Nostalgia seems to be fashionable at the moment. A couple of years ago Jonas Kaufmann issued a disc focusing on primarily the 1930s. Daniel Behle throws his net even wider and catches some real goldfish from the 19th century operatic world, before he also tunes in to the 30s. In the bargain we are also treated to a composition of his own, In Köln. About a year ago I reviewed a disc with Behle, titled Mein Hamburg (review), where he presented several of his own compositions for the first time on records, together with several well-known songs and arias with new texts by himself, all of them a declaration of love to Hamburg, the town where he was born. Obviously he has some connection with Köln (Cologne) as well, and this only widens his versatility.
The opening section of the disc, five operatic arias framing the once very popular clog dance from Lortzing’s opera Zar und Zimmermann, is not only pure nostalgia but also utterly satisfying rendition of music that has been sung and recorded by all the great tenors of the past, and still are – at least some of them. Possibly the most famous is the first one, Ach, so fromm from Flotow’s Martha. In the golden days it was often sung by Caruso, Gigli, Björling and sundry other tenors in Italian translation. Behle sings it in the original language, and besides some tricky consonants that force him to break the legato flow, his is a reading to stand with the best. His beautiful voice in combination with his musical phrasing, exquisite nuances and unforced delivery makes him today the best lyrical German speaking tenor since Fritz Wunderlich. Fenton’s romance from Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor is definitely in the Wunderlich class and thus as close to perfection as is humanly possible. Adolphe Adam’s music is today largely forgotten with the exception of his ballet Giselle and the Christmas song O holy Night. But Le Postillon de Lonjumeau can still be seen occasionally and Chapelou’s aria from the first act, with that frightening high D is still a showpiece for tenors who are not afraid of heights. It has often been sung in German by for instance Danish-German Helge Roswaenge in the 1930s – a legendary recording – and Behle follows suite with lightness and elegance. He masters the high D effortlessly and brilliantly. Karl Goldmark’s music is also rarely heard today. The beautiful violin concerto and the Rustic Wedding symphony are practically the only works that have an outing once in a while. The opera Die Königin von Saba, premiered in 1875, was quite frequently performed until the late 1920s, but since then it has mainly been seen in Budapest. There is a complete recording from Budapest in the 1980s with Siegfried Jerusalem as Assad, and in the beginning of the 20th century many golden tenors recorded it, including Caruso. Daniel Behle sings it masterly here in half-voice. This is indeed magical! Boieldieu, a generation older than his student Adam, was a great name during the first decades of the 19th century and La dame blanche is regarded as his masterpiece. It was regularly played throughout the century but since then it has been a rare guest in the opera houses. There are at least three complete recordings and the cavatina has been popular among lyrical tenors. Jerry Hadley recorded it some fifteen years ago on a very successful disc with bel canto repertoire. Behle sings it here with obvious relish, maybe lacking somewhat in elegance.
Moving over to the world of operetta we first get an instrumental piece from Lehár’s Eva, composed in 1911. You don’t hear it very often but it’s nice and refreshing. Better known are the two arias. Octavio’s jubilant Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert is from Giuditta, his last work of some importance, premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 1934. It is brilliantly sung, while the even better-known Wolgalied from Der Zarewitsch, premiered in Berlin in 1927, is sung with restraint and warmth – truly beautifully.
Behle’s own In Köln is performed with obvious enthusiasm and élan, and so is Ob blond, ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau’n by the untiring tunesmith Robert Stolz. Ein Lied geht um die Welt was the title song from a German film with the diminutive Jewish tenor Joseph Schmidt. It was premiered in Berlin on 9 May 1933 and was hailed by 3000 enthusiastic visitors. The next day Schmidt left Germany to avoid the Nazi persecution of the Jews. This song is always worth reviving to remind people of the loathsome activities of the Nazis. In Winkler’s exuberant Chianti Lied the excellent WDR Radio Chorus are heard on their own and then Daniel Behle rounds off this utterly delightful programme with the feel-good song Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben (Today is the most wonderful day in my life).
Buy and enjoy!
Contents Friedrich von FLOTOW (1812 – 1883)
1. Ach, so fromm, ach so traut [2:53] Otto NICOLAI (1810 – 1849)
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor:
2. Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain [4:59] Albert LORTZING (1801 – 1851)
Zar und Zimmermann:
3. Holzschuhtanz [5:11] Adolphe ADAM (1803 – 1851)
Der Postillon von Lonjumeau:
4. Freunde, vernehmet die Geschichte [4:58] Karl GOLDMARK (1830 – 1915)
Die Königin von Saba:
5. Magische Töne [3:19] François-Adrien BOILDIEU (1775 – 1834)
Die weiße Dame:
6. Komm, oh holde Dame [5:18] Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
7. Zwanzinette [3:18]
8. Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert [3:30]
9. Allein, wieder allein – Es steht ein Soldat am Wolgastrand [4:43] Daniel BEHLE (b. 1974)
10. In Köln [5:25] Robert STOLZ (1880 – 1975)
11. Ob blond, ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau’n [2:24] Hans MAY (1866 – 1958) / Ernst NEUBACH (1900 – 1968)
12. Ein Lied geht um die Welt (arr. Sebastian Zierer) [2:57] Gerhard WINKLER (1906 – 1977)
13. Chianti Lied [3:01] Hans MAY / Ernst NEUBACH
14. Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben (arr. Sebastian Zierer) [2:48]
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