WORKS: Die lustige Witwe (excerpts); Giuditta (excerpts); Der Zarewitsch (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Jana Scharkowskaja, Thomas Dewald; Cologne Radio Orchestra & Chorus/Helmuth Froschauer
CATALOGUE NO: 10 819
After the golden age of Vienna (Johann Strauss and various relatives) came the silver age of Lehár, between 1900 and 1930. There are a few virtues to the Cologne Radio disc: a heroic timbre to Dewald’s singing, a sweet tone in Daniel Froschauer’s violin playing, and some vigorous work by the chorus. Scharkowskaja’s voice, on the other hand, is brittle, spreads at the top, and her German is appalling.
So much pastiche music (Italy, Russia, Hungary, China, Montenegro) leaves one with the feeling that the Gold and Silver Waltz and The Merry Widow are all that’s worth hearing from the pen of the former Hungarian bandmaster. Not so. Jerry Hadley (whose German is impeccable) chooses judiciously in the case of Lehár but also adds others, including a sumptuous melody by the singer for whom so much of this repertoire was intended, Richard Tauber. Hadley’s voice may seem ill at ease in the lower register, but elsewhere he varies colour and tone with soft falsetto or ringing top B flats and Cs. In terms of the orchestral playing and sound the Bavarians under Bonynge, and their studio engineers, win hands down over their Rhineland colleagues. Christopher Fifield