Lotte Lehmann sings Lieder
Comparatively few items from Lehmann's vast discography (scrupulously compiled by Floris Juynboll as an appendix to Alan Jefferson's Lotte Lehmann; Julia Macrae: 1988) have ever been generally available in this country, either on 78rpm or LP, and many have had a shortish life in the catalogue. The operatic part of her career can be followed in the various issues from Preiser/Harmonia Mundi, but the many discs of songs made in the United States by RCA Victor and American Columbia from 1935 onwards have always been hard to come by, so RCA are doing Lehmann enthusiasts—and who, once having heard her can be anything but an enthusiast?—a considerable service by this issue. Indeed, W. R. Moran, who compiled it, has had the wit to seek out discs that must be great rarities even across the Atlantic.
When engaged on a study of Duparc and Hahn on record, nobody could find for me the Lehmann recordings of the melodies happily unearthed here. As Juynboll avers, her ''pronunciation of the French language leaves much to be desired'', yet few French singers pierce the heart as she does in Duparc's
The disc opens with four extreme rarities, all marvellous examples of Lehmann's voice and art so outgoing and sincere. Neither the Cimara or Sadero, recorded in 1936, have ever been published before. In the first her tone rings out freely; in the second,
Most of the Lieder records were issued here by HMV at the time they were made, and have been reissued on RCA Victrola or Camden LPs, so they are more familiar, but no less welcome. Lehmann's breath control, as we know, was often faulty, and became more so as her voice lost some of its bloom around 1939. But who cares when she reaches so unerringly to the heart of the matter nowhere more so than in Schumann's Du bist wie eine Blume. The 1947 recordings of Schubert were new to me. I particularly recommend a subtle account of
The transfers are remarkably natural and clear, catching all the unique quality of Lehmann's tone. Philip Miller, in his succinct note, quotes Leo Slezak on the singer: ''She had the secret, the only secret we have … the heart''. I wish here, and in other RCA booklets accompanying their historical issues, more details had been given on the origins of the discs concerned, but that's a small drawback to a CD that has 30 items lasting 74 minutes—and which must give pleasure to both those who know and those who come fresh to Lehmann's art.'