RICHARD TAUBER Vol.3
'Love's Serenade' Original 1939-1947 Recordings
Decked in monocle and top-hat, in his own lifetime Tauber'the voice of tenor romance incarnate' was both an operetta matinee idol and abest-selling balladeer through scores of mid-price magenta-label Parlophones(which, being so frequent, were know jocularly at EMI as 'Tauberphones'). Indeed, so all-embracing was thepopulist Tauber's assumption of the latest frivolities from show and film thatin some circles his stature was for a time positively underrated. However, whereas it was for many yearsfashionable to regret his investment of so many trifles with thatquintessentially Viennese charisma, during recent decades it has become morefashionable to reappraise Tauber as a pioneer of 'cross-over' whose highmusicality and fiercely self-critical standards transcended all purelycommercial considerations - a master to whom any song worthy of hisconsideration was Schubert.
The product of an age in which individuality in performancewas actively encouraged, Tauber was essentially Schubertian - or, perhaps moreprecisely, Mozartian (that is instrumental) in his approach to singing. An acclaimed recitalist, in morepopulist guise he gave a captivating, if rather stylised, portrayal of Schubertin the 1934 BIP film Blossom Time, while operas by Mozart were to provide thevehicles both of his stage debut in 1913 and of his Covent Garden 'farewell',two weeks before his death, on 8 January 1948. Musicianly and stylish, beneath that all-pervading and often distracting veneer ofromanticism, Tauber was always disciplined in his art, his controlled lyricismconsciously attuned to the more intimate dimensions of lieder and miniatures ingeneral. A fine songwriter in hisown right, he was also an above-average pianist and an underestimated (anduntil his last years a frustrated) conductor.
Richard Denemy Tauber was born illegitimately to theatricalparents in Linz, Austria, on 16 May 1891 and although he was never far removedfrom singing he at first showed no great inclination for it, despiteencouragement offered him during his teens by the tenor Heinrich Hensel. Richard's joint talents for piano andcomposition were honed at the Conservatory of Frankfurt-am-Main while hisburning ambition to become a conductor would remain latent for the rest of hislife. In 1910 he was finallypersuaded to embark on a short course of study in Freiburg with the HeldentenorCarl Beines, the 'great musician' whom he would later acknowledge as 'the mostimportant man in my life'. Instantlyrecognising his young pupil's potential, Beines proceeded to fulfil his promiseto make him 'the greatest Mozart singer in the world'.
In 1912 Tauber was offered a contract by the WiesbadenTheatre, of which his father had been made Director, but opted instead tocontinue his studies with Beines. In March 1913 the fledgling tenor made a more high-profile solo debut atthe Neues Stadt-Theater in Chemnitz, in Die Zauberflote and a few days laterappeared in Der Freisch?â??tz, securing for himself a five-year contract with theDresden Royal Opera. His operaticcareer was as notable for its diversity (a quick study thanks to his all-roundmusical accomplishment, at Dresden alone he sang, often at short notice,lyric-tenor leads in over sixty operas) and his guest appearances at otherleading European opera houses included operetta, a new direction he wouldcontinue to follow even more assiduously during the following decade. In 1930,in Berlin, he also branched into the then new medium of screen-musicals. Operetta in orientation (tailored toemphasise their star tenor, with plots subordinated to musical content) theseincluded Das lockende Ziel (1930) and Die grosse Attraktion (1931).
Tauber's closest affiliation, however, was withstage-operetta and in particular with the works of the Hungarian Franz Lehar(1870-1948), whose Frasquita (premiered in 1922, at the Theater an der Wien)was to provide Tauber with an entree to a lifelong association, from 1924onwards, that included his creations in Friederike in 1928 and in the operaGiuditta, Lehar's last work, in 1934. The tenor lead in Frasquita had earlier been created by Hubert Marischka(Tauber having been the fourth successive tenor during the show's initial195-performance run) but both in its original version \Hab' ein blauesHimmelbett" and in Reginald Arkell's translation, Serenade was to prove one ofthe tenor's most regularly encored theme-songs.
With My Hero, from The Chocolate Soldier by the Vienna-bornOscar Straus (1870-1950), Tauber opens with a number which sopranos, ratherthan tenors, regularly stopped the show. Premiered in Vienna in 1908 as Der tapfere Soldat (TheBrave Soldier) this now-forgotten operetta based on George Bernard Shaw's ArmsAnd The Man was once a major draw, which ran for 296 showings on Broadway(Lyric Theater) from 1909 before touring America, and in London for 500performances at the Lyric (in 1910) prior to enjoying successful revivals in1914, 1932 and 1940. Anotherappropriated soprano air with which Tauber both charms and disarms is Don't BeCross, a translation by Clifton Bingham (1859-1913) from the English productionof Der Obersteiger (The Foreman), a popular Viennese operetta of 1894 by KarlZeller (1842-1898).
From other stage-works Tauber recorded a diverse range of'favourites', and our programme offers some of the more significant of these.Kiss Me Again (with lyrics by St Louis-born playwright and librettist HenryBlossom (1866-1919) this is the best-remembered number from Mlle. Modiste, a1905 Broadway musical by Dublin-born American Victor Herbert (1859-1924) -Tauber also offers a fine rendering of Indian Summer, originally a piano solointerpolated into Herbert's 1919 musical The Velvet Lady, this was made a songin 1939, with lyrics by New York librettist Al Dubin, 1891-1945). A hit from his longest-running showPerchance To Dream (1,022 performances, London, 1945), We'll Gather Lilacsstill ranks high among the best-loved encores of Ivor Novello (1893-1951) - andTauber's is surely the best of its contemporary non-cast recordings. From the Broadway musicals Oklahoma!(1943) and Annie, Get Your Gun (1946) come, respectively, Oh, What A BeautifulMornin' and They Say It's Wonderful (unusual repertoire for Tauber, it maystill be thought), while Begin The Beguine (first heard in Cole Porter's short-lived1935 Broadway venture Jubilee) and My Heart And I (from Tauber's ownlong-running London musical production of 1943, Old Chelsea), typify thetenor's highly individual style.
From the world of films our selections include theever-popular One Day When We Were Young (one of several borrowings from JohannStrauss II incorporated into the score of The Great Waltz, a 1938-vintageOscar-winning Hollywood melange from MGM, which featured soprano Miliza Korjus)and Pedro, The Fisherman (with ridiculous lyrics by Harold Purcell which evenTauber is hard put to redeem; this song, which 'kept Britons humming' throughWorld War 2, was aired by the tenor himself in the 1946 British Nationalfilming of the stage show Lisbon Story).
Among the ballads, non-operetta and non-film period-piecesmade memorable in Tauber renditions are Love Serenade (a posthumous vocalisingof a waltz-theme from the 1900 ballet Les millions d'Arlequin by Paduancomposer-conductor Riccardo Drigo, 1846-1930), When Day Is Done (with words byNew York-born Buddy G. De Sylva (alias George Gard, 1895-1950) and music byViennese-born master of the revue-operette Robert Katscher (1894-1942), thisdates from 1926), Sleepy