Joseph Schmidt - (A) Song Goes Round The World
I hope not too much of that particular song goes round the world, but certainly Joseph Schmidt’s voice has gone the rounds and continues to do so. His life, too, with its rise to what today would be called superstardom, and his death in 1942 at the age of 38, caused by the Nazi brutes from whom he fled and the pusillanimous neutrals among whom he sought refuge.
He was a superb tenor in an age when this was still the voice of romance. Being too short in stature for the operatic stage, he went into films, and it is from these that most of the present recordings are drawn. That is a pity; both the two-CD sets on Teldec and Pearl are preferable. The German branch of EMI produced two boxed sets (two CDs each), also with a more pleasing repertoire, but the transfers are bright to the point of harshness.
Of the singer’s operatic recordings, this set includes six titles not found in the Teldec or Pearl issues. All are desirable. The aria from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is one of his best. The solos from Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann and Flotow’s Alessandro Stradella also show the fine legato. The Adam Postillion song, transposed down a semitone, places the lower notes still further beyond comfortable reach. Excellent, however, are the two excerpts from La bohème (in German), intelligently sung and ideally suited to the voice.
Of the operetta and songs, nothing tips the balance of choice towards the new selection; of the 17 film songs, most are second-rate even among their own tawdry kind. It is startling to see Nun wer die Sehnsucht kennt listed among these titles, but that is only the first line; the dance tune and its lyrics glide away soon enough into oblivion. The theme tune itself (Ein Lied geht um die Welt) is a brash, swaggering march, ironically all too reminiscent of its dreadful period.