The Complete Lotte Schöne

55002-2 (5 CDs)  | $ 72.00
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The Complete Lotte Schöne
Lotte Schöne is one of those singers whose personality shines through the shellac: joyful, expressive, and bubbly. She was loved by audiences in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, and London. Being Jewish, she left Berlin in 1933, but continued to sing in Vienna and Paris until 1938. At the outbreak of World War II, Schöne took refuge in a small village in the French Alps, where she stayed in hiding until 1945. After the war she gave occasional concerts and sang one performance in 1948 at the Berlin State Opera. She spent the remainder of her life living outside of Paris with her son and grandchildren.

Lotte Schöne’s records are highly prized, especially her acoustic discs. This set contains all of her known recordings for Vox, Odeon, and the Gramophone Company, including six unpublished Odeon sides made just before the company’s conversion from the acoustic to the electric recording process, and four unpublished Gramophone Company sides of Hugo Wolf songs recorded in 1934. The set concludes with a delightful group of non-commercial discs made for her family, and a substantial offering of German and French songs recorded late in her career for French and German Radio in 1948 and 1950.

This is the first time that Lotte Schöne’s complete extant recordings can be heard in one compilation. The booklet includes rare photos, an evaluation of Schöne’s recordings by Michael Aspinall, and a personal essay by the noted French author, André Tubeuf, written in English especially for this Marston Records release.

CD 1 (73:26)

Vox acoustic recordings, Berlin, circa December 1921
Studio orchestra, unidentified conductor
1.UN BALLO IN MASCHERA: Saper vorreste (Lasst ab mit Fragen) (Verdi)2:56
(338B) 2001 
2.MIGNON: Je suis Titania (Titania ist herabgestiegen) (Thomas)3:12
(339B) 2001 
3.IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA: Una voce poco fa (Frag’ ich mein beklommnes Herz) (Rossini)7:34
(174A and 175A) 02007 
4.LES HUGUENOTS: Nobles seigneurs, salut! (Ihr edlen Herren) (Meyerbeer)4:21
(176A) 02004 
5.LA BOHÈME: Quando m’en vo soletta (Will ich allein) (Puccini)2:39
(177A) 02004 
Odeon acoustic recordings, Berlin, 1924-1926
5 May 1924
Studio orchestra, conducted by Felix Günther
6.LE NOZZE DI FIGARO: Voi che sapete (Ihr, die ihr Triebe) (Mozart)3:04
(xxB 7004) O-8012 
7.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Mein Herr Marquis (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:20
(xxB 7005) O-8116 
8.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Spiel’ ich die Unschuld vom Lande (Johann Strauss, Jr.)4:13
(xxB 7006-2) O-8116 
9.IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA: Una voce poco fa (Frag’ ich mein beklommnes Herz) (Rossini)7:14
(xxB 7007 and xxB 7008) O-8011 
10.DON GIOVANNI: Vedrai, carino (Wenn du fein fromm bist) (Mozart)3:05
(xxB 7009) O-8012 
6 May 1924
Felix Günther, piano
11.Schlechtes Wetter, Op. 69, No. 5 (Richard Strauss)2:17
(xxB 7010-2) O-8066 
12.Ständchen, Op. 17, No. 2 (Richard Strauss)2:36
(xxB 7011-2) O-8066 
6 May 1924
Studio orchestra, conducted by Felix Günther
13.LA BOHÈME: Quando m’en vo soletta (Will ich allein) (Puccini)2:34
(xxB 7012-2) O-8168 
14.Dorfschwalben aus Österreich, Op. 164 (Josef Strauss)4:15
(xxB 7014) O-8168 
11 June 1925
Studio orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
15.THE GEISHA: A geisha’s life … Oh, dance, my little geisha gay 
(Der Geisha Leben ... O tanz’, du kleine Geisha) (Jones)4:11
(xxB 7199-2) O-8222 a 
16.DER VOGELHÄNDLER: Ich bin die Christel von der Post (Zeller)3:48
(xxB 7200) O-8210 
17.DER OBERSTEIGER: Ja, dort in den Bergen drin (Zeller)3:16
(xxB 7201) O-8210 
18.THE GEISHA: A goldfish swam in a big glass bowl 
(Fräulein Goldfisch schwamm) (Jones)4:49
(xxB 7202) O-8208 
19.THE GEISHA: Love, Love, softly you call! (Lieb’, Lieb’ so wunderschön) (Jones)4:00
(xxB 7203) O-8208 
Languages:
All tracks are sung in German.

CD 2 (63:00)

Odeon acoustic recordings, Berlin, 1924-1926 (continued)
12 June 1925
Studio orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
1.DIE SCHÖNE GALATHÉE: Hell im Glas (Trinklied) (von Suppé)3:23
(xxB 7204) O-8213 
2.DER LUSTIGE KRIEG: Was ist an einem Kuss gelegen (Johann Strauss, Jr.)2:54
(xxB 7205) O-8216 a 
13 June 1925
Studio orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
3.INDIGO UND DIE VIERZIG RÄUBER: Bacchanale (Johann Strauss, Jr.)2:56
(xxB 7207) O-8216 b 
4.DIE SCHÖNE GALATHÉE: Was sagst du? Ich lausche (von Suppé)3:58
(xxB 7208) O-8213 
5.DER ARME JONATHAN: Ach, wir armen Primadonnen (Millöcker)4:00
(xxB 7209) O-8218 a 
6.CAGLIOSTRO IN WIEN: Zigeunerkind, wie glänzt dein Haar (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:17
(xxB 7210) O-8218 b 
7.DER VOGELHÄNDLER: Fröhlich Pfalz, Gott erhalt’s! (Rheinwalzer) (Zeller)4:14
(xxB 7211) O-8222 b 
3 May 1926
Hermann Weigert, piano
8.Der Nussbaum, No. 3 from MYRTEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)4:14
(xxB 7451) unpublished  
9.Mondnacht, No. 5 from LIEDERKREIS, Op. 39 (Schumann)4:00
(xxB 7452) unpublished 
10.Das Mädchen spricht, Op. 107, No. 3 (Brahms)1:34
(xxB 7453) unpublished 
11.Ständchen, Op. 106, No. 1 (Brahms)2:05
(xxB 7453) unpublished 
12.Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105, No. 1 (Brahms)3:09
(xxB 7454) unpublished 
4 May 1926
Studio orchestra, conducted by Hermann Weigert
13.An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314 (Johann Strauss, Jr.)4:05
(xxB 7455) unpublished 
14.Carneval (Valse caprice) (Rubinstein, arranged by Brossement)3:30
(xxB 7456) unpublished 
Odeon electrical recordings, Berlin, 16 September 1927
unidentified pianist
15.Wie Melodien zieht es mir, Op. 105, No. 1 (Brahms)2:54
(xxB 7770) Parlophone R 20031 
16.Liebesbotschaft, No. 1 from SCHWANENGESANG, D. 957 (Schubert)3:41
(xxB 7771) O-6567 a 
17.Die Forelle, D. 550 (Schubert)2:28
(xxB 7772) O-6567 b 
VOX electrical recordings, Germany, April 1927
Studio orchestra, unidentified conductor
18.Il carnevale di Venezia (Benedict)6:34
(1635AA and 1636AA) E 02212, later reissued as Kristall 6502 
Languages:
All tracks are sung in German except track 18, which is sung in Italian.

CD 3 (72:03)

The Gramophone Company Ltd., 1927-1934
20 June 1927, London
Studio orchestra, conducted by Piero Coppola
1.RIGOLETTO: È il sol dell’anima (Verdi)4:50
 with Joseph Hislop, tenor  
(Cc 10964-2) DB 1127 
11 November 1927, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
2.RIGOLETTO: Tutte le feste al tempio (Verdi)4:23
 with Herbert Janssen, baritone 
(CWR 1341-1) DB 1127 
3.TURANDOT: Tu che di gel sei cinta (Puccini)3:13
(BWR 1343-1) E 503 
25 January 1928, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Zweig
4.TURANDOT: Signore, ascolta (Puccini)2:50
(BLR 3793-2) E 503 
5.DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE: Ach ich fühl’s (Mozart)4:20
(CLR 3794-2) issued only on Victor 7112 
6.COSÌ FAN TUTTE: Una donna a quindici anni 
(Schon als Mädchen von fünfzehn Jahren) (Mozart)3:39
(CLR 3795-2) EJ 262; Victor 7112 
25 September 1928, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Leo Blech
7.Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald, Op. 325 (Johann Strauss, Jr.)4:12
(CL 4546-2T1) EJ 429 
8.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Un bel dì, vedremo (Eines Tages seh’n wir) (Puccini)4:08
(CL 4547-1) EJ 422 
22 October 1928, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Leo Blech
9.MADAMA BUTTERFLY: Che tua madre dovrà (Deine Mutter soll dich) (Puccini)3:25
(CLR 4645-2) EJ 422 
10.DIE FLEDERMAUS: Mein Herr, was dächten Sie von mir (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:00
(CLR 4644-2) EJ 429 
4 May 1929, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Leo Blech
11.Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965 (Schubert)6:44
(CLR 5345-2 and CLR 5346-2) EJ 558 
12.UN BALLO IN MASCHERA: Volta la terrea fronte (Mit starrem Angesicht) (Verdi)2:01
(BLR 5347-2) ER 310 
13.MANON: Allons! Il le faut! Pour lui-même ... Adieu notre petite table 
(‘S ist für ihn! Drum zurück darf ich nimmer ... 
Leb’ wohl, mein liebes, kleines Tischchen) (Massenet)4:25
(CLR 5348-1) EJ 669 
14.MANON: Je marche sur tous les chemins ... Obéissons quand leur voix appelle ... Profitons bien de la jeunesse (Ja, überall bin ich bekannt ... Folget dem Ruf, so lieblich zu hören ... Drum nützt die schönen 
jungen Tage) (Gavotte) (Massenet)4:18
(CLR 5349-1) EJ 669 
15.LA BOHÈME: Quando m’en vo soletta (Puccini)2:23
(BLR 5350-2) ER 310 
16 May 1930, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Erich Orthmann
16.DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR: Nun eilt herbei (Nicolai)7:18
(CLR 6358-2 and CLR 6359-2) EJ 528 
11 December 1930, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Clemens Schmalstich
17.EINE NACHT IN VENEDIG: Annina! Caramello! (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:27
 with Marcel Wittrisch, Tenor 
(BD 9343-2) EG 2166 
18.EINE NACHT IN VENEDIG: Hör’ mich, Annina and Komm in die Gondel (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:25
 with Marcel Wittrisch, Tenor 
(BD 9344-2) EG 2166 
Languages:
All tracks are sung in German except tracks 1–4, and 15, which are sung in Italian.

CD 4 (66:00)

The Gramophone Company Ltd., 1927-1934 (continued)
20 March 1931, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Erich Orthmann
1.DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE: Ach, ich fühl’s (Mozart)4:32
(2D 257-2) EJ 262 
2.LA BOHÈME: Donde lieta usci (Puccini)3:28
(0D 258-2) DA 1238 
3.L’Invito (Bolero), No. 3 from SOIRÉES MUSICALES, R. 236 (Rossini)2:31
(0D 260-2) DA 1238 
24 March 1931, Berlin
Berlin State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Erich Orthmann
4.DON PASQUALE: Pronta io son (Donizetti)7:24
 with Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Baritone 
(2D 270-1 and 2D 271-1) DB 1546 
5.DON PASQUALE: Pronta io son (Gut, ja ich tu’s) (Donizetti)7:14
 with with Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Baritone 
(2D 272-2 and 2D 273-1) DB 1563 
14 September 1934, Vienna
with unidentified pianist
6.Mir ward gesagt, du reisest in die Ferne, Book 1, No. 2 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)2:03
(2VH 11-1) unpublished 
7.Mein Liebster ist so klein, Book 1, No. 15 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)1:40
(2VH 11-1) unpublished 
8.Ich hab’ in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen, Book 2, No. 24 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)0:55
(2VH 11-1) unpublished 
9.Mein Liebster singt, Book 1, No. 20 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)1:30
(2VH 12-2) unpublished 
10.O wär’ dein Haus durchsichtig wie ein Glas, Book 2, No. 18 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)1:37
(2VH 12-2) unpublished 
11.Gesegnet sei das Grün, Book 2, No. 17 from ITALIENISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)1:44
(2VH 12-2) unpublished 
12.Trau’ nicht der Liebe, mein Liebster, gib acht!, Weltliche Lieder, No. 19 from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)2:23
(2VH 13-2) unpublished 
13.Sie blasen zum Abmarsch, Weltliche Lieder, No. 28 from SPANISCHES LIEDERBUCH (Wolf)2:26
(2VH 13-2) unpublished 
14.Ein Stündlein wohl vor Tag, No. 3 from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)2:07
(2VH 14-2) unpublished 
15.Elfenlied, No. 16 from MÖRIKE-LIEDER (Wolf)2:09
(2VH 14-2) unpublished 
Private Recordings, recording dates unknown
16.Wein, Weib und Gesang (Johann Strauss, Jr.)3:48
17.Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb’ und Lust (Johann Strauss, Jr.)2:43
18.Annen-Polka (Johann Strauss, Jr.)1:13
19.Mariae Wiegenlied (Reger)2:00
20.Maria auf dem Berge (traditional, Silesian Christmas song)1:39
21.Ihr Kinderlein kommet (Christmas Song (Christoph von Schmid)1:49
22.Ihr Kinderlein kommet (Christmas Song) (Christoph von Schmid)1:46
23.Süßer die Glocken nie klingen (traditional, Silesian Christmas song)2:01
24.Nacht und Träume, D. 827 (Schubert)3:00
25.Die Post, No. 13 from WINTERREISE, D. 911 (Schubert)2:16
Languages:
All tracks are sung in German except tracks 2–4, which are sung in Italian.

CD 5 (74:36)

Radiodiffusion française, Paris, 2 February 1948
Dorel Handman, piano
LIEDERKREIS, Op. 39 (Schumann)
1.In der Fremde, No. 11:55
2.Intermezzo, No. 22:11
3.Die Stille, No. 41:55
4.Mondnacht, No. 54:03
5.Schöne Fremde, No. 61:18
6.In der Fremde, No. 82:00
7.Frühlingsnacht, No. 121:15
Radiodiffusion française, Paris, 8 February 1948
Dorel Handman, piano
MYRTHEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)
8.Jemand, No. 42:18
9.Hochländers Abschied, No. 132:18
10.Zwei Venetianische Lieder I (Leis’ rudern hin), No. 171:55
11.Zwei Venetianische Lieder II (Wenn durch die Piazza), No. 181:27
12.Weit, weit, No. 201:42
13.Gebet, No. 5 from GEDICHTE DER KÖNIGIN MARIA STUART, Op. 135 (Schumann)1:50
14.Venezianisches Gondellied, Op. 57, No. 5 (Mendelssohn)2:53
Radio in the American Sector (RIAS), Berlin, 14 May 1950
Hertha Klust, piano
15.Light, Op. 19, No. 1 (Roussel)3:32
16.Sarabande, Op. 20, No. 2 (Roussel)2:39
17.Sérénade italienne, Op. 2, No. 5 (Chausson)2:26
18.Apaisement, Op. 13, No. 1 (Chausson)2:03
19.La flûte enchantée, No. 2 from SHÉHÉRAZADE, IMR 44 (Ravel)2:30
20.C’est l’extase langoureuse, No. 1 from ARIETTES OUBLIÉES, L. 60 (Debussy)2:46
21.Green, No. 5 from ARIETTES OUBLIÉES, L. 60 (Debussy)2:19
22.Fantoches, No. 2 from FÊTES GALANTES, L. 80 CD 86 (Debussy)1:26
23.Pierrot, L. 15 (Debussy)1:46
Radio in the American Sector (RIAS), Berlin, 16 May 1950
Hertha Klust, piano
24.Du bist wie eine Blume, No. 24 from MYRTHEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)2:03
25.Schneeglöckchen, No. 26 from LIEDERALBUM FÜR DIE JUGEND, Op. 79 (Schumann)1:39
26.Märzveilchen, Op. 40, No. 1 (Schumann)1:50
27.Er ist’s, No. 23 from LIEDERALBUM FÜR DIE JUGEND, Op. 79 (Schumann)1:33
28.Jasminenstrauch, Op. 27, No. 4 (Schumann)1:06
29.Röselein, Röselein! Op. 89, No. 6 (Schumann)2:24
30.Meine Rose, Op. 90, No. 2 (Schumann)4:06
31.Die Lotosblume, No. 7 from MYRTHEN, Op. 25 (Schumann)1:58
32.O ihr Herren, Op. 37, No. 3 (Schumann)1:02
33.Die Meerfee, Op. 125, No. 3 (Schumann)1:30
34.Mein Wagen rollet langsam, Op. 142, No. 4 (Schumann)3:02
35.Der Sandmann, No. 12 from LIEDERALBUM FÜR DIE JUGEND, Op. 79 (Schumann)1:55
Languages:
All tracks are sung in German except tracks 15–23, which are sung in French.

 

•     •     •     •     •

Producers: Ward Marston and Scott Kessler

Audio Conservation: Ward Marston and J. Richard Harris

Photos: Girvice Archer, Gregor Benko, and André Tubeuf

Booklet Coordinator: Mark S. Stehle

Booklet Design: Takeshi Takahashi

Booklet Notes: André Tubeuf and Michael Aspinall

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

Marston would like to thank Marc Schoene, grandson of Lotte Schöne, for providing unpublished 
and non-commercial recordings included in this set.

Marston would like to thank Karsten Lehl and Axel Weggen for providing the transfers for CD 1, 
tracks 7 and 8.

Marston would like to thank Herbert Gruy for providing the transfers for CD 1, tracks 18 and 19.

Marston would like to thank Gregor Benko and Carsten Fischer for their editorial guidance.

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

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

LOTTE SCHÖNE

Lotte Schöne confined herself to just two opera houses, admittedly the very best in the world in terms of musical quality: Vienna and Berlin. Her ambitions did not strive any further, and she did not have a worldwide career by any means. Hers was just a case of developing, from lighter to heavier (but never too heavy) roles, from light-hearted to deeply emotional: the way every singer’s growing and mellowing ought to be, (and was actually typical in those days) when singers stayed close to home. Such wisdom ought to have been rewarded by long, happy years of fulfillment. But—thus it also had to be in those days—history prevented what ought to have been.

Lotte Schöne was just over forty, the time of life when cautious singers come into their very best and individual sound, and reach full command of their resources. She would now be ready for parts she had long dreamt of but carefully delayed singing: the Countess in Figaro, Desdemona, Alice, even Manon, from which she had already (and heartbreakingly) recorded two arias but never attempted on stage, fearing she should commit herself too passionately in the Saint Sulpice scene.

The Nazis had taken power in Berlin. After her performance as Mimì on 12 June 1933, her adoring public knew it was her last since Schöne was Jewish, and that she had to go. But they would not let her: again and again in front of the iron curtain she was called and cheered back. Forty years later, with the same wonderful sparkling, melancholy smile she kept to the end of her life, she remembered: “And they were the same people, you know, who on their way back home would throw stones in a shop window because the tailor was a Jew…” Melancholy there was indeed; but a smiling one, exactly the same which was reflected in her singing tone. But resentment, never—she simply could not. She was kindness itself, incapable of hard feelings. She had managed to escape, with her own family as well, so she would rather have felt thankful. But she did regret losing the Manon and the Countess, roles she had let grow in her deeper self, impersonations which never got their chance to come to life.

In 1933 the rest of the world was still open to her: the Third Reich had not yet started to spread outside Germany itself. Of course Austria, where she was born and had started her career (singing there for nine full years, hardly ever venturing beyond), was still free. She had been a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival from the very beginning. There she was still welcome, equally perfect as Pamina, Blondchen, and Zerlina when at last the Festival put on Don Giovanni in Italian (with Ezio Pinza as the Don). But to Vienna she never returned (she had done so once from Berlin, just a single Mélisande, to Roswaenge’s Pelléas); Paris would be her permanent home now.

After a first appearance there as Mimì, as early as 16 January 1929, she had tried her first Mélisande in French in a new production of Pelléas at the Opéra Comique with Roger Bourdin. When Entführung (in French) moved from the Opéra to the Opéra Comique, she was the obvious choice for Blondchen (now Blonde) with Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi, Reynaldo Hahn conducting. The Opéra welcomed her Marzelline, with either Germaine Lubin or Lotte Lehmann as Leonore, and Paul Paray or Bruno Walter conducting. Of course she could not be expected to rebuild in French her full repertory from Berlin, but other Parisian venues offered her interesting opportunities. The Porte Saint Martin put on Figaro in French with the best Mozartian singers available: Ritter-Ciampi, Bourdin, and herself. Not surprisingly, she was Adele for a whole series of Fledermaus staged by Max Reinhardt in the brand-new Théâtre Pigalle. She had with her Jarmila Novotna, Rose Ader or Maria Rajdl as Rosalinde, and the French actor Jules Berry as Eisenstein, named Gaillardin in the French version. Reinhardt is reported to have marveled at her capacity to sing and hum her music again after the performance, despite the strain of the series. So ready was she to smile and sing, as always. But as she herself told me: “Once Bruno Walter had to leave Germany, his orchestral sound was never the same.” Something had been broken in herself as well. She had to live and sing outside the country of her Muttersprache, practically never again in her own language. The Porte Saint Martin offered her Traviata in French, in poorish musical company, and a trifle called Violette de Montmartre. She traveled to Brussels for a series of Lehar’s Paganini, and as far as Istanbul for Fledermaus. But somehow, her voice still intact, she felt finished. She was not yet forty-seven when, in June 1938, she put an end to her stage career. Only once, ten full years later, she went to Berlin for a single Susanna, her voice still unimpaired. It was an act of forgiveness, hardly a comeback.

When France also was invaded, she had to leave Paris and hide in the southern Alps. She kept her son with her, while her daughter and husband were into a separate hideout. No hard feelings, again—she chose to remember only her long solitary walks in the woods, where she had been able to come closer to Schubert’s heart. After the war she did come back on stage for concerts, and some private recitals for Parisian society. Schöne moved from Paris to the suburbs, joining her son who had settled in Bobigny with his young family. She built herself a small cottage in their garden, happy with her grandchildren and the dogs, welcoming the visitors who ventured that far outside Paris, and attending some concerts. She was an applauded guest at the Opéra when Karl Böhm came in 1972 to conduct Frau ohne Schatten, the work in which she had been one of the voices of Unborn Children at the Viennese first performance back in 1919, welcoming Böhm backstage with a spontaneous kiss. No hard feelings. In her very last weeks, with still the same radiance on her face (and some hints of henna in her hair, as always), she fondly remembered having taken so much joy singing Mozart, and giving him her fullest heart when Bruno Walter conducted. She died in 1975, aged eighty-four, still discreet as she for years and years had chosen to be.

Hers had been a career, by her own choice, with hardly any traveling. She could have gone fast—she had everything for that—but she did not. From the start she managed to be slow, and stay quietly at home. Born Charlotte Bodenstein in Vienna on 15 December 1891, she married at age twenty and was already a mother when she won her first engagement at the Volksoper in 1913, making her debut on 15 September 1915 as one of the bridesmaids in Der Freischütz. At once her married name of Lotte Schöne was turned around to “die schöne Lotte”, such was her beauty and charm, ravishingly reflected in her singing tone.

At fourteen she had started to study voice with Professor Johannes Ress, adding tuition with Maria Brossement who was to remain her only coach and advisor. She had wonderful inborn abilities with the upper register: a command of the uniquely Viennese type of Kopfstimme (tones floating, soft yet vibrating higher tones which probably only Berta Kiurina mastered to the same degree); flexibility and a spontaneous, beautiful, almost laughing trill, that she could display in operetta; and easy, happy mannerisms on stage, completely unaffected and winning.

She could have gone fast and far indeed, and safely perhaps. But she enjoyed staying home, being a mother, not having to pack and move here and there. Thus, despite the enormous amount of work she had to perform in her two seasons at the Volksoper, at first an average of twenty monthly performances in her debutante parts (which included, apart from the expected Opernballs and Boccacios, several jumps to Cherubino, Oscar, Gilda or the Goose Girl in Königskinder), she kept her voice maturing and mellowing without strain or pressure of any sort, bringing into full bloom the quality of sweetness and, most of all, the hint of emotional melancholy that had been the distinctive feature inside her joyful, youthful tone from the start. She was singing just a minor role in Max von Oberleithner’s new opera Der eiserne Heiland, but at the last moment had to jump into the leading part, learning it—so to speak—at sight. Oberleithner gave some advice to Hans Gregor, who was just then taking charge of the Hofoper, not to let her move to Frankfurt as she was planning to do. The Hofoper called her for the 1917 season; she was twenty-six, and ready. Of course Berta Kiurina, and even Selma Kurz were still very much there. She just would have to be the youngest member of an ensemble of stars, starting 16 September 1917 as Papagena. She was to remain there nine full seasons, up to 31 August 1926, for a total of 446 performances.

In impoverished, truncated post-war Austria, maintaining the standards of the Vienna Staatsoper (no longer the Hofoper) was a matter of national pride. It was hoped that perhaps a new spirit would rise from humiliated Austria; music, theater and culture would receive everything needed, even subsidies. The values of civilization would be reaffirmed, despite the collapse of old Mitteleuropa. Franz Schalk and Richard Strauss succeeded Hans Gregor as co-directors. The great event of the late imperial regime had been the new Viennese version of Ariadne auf Naxos with the Prologue, making a star of Lotte Lehmann, a newcomer to Vienna who, wearing the trousers of the Composer, had substituted at the last moment for Marie Gutheil-Schoder, formerly the idol of the public.

The glorious Mahler era was definitely coming to its end, and a new generation of singers was in demand. The still young Lehmann and Maria Jeritza were the leading ladies in Die Frau ohne Schatten, the first important post-war creation. Lotte Schöne, a new member of the company, was only one of the voices of the Unborn Children, but she was part of the occasion, as she had been in Jenůfa, a Jeritza vehicle, where she appeared as Jano. She had her share of Papagenas (the role of her debut at the Hofoper), and the obvious Musettas, Cherubinos, Ännchens (in Freischütz), Olympias, Oscars, and Urbains. At the Volksoper, she was Gilda to Joseph Schwarz’s Rigoletto, and Valencienne to Jeritza’s Merry Widow at the Theater an der Wien with Lehar conducting. In Budapest she was Micaela to Tauber’s Don José, and sang a series of Suppé’s Die schöne Galathées. She was always at home, or just next door.

The thrill of those years was the launching of the Salzburg Festival. There the guiding spirits were Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Max Reinhardt. Lotte Schöne was Zerlina for Richard Strauss, as well as Cherubino for Franz Schalk in late August 1922, when the whole Vienna company moved to Salzbourg for a Mozart week (in Entführung and Così, the parts possible for her went to Elisabeth Schumann). After an interruption of two years came the opening of the new Festspielhaus in 1925. On 24 August 1925 she was Zerlina again, Karl Muck conducting with Helene Wildbrunn (Anna), Claire Born (Elvira), Alfred Jerger (Don Juan) and Richard Mayr (Leporello). She was Susanna in the three Figaro evenings (with Schalk conducting, and Rosette Anday as Cherubino), presenting in addition a recital devoted to the songs of Richard Strauss. All that in the single, last week of August! The third opera offered was Don Pasquale, with Maria Ivogün, Karl Erb, and Richard Mayr, conducted by Bruno Walter. Walter had heard Schöne, whom he did not know, and decided that he must bring her to Berlin.

Salzburg would remain more or less her artistic summer home for the next decade. In 1926 she was unable to come: she was moving to Berlin. Bruno Walter was the one who would bring her back in 1928, as Despina in his new Così production (the very last performance went to Fritzi Jokl). Then Zerlina again in 1930 for Schalk, with Maria Németh, Alfred Jerger, and Koloman von Pataky. 1931 was her great year: she repeated Zerlina, this time with Walter conducting and Germaine Lubin as Anna; Blondchen with Pataky, conducted by Robert Heger; and for the first time at the Festival, Pamina, also with Walter. In other Mozartian parts she displayed her charm and joyful spirits. Pamina showed something else: a new, formerly unknown emotional depth—her shining spirituality. In those early 1930s editions the Festival reached its highest peak, its fulfillment. Both Walter and Clemens Krauss were in charge of musical matters, Toscanini would soon join, leaving Bayreuth and its wicked atmosphere. 1932 brought Walter’s new production of Weber’s Oberon with Schöne in the title part (which already under Mahler had been changed from tenor to a trouser role), and Maria Müller and Helge Roswaenge as Rezia and Hüon, and again Pamina, this time with Roswaenge, Mayr, and Josef von Manowarda. She sang the same parts at the 1933 Festival, just after she had to leave Berlin. For Walter she also sang the finale of Mahler’s fourth symphony and the aria “Ruhe sanft” from Mozart’s unfinished opera Zaide. 1934 brought a new production of Don Giovanni, in Italian at last, Pinza and Dusolina Giannini heading the cast, with Schöne as Zerlina. It was repeated in 1935 with Walter’s Entführung, first presented at the Florence Maggio Musicale: there she was Blondchen again, to the sensational young Margherita Perras. That was the end of sweet Festival summers, and of a European utopia of peace and mutual understanding through culture, theater, and music.

Thus Schöne’s happiest artistic fulfillment was to remain her 476 performances in seven Berlin seasons with Bruno Walter. From the start he had sensed in her (as with his former protégés from Munich, Maria Ivogün and Delia Reinhardt) that rare kind of heroic fragility—the most unusual ability for pouring out the truest intensity of feeling, without impairing the tone itself: thus he could lead Ivogün to an unexpected dramatic range as Tatiana in Onegin, and Delia Reinhardt to her vibrant Kaiserin and Sieglinde. With him, Schöne opened herself. Following her debut as Mimì, Walter prepared her carefully and slowly, through deliberate, gradual and calculated steps, to more emotionally demanding parts. In these he kept the orchestra comfortable for her (which in Puccini operas can be very thick indeed, and obtrusive to voices.) First came Liù (6 November 1926) with Mafalda Salvatini (or sometimes Lehmann) and Carl Martin Öhman, which she repeated in London to great acclaim the following spring. Then on 9 November 1927, she sang her first Mélisande in German (with Hans Fidesser and Alexander Kipnis), which she very soon relearned in French for Paris. Most important was her first Pamina anywhere, on 4 April 1928, which Walter introduced to Paris in his short season at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, with Ritter-Ciampi as the First Lady. Finally, on 13 September 1928, she sang her first Butterfly.

In Berlin, with thirty-six Liùs, thirty-four Mimìs and twenty Butterflys, Schöne established herself as a rare combination of womanly verismo together with the most refined, Viennese stylistic discipline, bringing out the Mozart inside Puccini. Adding the thirty Paminas in the last years of her shortened career, one could fear that the voice would lose some of its former flexibility. Far from that, the Berlin seasons brought new parts like ordinary daily bread: Agnes in Pfitzner’s Der arme Heinrich; Stravinsky’s Rossignol; Mlle Silberklang in Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor; and even Evchen in Die Meistersinger, a role which she did not like, and undertook only at Walter’s insistence. But starting in 1930, her three final seasons in Berlin required an unimpaired agility, youthfulness, and high spirits. First came Nedda in Pagliacci, followed by Adina in Elisir (with Roswaenge and Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender), Annina in Nacht in Venedig (thirty-seven times, with both Wittrisch and Roswaenge as the tenors), a new production of Geisha, and even the familiar Urbain of her earliest Viennese days in Les Huguenots, a Meyerbeer revival still welcomed in Berlin as late as 17 March 1932.

Forty years later, Delia Reinhardt remembered Lotte Schöne’s Liù as the most beautiful achievement of all of Walter’s golden days in Berlin. There, for the first time, a part permitted her to bring out the inner radiance, the self-offering sacrificial spirituality, along with the soft, floating luminous high tones of the Kopfstimme. Somehow Liù and Butterfly (and of course Pamina) reflected her own destiny, and prepared her for the silent, self-effacing acceptance of what she had to live through, cruelly, so soon. To the end, beloved, kind to everybody and everyone’s darling, what Lotte Schöne irradiated was inner beauty.

A FEW REMARKS ON THE RECORDS

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Every single record of Lotte Schöne possesses a beauty of its own. The earlier, elusive acoustic Odeon records starting in 1924, when she was thirty-three years old, show a combination of immediacy and virtuosity which is very rare indeed. The whole batch to the end of June 1924, devoted to operetta, is desirable and unique in its own terms: high spirits at their very best, inimitable Viennese style, with both abandon and technical authority, the likes of which are nowhere to be found in the history of recording. The very clean, natural sound captures every shade in tone quality and nuance. They are a treasure. The HMVs and Electrolas, 1927 to 1931, were mostly made in Berlin. Some reached the glorious, international red label status: the Rigoletto duets with Janssen and Hislop, the Lustige Weiber aria, the Don Pasquale duet with Domgraf-Fassbaender, quite unexpectedly in German and Italian versions. But the very best of her records were never issued on the “celebrity” label, even the Turandot coupling, widely circulated as it was; Schöne, basically, was NOT an international singer. She had chosen her home. Sadly, history did not allow her to stay where she belonged. Two records best display the emotional depth which the more mature Schöne reached in her last Berlin days: the Manon she never dared attempt on stage, and the Butterfly coupling. Dramatic command is there indeed, with a deeper, somehow darker quality of tone; a new singer was finding her way, less the likes of Elisabeth Schumann, and more like the other Lotte, Lehmann. A pure pity it is that, recording Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (which Schubert might have tailored right for her voice), she did so with orchestra, taking two full sides, yet omitting the sublime nostalgic middle movement made so memorable in Elisabeth Schumann’s own record.

The unpublished Wolf song records are something of an enigma. Quite obviously they had been intended to be part of the Hugo Wolf Society project by HMV. They long remained not just forgotten, but totally unknown. Schöne kept some samples somewhere among her things, having herself no idea where they came from and for what purpose they had been made. It struck me at once that they were the very same songs Ria Ginster recorded for the Society. What had happened? Schöne did not remember, and Walter Legge, who certainly did know, when questioned, chose (perhaps) not to remember. The Wolf Society, of course, needed the German market; once Lotte Schöne had been made indésirable in Germany, the Society would need some more acceptable name on the labels. Hence the excellent Ria Ginster instead. No hard feelings. Lotte was happy indeed to have those unpublished lieder put on her eightieth birthday LP album made by Syd Gray and myself, and forwarded to Preiser in Vienna for their LP issue. Some of them, such as Elfenlied, would hardly be bettered in the future.

© André Tubeuf, 2020


The VOICE OF LOTTE SCHÖNE

The term soubrette comes down to us from the Comédie-Française, where it originally defined an actress specializing in pert servant girls, but it passed also to the opera. In England and Italy the term is, perhaps, slightly derogatory, inferring something rather second-class, but in Germany and Austria the soubrette enjoys an honorable place in the soprano ranks, for it is she who gets to sing Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. Lotte Schöne sang many soubrette roles (Adele, Marzelline, Blondchen, etc.), but then she also sang such taxing coloratura roles as Olympia and lyrical roles such as Butterfly.

It would be interesting to know more about Professor Johannes Ress, who taught not only Lotte Schöne but also Anna Bahr-Mildenburg, Selma Kurz and the less historically important but none the less interesting Melitta Heim. Unlike the others, Selma Kurz was not born in Vienna, but all four are thought of, by historians and record collectors, as “Viennese” sopranos. Technically and stylistically they do have something in common with each other and also with other soprano stars of the Vienna opera between 1900 and 1925. Bahr-Mildenburg was a dramatic soprano whose one surviving recording, of the recitative only from Weber’s “Ozean, du Ungeheuer”, is tremendously impressive in its flawless and opulent vocalization, dramatic thrust (without any forcing or shouting) and unparalleled breadth and dignity of style. [This may be heard on Marston 53004-2, Mahler’s Decade in Vienna, Singers of the Court Opera 1897–1907.] Selma Kurz had a beautiful lyric soprano voice of considerable volume with an upper extension of range enabling her to sing the Queen of the Night as well as Puccini, Verdi and Wagner roles. Melitta Heim sounds like a dramatic soprano, who in the Queen of the Night’s second aria is loud, impulsive and not perfectly Mozartian in her forceful and unsteady ejaculation of the opening bars, then, for the high florid passages, she switches disconcertingly but effectively into a smaller, but more brilliantly focused head register, up to an interpolated, sustained high F. Lotte Schöne shared with her fellow-students a voice of lovely quality, trained to perfection of emission, together with a charm of manner and style that endeared her to audiences and to record listeners. All four of these sopranos had developed the head voice not only to increase their upper range but also to be able to place all the voice in the “mask” and avoid any throaty singing. Professor Ress seems to have trained the soprano voice by developing the head register and bringing the resonances down throughout the whole range—like Lilli Lehmann, but perhaps not so ruthlessly. Schöne also studied with Maria Brossement, with whom she seems to have preserved friendly relations for a long time, and of whom Lotte Lehmann speaks highly in her autobiography.

It is not necessary to place Lotte Schöne’s records under microscopic examination to hear that her methods are typical of the German school, and yet her singing does not have that “squeezed” emission so typical of the generation of sopranos that preceded her. Though her singing is admirably controlled—indeed, restrained in volume rather than recklessly poured forth—there is no sense of the dreaded “fixed voice” that Latin ears do not like. The lovely, limpid tones float easily on the breath even in the highest and lowest regions of her songs. Verdi says, in a letter to the Contessa Maffei: “It does not matter whether the voice is big or small. The important thing is that it should be audible.” The voice of Lotte Schöne could never have been big, but her excellent method, with the sheen on the tone coming from the development of the head register, the voice supported on the breath with a complete relaxation of the lips, tongue and throat, enabled her to be heard in all the great opera houses in which she sang: certainly she was an ideal Liù, creating the role for Berlin and London. Although her chest notes are not robust (and therefore unlike those of the typical Italian lyric soprano of her day), the chest register has been perfectly blended into the medium register. On the whole she refrains from exaggerating her chest notes, but in the arias from Madama Butterfly she gives them their due importance while resisting any temptation to force them. Her head register has obviously been carefully built up, and in staccato she goes up to high E and F, but, unlike some other “German” or “Viennese” high sopranos, she can also sail up to high B-flat, B-natural or even C in “full voice”—a mixture of middle and head registers.

How lucky she was to be able to make her debut at the Vienna Volksoper, gaining valuable experience in smaller as well as leading roles. It was not the custom of German opera managers in those days to push young singers prematurely into unsuitably heavy roles, so Lotte was able to hone her skills singing nothing heavier than Gilda, and all through her career she chose her parts with care. It is interesting to read that she did not feel comfortable with Eva in Die Meistersinger, in which she must have been adorable, but the implication is that she dropped the part after a few performances because it was too heavy for her. Beside her successes in operetta, her youthful, slim and graceful figure no doubt helped her win the “trouser” roles of Urbain and Oscar (and later, Cherubino). Those who heard her at Covent Garden, where she sang Marzelline in Fidelio and was particularly successful as Liù, must have wondered why she never returned; however, her HMV records enjoyed considerable popularity and sold well in England.

ACOUSTIC RECORDINGS

The long list of Schöne’s acoustic Vox and Odeon records—all rare—has always seemed an unattainable mirage for her latter-day admirers. Now we can finally hear them all in excellent sound, and although they do not give us everything that we should like to hear from her, the selection—ranging from operetta to opera and Lieder—offers one simply delightful thing after another. She even manages to triumph over the clumsy German translation of Philine’s polonaise “Je suis Titania” from Mignon in a sparkling performance, including several crescendo trills. I suspect that she knew Frieda Hempel’s recordings of “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere, but she does bring to the aria a charm of her own as well as a cascade of variations, reaching up to high F staccato in the coda. In the same way Oscar’s vivacious song “Saper vorreste” from Un ballo in maschera repeats some of Selma Kurz’s variations, but then, perhaps both of them had learned these Rossini and Verdi arias from Professor Ress. In the nineteenth century Oscar was very much a prima donna role and in this aria, in which “he” teases the conspirators, it seems appropriate to add a cadenza at the punto coronato. (Here both Kurz and Schöne are trumped by Tetrazzini.) Another of her page roles, Urbain, offers Lotte the chance to tease again in the brilliant entrance aria, “Nobles Seigneurs, salut!” “Voi che sapete” is slightly disappointing from a soprano who sang Cherubino forty-eight times, for her voice seems to lack its usual crystal quality, but at least she sings it at a sensible andante. In Zerlina’s “Vedrai carino” she again demonstrates the correct tempi: languorous and teasing in the first part (marked Grazioso), slightly quicker and naughtier in the second. Her first attempt at Musetta’s waltz song, on Vox, is perhaps her only unsuccessful record: she seems to be trying to enlarge her middle register to make a more “Puccinian” sound, but with unhappy results. The tempo is too slow and she takes too many breaths. The lower medium register seems weaker than usual and the high B naturals are shrill. In her second version, on Odeon, she has worked out how to sing this song much more satisfactorily, with a better cohesion of the registers and better high notes. However, the awkward German text must have been an obstacle.

Operetta music can be as difficult to sing well as operatic music, testing not only the singer’s voice and method, but also musicianship, style—including the awareness of appropriate performance practice—and charm. Schöne’s operetta records are a source of endless delight. A typical aria for a leading operetta star in the Vienna of 1890 is Harriet’s attractive and witty waltz-song “Ah, we poor prima donnas!” from Millöcker’s Der arme Jonathan, which begins with a brilliant cadenza taking Schöne up to an easy high D-flat, and ends on a sustained high E-flat not unlike Maria Ivogün’s flute-like tones. Schöne has the virtuosity—trills and staccati—and the winning manner essential to the story she is telling of the prima donna’s life, triumphs, and pitfalls, as she lists her repertoire, imitates her cheering fans in different languages, and reminds us how fatal hoarseness can be! Her attractive records of three contrasting numbers from The Geisha by Sidney Jones make us wonder if she ever sang the role of O Mimosa San on the stage. She sings the once famous song of the amorous goldfish who dies of love for a naval officer (“Fräulein Goldfisch schwamm”) winningly, in an “operatic” manner. In the last act song “Lieb’, Lieb’ so wunderschön” she demonstrates the command of the slow waltz song that is the birthright of the Viennese singer, and in the last strophe she interpolates some joyous coloratura variations including a pianissimo high D-flat. Irresistible! “O tanz’, du kleine Geisha” is another catchy waltz, but with ironic undertones. Schöne simplifies Marie Tempest’s cadenza with flute obbligato (printed in some scores) but concludes with a splendid sequence of trills.

Although there are hints of effort in the more declamatory parts of “Ich bin die Christel von der Post” (still a charming performance) she is back on top form in the next matrix, “Ja, dort in den Bergen drin”. This is the sparkling entrance aria of the athletic Countess Fichtenau, a soubrette with not only a title but also a will of her own, from Zeller’s Der Obersteiger. In order to escape a forced marriage to a sixty-year old Baron, the Countess has dressed herself up in her woolen skirt and walking shoes, seized her rucksack and Alpenstock, and tramped over the mountains to seek refuge with a friend. It does not mean, however, that she is averse to matrimony in general: oh no, if she can find the right sort of young man she has a pretty little castle to offer him, a thousand meters above sea level! All of this Schöne expresses
entrancingly, fizzing and bubbling with mountain-lass energy and charm, trilling exuberantly and rising triumphantly at the end to a sustained high B and C.

As we might have expected, she is a wonderful Adele in two sides from Die Fledermaus. In “Mein Herr Marquis” her musical laughter—suggesting that of a Viennese grande dame—is infectious, her rhythmic elasticity always in the true Vienna tradition. In comparison with Elisabeth Schumann’s amusingly vivid interpretation, Lotte Schöne seems rather restrained in “Spiel’ ich die Unschuld”. However, her vocal acting is closely connected with her singing: she begins “straight”, singing “Spiel’ ich die Unschuld vom Lande, natürlich im kurzen Gewande” [“When I am playing the part of an unschooled country girl, naturally in a short skirt”] in a limpid legato with which the neatly pronounced consonants do not interfere. However, in the next lines she begins to add mischievous little acciaccaturas and gurgles to the vocal line: “so hüpf’ich ganz neckisch umher, als ob ich ein Eichkatzerl wär” [“I skip about roguishly as though I were a squirrel”]. And so it goes on: we notice that she interpolates an orchestral trill into the vocal part as she describes how, in the country, one catches a “sparrow”—i.e. a young man! “Then, at last, I start singing to him” —and she vocalizes most beautifully the opening melody to “la, la, la”. At the end of the strophe comes a magnificent trill, crescendo and decrescendo, on the upper G. Throughout the rest of this witty aria she shows herself to be an absolute mistress of fun, rhythm and song. She recorded other operetta songs by Strauss, among which the waltz-song from Indigo might be considered one of her most typical and most memorable numbers. She cleverly alternates legato phrases and staccato attacks, carrying us away with her waltz rhythm and concluding with some delicate high notes. “Was ist an einem Kuss gelegen” from Der lustige Krieg is a reflective and insinuating number, while in a Hungarian gypsy-style aria from Cagliostro in Wien she skillfully compensates for her lack of a dramatic soprano voice by some entrancingly colorful florid singing.

Two contrasting numbers from Die schöne Galathée by Franz von Suppé find her in particularly limpid voice: she declaims the recitative “Was sagst du?” tenderly and with as much careful expression as if she were singing Massenet, and her clear and fresh singing in the aria “Leise bebt und zaub’risch schwebt” culminates in a rising sequence of trills, leading to a full-voiced high C (apparently a traditional interpolation, marked in my score in pen by a nineteenth-century hand). In the “Trinklied” or “Drinking Song” (of which she sings three strophes, whereas my score gives only two) she sweeps us along with the infectious rhythm of her singing. She has worked out a method for modifying the vowels in words lying around the F, fifth line, where the Viennese soprano would like to sing only “A” or “O”; a method so skillful that the modifications, making the words easier for her to pronounce in that passaggio, are not immediately obvious. In the aria “Leise bebt und zaub’risch schwebt” the upper F frequently has to be sung to the “E” vowel in the first strophe and to the “I” in the second, but this note is always lovely, never pinched or shrill, because Lotte has so cunningly rounded the vowel towards an “O” (or is it “U”?) without distorting the words.

Lotte Schöne’s recorded output for Odeon includes a group of lovely Lieder records. In two rather distantly recorded acoustic sides from 1924 we can hear why Schöne was so admired by Richard Strauss: her “Schlechtes Wetter” is a delightful example of story-telling in music, and for once she gives prior importance to the poem rather than to beauty of tone and elegance of line. In “Ständchen” she gives full rein to her lovely voice while offering considerable variety of expression. In the very opening phrase, “Mach’ auf, mach’ auf, doch leise mein Kind”, she does indeed touch the upper F-sharp with lightness. She uses more rather swooping portamento than we are accustomed to hearing today but, after all, the tone of this serenade is meant to be cunningly insinuating. Like others among Strauss’s favorite singers, she prolongs the length of the shining high A-sharp at the climax.

In May 1926 Schöne recorded ten acoustic sides for Odeon that were not published, perhaps because the company was already experimenting with electric recording. Luckily, six of these sides have come to light as test pressings giving us additional Lieder by Brahms and Schumann. Her style in the Brahms songs “Das Mädchen spricht” and “Ständchen” will sound strange to modern listeners unused to a very elastic approach to tempo. The former is one of those rather coy songs in which the soubrette interrogates a warbling bird, the second a more sentimental song about a students’ instrumental trio. Schumann’s “Der Nussbaum” she takes too slowly, and though her singing is beautiful there is not enough variety in the interpretation to avoid a certain monotony. In enunciating the texts of these Lieder she does not use the glottal stop, which, curiously, she does employ in her 1927 recording of Schubert’s “Die Forelle”, a mini-drama which she greatly enjoys describing. Also surviving from this group is Lotte’s lilting performance of the “Blue Danube” waltz, which, if published, might have become a best-seller, and Maria Brossement’s vocal arrangement of Rubinstein’s “Valse Caprice”, presumably written especially for her pupil, showing Lotte Schöne triumphing over endless vocal difficulties.

In 1927 Schöne made three electrical sides for Odeon: two Schubert Lieder and a re-make of Brahms’s “Wie Melodien zieht es mir”, of which we also have the test pressing of the 1926 acoustic version, so we can compare her two recordings of this Lied. The compositions of Brahms were described by the feared Victorian critic Henry Chorley as “the broken crockery school of music”—surely not this ravishingly beautiful song?! In the acoustic, she is accompanied by a pianist who clearly shares her views on interpretation: his phrasing, exquisitely sensitive, is based on the same type of tempo rubato. In the 1927 electric her accompanist, while using a lot of rhythmic license, is much less “romantic”. Lotte’s interpretation is more or less identical in the two versions, except that in the electric recording she is more careful to observe the precise length of the notes. She must love this song, for she shapes the melody with such affection (and with a lot of slowing down for effect). She now manages to sing the last phrase all in one breath.

ELECTRICAL RECORDINGS

We suppose that it was before signing a contract with HMV-Electrola that Lotte Schöne returned to the Vox company to record “Il carnevale di Venezia”, the brilliant showpiece that Sir Julius Benedict wrote for Adelina Patti’s sister Carlotta. It was an ambitious choice and, like the curate’s egg, the result is “good in parts”. The recording seems rather harsh, the singing attractively sweet, if occasionally over-cautious.

By 1927 Lotte Schöne seems to have nicely matured and rounded out the lower medium notes in her voice, which has lost nothing of its lovely quality. Her most famous electrical recording must surely be Liu’s two arias from Turandot, which she sings touchingly, floating her voice in the high-lying phrases by means of her ravishing head register. Listeners will note that she uses far more portamento than more recent singers, but Puccini has liberally marked the legature in every single bar of Liù’s arias, and any artist of her generation would have accepted this as an invitation to phrase with portamento.

She sang Gilda thirty-three times. Her two duet recordings from Rigoletto are very lovely, though Italians might object to her not quite perfect pronunciation of their language. Both of her conductors, Zweig and Coppola, are aware of the Italian traditions of rubato in this music. Her limpid tones make the excellent Herbert Janssen sound rather breathy and slightly hoarse, but he is particularly attentive to Verdi’s dynamic markings in the score, so he complements Schöne in a satisfying squeezing of “Tutte le feste al tempio” and “Piangi, piangi fanciulla” onto one side of a record. In the duet “È il sol dell’anima” she is partnered by Joseph Hislop, a musical tenor whose voice is here not caught particularly well by the microphone, though we can enjoy his soft singing when he eventually regales us with some; he is careful not to drown his delicate partner. In the opening recitative “Signor nè principe”, when Gilda is frightened by the unexpected appearance in her garden of the young man she has been admiring in church, Schöne, not put off by the hurried tempo, suggests panic without compromising the beauty of her timbre.

We should have liked more Mozart from this exquisite artist, for her Despina is witty and loveable without being at all coy in “Una donna a quindici anni”, again perfectly conducted by Fritz Zweig. In contrast, on the preceding matrix she imbues her lovely voice with the most touching of sorrowful shades in Pamina’s “Ach, ich fühl’s”. She is rather taxed by this high-lying aria, in which the legato is so difficult to sustain, and she takes some extra breaths that might make some purists frown, but in my experience only Joan Sutherland ever sang this aria flawlessly (at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, in 1957—an imperishable memory).

We might have expected her to be over-weighted by the great climaxes of Madama Butterfly, but she sang the role about twenty-seven times in the theater. Her task was hard, for Butterfly really requires a big voice, but like some other clever singers (Edith Mason and Renata Scotto come to mind) she made full use of her technique and her brains to overcome the obstacles. Her recording explains how she did it: she saves herself by occasionally substituting a piano where Puccini calls for a forte, so that she can give out her full voice on the high-lying declamatory passages whenever she judges this to be unavoidable, as in the last pages of the aria “Che tua madre” [“Deine Mutter soll dich in Arme tragen”]—at the words “Sterben! Sterben!” [“Morta! Morta!”]—where she is able to encompass the two high B-flats with thrilling intensity, as well as executing the crescendo required by Puccini on the upper G. She and her splendid conductor Leo Blech take the aria slowly, adagio rather than Andante molto mosso, so she has to make a cut of nine bars. Perhaps surprisingly, this is one of her very best records, an extremely moving performance. Already the first words, “Deine Mutter” are beautifully enunciated, with great restraint, and as she rises to the higher notes she manages to sustain this hauntingly lovely tone, suffused with the deepest sadness. “Un bel dì vedremo” is a beautifully judged performance; as we listen, we seem to see a truly petite Cio-Cio-San describing her doomed dream with wit and charm and rising to a triumphant conclusion. She sings Mimì’s farewell from La bohème with rare delicacy, rising to a splendid high B-flat in the finale, followed by a floated pianissmo on “Addio, senza rancor”. On the other side of the original record she offers a spirited performance of Rossini’s “L’invito”, a song more frequently sung today than it was in Schöne’s day. She transposes it a tone higher, into B.

Schöne was afraid of Manon—it is a long part and the orchestra is heavy—but her record is one of her most memorable. She attacks a shortened (and slightly simplified) version of “Je marche sur tous les chemins” with a certain caution, and, rather surprisingly, omits the éclat de rire [burst of laughter] effect that Massenet gives to Manon more than once in the opera; however, she still manages to achieve the desired contrast between this showy display and the ensuing Gavotte. Here, though singing in German, she shows herself mistress of the French style—delicate, precise, chic, ironic, but with genuine feeling in the minor section.

In lighter mood, Schöne is able to profit from her experiences in operetta (like her predecessor Lotte Lehmann) to record a sparkling Mistress Ford’s aria from Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. Though not considerately written for the soprano voice, this aria is great fun to sing and Lotte enjoys it. The record of two duets from Korngold’s revision of Strauss’s Eine Nacht in Venedig, though it must have been deleted in Germany in 1933, remained on sale for many years in England and was always a favorite. Clemens Schmalstich conducts these great tunes with infectious verve, and Lotte is at her best; the same cannot be said for Marcel Wittrisch, a fine tenor who is rather too loud and aggressive on this record, and fails to blend with the more delicate tones of his partner.

Her only published Lied recording for Electrola-HMV was Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, in which Schubert writes in a spectacular fashion for the obbligato clarinet without considering that the various themes are not so comfortably written for the voice. Schöne’s singing seems to me quite lovely, especially when she soars so easily above the stave or swoops down below it into a warm chest register, but in the second part, Allegretto, the clarinet is heard playing the rapid rising scales in the big tune with more precision and fluency than she can quite match. Strangely for her, she is a little too loud in the opening Andantino, but then she is enjoying playing the part of a shepherd boy, impetuously emphatic in the more rhythmically accented and boisterous passage beginning “Je weiter meine Stimme dringt”.

On 14 September 1934 Schöne, temporarily safe in Vienna, took the opportunity to record a series of Wolf Lieder. To these she still brings a voice of unblemished purity and charm together with considerable liveliness of manner. We cannot help noticing, however, that from the D, fourth line, upwards she cannot pronounce the words with all the clarity we usually expect from a Wolf specialist. On the first side she offers three contrasting songs from the Italienisches Liederbuch: “Mir ward gesagt”, “Mein Liebster ist so klein” and “Ich hab’ in Penna einen Liebsten wohnen”. In the first she is most touching as she offers to bedew her absent lover’s path with her tears, while she catches the humor of the second (in which her tiny lover is frightened in the garden by a snail) without any sickening coyness. She is less successful with “Ich hab’ in Penna”, for the tempo is so quick that she has to peck at the notes rather than sing them; however, the triumphant ending with a brilliantly sustained high A would have brought down the house. On the second matrix she sings three attractive songs with a lovely flowing line, making “Gesegnet sei das Grün” particularly appealing. It must have been a great treat to hear someone singing Wolf’s songs with such a beautiful voice and style, and the last side of all, featuring two Mörike-Lieder, is especially successful. Without any exaggeration and with haunting beauty of tone she captures the misery of the maiden lying abed “just before the dawn of day” listening to the tiresome bird who will go on informing her of her lover’s infidelity, and she concludes her mini-recital of Wolf, perhaps inevitably, with “Elfenlied”, which might have been written for her. Not everyone will like the way she takes a hint from the staccato passages in the accompaniment and delivers some of the lines, surely meant to be legato, in a rather heavy staccato. Her beautifully realized finale, with her exquisite head notes in the cuckoo-calls, ensures her forgiveness. We are indeed grateful that she preserved these unpublished test pressings for our delight, over eighty years later.

THE POST-CAREER RECORDINGS

Schöne’s son preserved some private “home” recordings made on 78 rpm lacquer discs which seem to fall between her last official recordings for HMV-Electrola and the broadcast recitals of 1948–50. How grateful we are, especially for the truly lovely performance of Reger’s “Mariae Wiegenlied”, followed by an
equally enchanting “Maria auf dem Berge”, in which she need fear no competition, not even from Maria Ivogün’s famous record. Schöne’s voice is no longer in the full freshness of youth, but in compensation it sounds as if the middle range has increased in weight and color, and her top notes, especially when sung piano, have all the radiance of old. She is in full control of her still reliable technique, and she uses it to make some lovely effects of contrasting volume in the second song, another lullaby for the Virgin Mary. The other two Christmas songs that she offers (one of them recorded twice) are not quite so memorable, though sung with loving care. With indomitable courage and vigor she attacks some virtuoso numbers of which the best is a sparkling “Wine, Women and Song” with trills, high notes, and all the rhythmic gusto of yore. It may have been years since she left Vienna, but she can still sing a waltz! “Lebenslauf” is a very florid piece requiring some dangerous leaping about up and down the scale, rather like a frisky mountain goat, but she is so dexterous and she is so obviously enjoying herself that it is a pity that the music itself is so tunelessly derivative. I cannot compliment her on a tiresome vocal arrangement of the “Annen-Polka” to “tra-la-la”, but then at the end we just catch her saying what sounds like a naughty aside…. Despite no longer being in pristine condition, these records are valuable additions to Lotte Schöne’s discography. She seems free of all the inhibitions that might have been brought on by professional recording, and her charming vocal personality is well to the fore. She is accompanied by a pianist who, as an accompanist, is certainly a “find”. Though he sounds like possibly an amateur rather than a professional pianist (could he have been a conductor, perhaps?), he has a wonderful sense of style and rhythm and matches the soprano’s panache—trick for trick—with equal gusto.

From a few years later come two acetates of Schubert Lieder in which the voice is more tremulous but still lovely. “Nacht und Träume” holds no terrors for her, exploiting as it does her control of breathing and the beauty of her sustained upper notes (E and F). Her enunciation is clear and unexaggerated, her legato still flowing as of old, with the occasional light touch of portamento. In “Die Post”, an animated song, her age is more apparent, but she is still able to effect the decrescendo Schubert asks for on the F of “mein Herz”, though not on the A-flat above the stave. She contrasts her tone quite nicely between the anxiety of the major sections and the quiet resignation of the minor. Here, too, she enjoys the support of a pianist who plays and accompanies beautifully.

How exciting that radio broadcasts made by Schöne from Paris (1948) and Berlin (1950) should have survived. It is obvious at once that her delicate art had suffered from the long period—almost a decade—in which she had not been able to sing regularly in public, and had not kept her voice in perfect working order. (Unlike her great predecessor Henrietta Sontag, who was forced to give up her career when she became Contessa Rossi, but kept up her daily practice and often sang in polite society; when political and financial catastrophe forced her back onto the stage, she was singing as well as ever.) Schöne’s voice, however, has retained much of its freshness and is rarely hoarse, though it has become tremulous—the only sign that the singer is a woman of nearly sixty. Her intakes of breath have become noisy, not a fault that one notices on her commercial recordings. However, she is still able to control this quavering voice so that every phrase in the Schumann songs is perfectly molded: on rising to a high note she is still able to float the sound on the breath and, often, produce enchanting pianissimo sounds. The carefully chosen Lieder offer her few obstacles that she cannot overcome. In the Paris broadcasts we notice that she is happier in the slower songs than in the fast ones, and she even manages to achieve a rather spectacular execution of “Mondnacht”, fining down the sound in each rising phrase, and her voice is indeed still evocative of moonlight. After two particularly successful Venetian Songs, replete with grace and charm, her most deeply felt and memorable interpretation here is Queen Mary Stuart’s farewell to France. Her distinguished accompanist, Dorel Handman, is rather too far away from the microphone but can be heard to accompany Schöne perfectly, adapting himself to her individual style of phrasing, very much in the old school.

In the 1950 Schumann recital, after a slightly unsteady beginning with “Du bist wie eine Blume” she manages to leave a moving impression with her lovely singing of “Meine Rose” and other lyrical numbers, while achieving the desired liveliness in such songs as “Er ist’s”. Like most nineteenth-century German singers, her enunciation is of the utmost clarity while never interrupting the legato (for which she now has to strive a little harder), neither does she attempt to over-interpret individual words. She contends herself with trying to convey the atmosphere of each song, relying on flexibility and contrast in dynamics and rubato to leave her own personal touch on these evocative miniatures. Again, she rarely uses a glottal stop.

Her recital of French songs leads her into more taxing material, and in the strenuous passages her age becomes more evident. However, we can understand at once why she had so successful a career in France, and even guess from this recording how lovely her famous Mélisande must have been. Her style in French singing is also that of the great nineteenth-century singers: there is no hint of nasality, her enunciation of the language is melodious and beautifully distinct, while she maintains almost her old prowess in the legato. The most successful numbers are two beautiful songs by Chausson, who does not disdain giving the voice a singable melody, to which Lotte Schöne does full justice. She is meticulous in the observation of the composer’s markings, and in the “Sérénade italienne” is not only in very good voice but demonstrates a perfect crescendo and diminuendo on the word “vois”. “Apaisement” is another attractive performance of a beautifully written song, only not quite so memorable as Hahn’s setting of these same words by Verlaine (“L’heure exquise”). Like Hahn’s, the song ends with a sustained G above the stave, pianissimo, followed by a downward portamento to the tonic E (first line) perfectly executed by Schöne. The recital ends with four Debussy songs, in the first three of which she sings attractively with flawless style, whereas the final song, “Pierrot” rather strains her available resources. She is able to end with a couple of nice trills, however, and a lovely sustained, soft and pearly high note. Her pianist, the well-known Hertha Klust, is particularly successful in the French material, perhaps a little self-effacing in the Schumann.

© Michael Aspinall, 2020