at the piano, and again in his recording with Franz Rupp dating from 1928. Hüsch and Janssen both observe the composer’s instructions for dynamic and rhythmic shading more meticulously than Schlusnus (who is enjoying “a good sing”!). Janssen cannot rival this opulence of vocal richness and power, but then, perhaps, he did not want to: he concentrates on reproducing the inspiring melody with a firm legato while closely following the score (CD 4, Track 19). How beautiful is the diminuendo on “und du segnetest den Trank”—exquisitely enunciated, as is all the rather exotic poem. On the very last, sustained note, Janssen makes a crescendo: “habe Dank!”—but he does not audibly pronounce the final NK! (Was this “smoothing over” of final consonants, I wonder, part of the vanished nineteenth-century style that he learned from Oskar Daniel?) His effortless, heady high notes sound more like a tenor than what we think of as an operatic baritone. In this song, as in his lovely reading of “Allerseelen”, it is clear that working with Strauss had given Janssen very clear notions as to the style the composer wanted from his singers. The flexibility of rhythm Janssen and Gerald Moore employ to grace these songs is exactly the way Strauss himself would accompany them [there are many examples on Marston 53017-2, “Richard Strauss, Selected Lieder Recordings 1901–1946”]. Accompanying Schlusnus in “Zueignung”, Strauss even improvises at the piano to support the baritone in a huge allargando. Janssen builds up beautifully the anguish of “Allerseelen”, from the tranquil opening describing decorating the table with flowers to the chilling ending when the singer cries out—on All Souls’ Day—to his dead beloved to come back to his heart, “as once in May” (CD 4, Track 18). Although “Traum durch die Dämmerung” is set rather low for his voice, Janssen sculpts the melodic line with his usual grace, with flawless attack on the highest notes (CD 4, Track 16). “Die Nacht”, with its insinuating melody, suits his voice and he introduces elegantly suggested portamento on the wide downward intervals (CD 4, Track 17).

To turn from these song offerings by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss to the Wolf recordings is to enter another and much more ascetic world, a world dominated by the taste and choices of Walter Legge, the producer of the Wolf Society albums for His Master’s Voice. Here we shall find very few examples of portamento di voce and very little unwritten flexibility of tempo, but Janssen adapts himself at once to this “modern” style. He pays careful attention to the sparse dynamic shadings indicated by Wolf, and indeed, in these rather chaste songs in which the melody is often entrusted to the piano rather than to the voice, every little glimpse of Janssen’s bel canto training imparts some warmth to the pervading severity of the songs that Legge chose for Janssen to record. The unpublished matrix 2EA7123 offers light relief in two rather more diverting songs which he seems to enjoy singing, “Lied eines Verliebten” and “Fussreise” (CD 4, Tracks 9 and 10).

Among the earliest published titles by Wolf we find a little treasure in his exquisite singing of “Anakreons Grab”, in which Janssen’s tone is unfailingly warm and fresh, both in the more reflective opening lines and in the happier conclusion, “Frühling, Sommer und Herbst genoss der glückliche Dichter”, where his voice fills with joyous enthusiasm without his singing much louder (CD 2, Track 4). He can no longer make this clever contrast in the orchestrally accompanied 1948 CBS broadcast of the song, in which he also takes more breaths and makes two little mistakes in the notes (CD 6, Track 12). Though his voice sounds less fresh it is still a nobly expressive instrument and the interpretation is still convincing. On matrix 2D1154 the enchanting “Anakreons Grab” is followed by the “Cophtisches Lied II”, which demands more dramatic emphasis, so the master singer immediately produces a much richer and fuller tone, and marks the rhythm more firmly, but without exaggeration (CD 2, Track 5). The Goethe “Harfenspieler Lieder” also figure among both the earlier and the later recordings: in this case Wolf’s orchestral accompaniment in the 1948 broadcast seems to help Janssen to round out his interpretation of these not very rewarding songs (CD 6, Tracks 9-11). In the BBC broadcast of “Der Musikant” and “Der Freund” the voice is more tremulous than elsewhere, but the charm of manner is still present and so are the ringing high notes (CD 4, Tracks 20 and 21). He can still supply all the necessary vocal shadings.

“Tief im Herzen trag’ ich Pein” (“Deep in my heart I bear my suffering”)—which might well serve as a title for this particular selection of Wolf songs—is sung, as directed by the composer, “slowly and with very profound expression” (CD 4, Track 6). Janssen is in his best voice, easily encompassing both high and low phrases with only an occasional tone that is not perfectly focused. On the other side of DB3325, “Dereinst, dereinst” offers some lovely soft singing in the consolatory lines of the poem, and the final diminuendo is masterly (CD 4, Track 4). Janssen concludes this side with “Alle gingen, Herz, zu Ruh’”, a beautiful and moving setting of an insomniac’s longing for rest and oblivion (CD 4, Track 5). Through the urgency of his declamation, a hushed opening builds into a rousing full-voiced crescendo followed by a lovely diminuendo. In the record that offers two rather unappealing songs, “Biterolf” and “Seufzer”, there are one or two examples of imperfect intonation (CD 2, Tracks 12 and 13). On one side of DB2705 we have two songs, “Gebet” and “Auf ein altes Bild”, backed by “An die Geliebte”, apparently recorded on the same day (CD 2, Tracks 7-9). He seems to be slightly hoarse in the first two songs, with some rather rough attacks (most unusual for him), but the last phrase of “Auf ein altes Bild” is starkly telling. However, “An die Geliebte” is particularly lovely, with a virtuoso ending, softly and sweetly sung with a beautifully resonant “I” vowel on “ich knie”. DB2706 presents two strangely gripping, unconventional songs to texts by Mörike: “Denk’ es, o Seele” and “Bei einer Trauung” (CD 2, Tracks 14 and 15). In the former, while the piano part suggests a lilting country dance, the words, gently ominous, remind us that the trees and flowers mentioned as sprouting will shortly blossom and flourish on our graves. Janssen reveals his intense, but never showy, feeling for shape and line in his molding of the rising and falling phrase “Sie sind erlesen schon, denk’ es, o Seele”. (We may notice a failure to distinguish clearly between the low B-sharp and C-sharp, notes rather beyond easy grasp in his vocal range.) He soars to a magnificent climax at the end, imagining the young black horses slowly pulling the hearse. In the second song we move on to a wedding, but from the first grim chords of the accompaniment we realize that this is anything but a festive occasion. The bride sobs uncontrollably, the groom glowers threateningly. Such songs—and such contrasts—are a gift to the intelligent Lieder singer who can color his tones to match Wolf’s subtleties. An earlier, unpublished take of “Denk’ es, o Seele”, accompanied by Coenraad V. Bos, is sung more slowly and, inevitably, more effectively, and here Janssen is also in better voice, richer and darker, both in the lighter and the heavier moods: Bos is also more colorful (which is not always the case) than Gerald Moore in this song (CD 2, Track 6).

“Verborgenheit” is another memorable interpretation (CD 2, Track 11). Wolf rarely asks for portamento, an ornament that composers from Schubert to Strauss would have considered indispensable. No matter: Janssen achieves a beautifully flowing line with very little resort to “the glide”, as early nineteenth-century English musicians termed it. The words flow forth with limpid clarity without ever compromising the legato. The quiet opening, in a low tessitura, is particularly beautiful. He reserves “special effects” for the occasional phrase, such as “es ist unbekanntes Wehe; Immerdar durch Tränen sehe ich der Sonne liebes Licht.” At the end of the first strophe, the first syllable of “Wonne” comes on C above the bass stave: he sings the note perfectly, “covering” the tone just as an Italian baritone would. When the same word is repeated, on the same note, at the end of the second strophe, he untypically “opens” the “O” of “Wonne” almost to an “A”, making him yet again sound rather like a tenor. Two Wolf songs that might be considered late examples of the Ballade are “Der Jäger” and “Wächterlied auf der Wartburg”, in both of which singer and accompanist are taxed with endless chromaticisms and abrupt changes of key. In the latter, Janssen declaims with splendid authority, rising to uncomfortably written high notes as though they were child’s play (CD 2, Track 10). “Der Jäger”, of which we have two previously unpublished recordings, is transposed down from what would seem to be a “tenor key”, but Janssen still does not find the song comfortable; none the less, he makes considerable contrast between the more sentimental and the more humorous sections and he is in rather pleasing voice in both versions (CD 4, Tracks 8 and 12). Michael Raucheisen’s accompaniment is clear, and perhaps rather flashy (but fitting to the atmosphere of the song). Gerald Moore is more self-effacing.

Many of the unpublished Wolf songs seem to be excellent performances, albeit with occasional slips. There is one wrong note in “Sonne der Schlummerlosen” at “Vergangene Tage”, which we can forgive for one wonderful crescendo effect (CD 4, Track 2). The voice cracks twice, almost imperceptibly, in “Wo wird einst”. “Schlafendes Jesuskind” is as “drawn-out” as the composer demanded and Janssen, sensitive while not exactly weihevoll (reverent), is scrupulous about observing all the crescendo and diminuendo markings (CD 4, Track 11). “Komm, o Tod” is headed “with deep feeling”, and this is how Janssen sings it, memorably (CD 4, Track 7). (Isn’t there one tiny slip?) “Keine gleicht von allen Schönen” is mostly sung in an attractive mezza voce, and the last page, with its echoes of Tristan und Isolde, is beautifully sung and accompanied (CD 4, Track 1). This is an appealing though rather frustrating song, in which the composer has caught the atmosphere of Byron’s poem without ever realizing the promise of a flowing melody that seems about to burst forth.

In June 1945 Janssen made a last series of Lieder recordings on 78 rpm for Columbia in New York, none of which were published at the time. He began with a welcome group of attractive and contrasting songs by Grieg. We find the voice aged by time and by heavy work at the Metropolitan, but it is only the timbre that has become slightly, though by no means unpleasantly, worn: Janssen is still fully in command of his technique, as we can hear especially in his outstandingly eloquent performance of “Lichte Nacht”, Op. 70, No. 3, a taxing song containing no fewer than seven upward or downward intervals of an octave, all sung with natural grace and fluidity (CD 5, Track 16). Grieg’s Op. 33, No. 3 (“Den særde”) makes agreeable listening, maybe because the frequent occurrence of the vowel “I” helps him to focus the tone (CD 5, Track 13). He allows himself plenty of extra breaths in the “Mainacht” of Brahms, a cruel test for any singer, but this is an attractively phrased interpretation, and each climax is glorious (CD 6, Track 5). Wolf’s “Anakreons Grab”, again, contains some particularly sensitive phrases, and he succeeds in focusing his voice to make a thrilling crescendo in “Gesang Weyla’s” (CD 6, Track 7). He lavishes much love on Schumann’s “Intermezzo” (beautifully accompanied by Ignaz Strassfogel), especially on the attack of “Dein Bildnis” at the beginning of the second strophe (CD 6, Track 3). In these late records we note that Janssen has begun to make more of final consonants than he once did, perhaps in obedience to changing fashion among Lieder singers generally.

Ted Hart concluded his biographical and discographical essay on Janssen in the Record Collector, Vol. XVI, Nos. 11-12 (May 1966) with the following apt words: “In a world where sopranos and tenors claim the larger share of operatic glamour, Herbert Janssen secured for himself a position of great distinction. But, more than this, he claimed for himself a very wide place in the affection of colleagues and public alike.”