Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The tenor of his times

My dad's favorite tenor was Richard Tauber (above, with dachshund). The name came up frequently in our house because of a disaster that occurred before I was born. It seems my dad had a recording of Richard Tauber singing Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin," a work that needs no introduction on this blog, that is for sure.

And something was wrong with the record. There was a skip in it or something. Whatever was wrong with it dated to its time in the factory, so my dad ended up sending it back and asking for a replacement copy.

And they sent him back a "Schoene Muellerin" by Heinrich Schlusnus. And it was never the same. For the rest of his life, my dad yearned for his old Richard Tauber "Schoene Muellerin." Richard Tauber's "Schoene Muellerin" was indescribably beautiful in his memory and it only got more beautiful as the years went by and the memory became more and more distant. My father bitterly regretted having let the record out of his hands. Even with that scratch, it would have been better than nothing.

Here is a picture of Heinrich Schlusnus whose "Schoene Muellerin" did not measure up.

My dad never did get to hear Tauber's "Schoene Muellerin" again. I sure hope that right now he is having Richard Tauber sing it to him in the world that comes after this one.

It is funny, I can't find any reference to this recording on the Internet. Perhaps was it not Schubert's whole "Schoene Muellerin" my dad was talking about? Maybe it was just a few songs, and then other songs. Who knows.You start to wonder when you can't find something on the Internet. You are used to everything being there.

One of the things that made Tauber unusual is that he played the piano and often accompanied himself. Roaming around, winnowing through the offerings on You Tube, I found a mini-documentary that broke my heart.

Here is Tauber playing and singing Schubert's "Serenade." Part of it, at least. It is a little abbreviated. It is kind of a home movie. Tauber made this little recording only three months before he died, as they explain later in the video. With his dark hair and spectacles he looks a little like Schubert himself.

After they show the Schubert clip, you hear Tauber singing the German folk song "Kommt ein Vogel geflogen." My dad had that recording. I remember it as a little girl. It is so sweet and sad. My father used to say about Tauber that there was such a sadness in his voice.

Tauber was half Jewish and had to leave Germany when the Nazis came to power. The video addresses that too with some home-movie footage of Tauber in what appears to be California. They also show the great singer getting on the ship, going to America, and you hear him singing "Dalla sua pace," from "Don Giovanni," in German. Then the ship sounds its horn. The crowd on the shore waves goodbye. Tauber never went back to Germany again.

There are a few brief interviews. "Unvergesslich herrlich," one woman repeats, recalling Tauber's singing. Unforgettably magnificent.

It's especially poignant how throughout the video, Tauber acts so jaunty and cheery. On the ship, on his way to America, he looks dapper, and pleasantly self-conscious. He even serenades his fellow passengers with "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz," the famous aria from Franz Lehar's "The Land of Smiles."

Can you stand it?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this information. My family is from Vienna and we all love Tauber. Also Joseph Schmidt the "little" tenor. Tauber has a beautiful medody he sings, "Du bist meine sonne" I understand German but my spelling is not good. Anyway, it's a love song. Too bad he died so early.