Das Deutsche Volkslied
These two issues present a neatly complementary view of Tauber’s career. The Preiser set gives us a picture of the young tenor in his days almost exclusively as an opera artist in German-speaking lands singing his repertory in the vernacular. It evinces the golden, sappy, honeyed tone of Tauber in his prime. The style at this stage is wholly disciplined but already we hear that outgoing, spontaneous exuberance that was soon to bring him world-wide fame in operetta.
Few if any tenors have sung Mozart quite so beautifully as Tauber at this point in his career: the 1922 Bildnis aria is a model of its kind, preferable to his later version, and an object-lesson in phrasing for any aspiring tenor. His interpretations of Lensky’s aria, the famous piece from Der Evangelimann, Jose’s Flower Song, Jenik’s aria (a glorious 1919 version) and Wilhelm Meister’s farewell to Mignon show the plangent, almost melancholic timbre with which Tauber could invest such repertory. Then for pure singing his readings of the Italian Tenor’s aria, Siegmund’s Spring Song, Alfredo’s aria and Pinkerton’s outpouring of remorse are hard to beat.
Add to this the many duets he never repeated in electric versions and you have a most desirable issue. In the company of regular colleagues of that time, such as Rethberg, Bettendorf, Sabine Kalter and, best of all perhaps, Lotte Lehmann (Die tote Stadt duets), his contributions reveal his generosity of both voice and manner. This is free-ranging, rich-hued singing marred only by most of the music being sung in the ‘wrong’ language. There are a few downward transpositions in the solos, but that was common practice at the time. Otherwise there’s little to criticize here in the performances and none in the excellent transfers.
The more intimate side of Tauber’s art comes in the series of Volkslieder he recorded for Parlophone in 1926, nicely transferred by Claremont. Here one admires the very personal way in which he caresses these charmingly unassuming pieces. Four Strauss songs from 1932 sessions follow, notable for the passion in the tone. What a pity the CD wasn’t completed with more Lieder rather than operatic items already available in numerous transfers, including the less-than-satisfactory Ottavio arias of 1939. But at the end there’s a gem: “Kennst du das kleine Haus am Michigansee?” where Tauber lavishes on a trifle all the magic of his incredible technique and heady tone, including those pianissimos conjured from nowhere. The transfers are excellent.'