OP2838. TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, Broadcast Performance, 16 Dec., 1949, w.Schmidt-Isserstedt Cond. Hamburg NDR Ensemble; Max Lorenz, Paula Baumann, Margarete Klose, Gottlob Frick, Carl Kronenberg, Peter Markwort, etc. (Germany) 3-Archipel 0030. [An extraordinarily beautiful, sensitive performance . . . in great sound!] Long out-of-print, final copies! - 7640104000303
“Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt is one of those conductors whose work was renowned far more among the ranks of his peers (and of very serious listeners) than among the general classical audiences of his era. A believer in strict rhythmic precision, transparent orchestral textures, and the avoidance of excessive mannerisms, Schmidt-Isserstedt and his work were loved by fellow musicians and listeners committed enough to seek it out, eclipsed as it often was by his more flamboyant and well-known rivals. It is a measure of his place in the pantheon of early and middle twentieth century conductors that, while only two or three of his recordings are represented on CDs from major labels, dozens of his performances appear on private collectors labels.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was born in Berlin in 1900 and studied music in Berlin at the university. Although his interest in music extended into modern and contemporary works, his first love was Mozart and he authored a dissertation on the Italian influences in Mozart's early operas. He conducted in different theaters and also composed music during the earlier part of his career, including several orchestral works, Lieder, chamber pieces, and one opera (HASSAN GEWINNT), which was performed for the first time in 1928. During the 1930s, he began recording regularly, most notably in a series of concerti with the legendary violin virtuoso Georg Kulenkampff, in which he conducted the Berlin Philharmonic. Schmidt-Isserstedt remained in Germany during the period of the Nazi regime, and in 1935 was appointed principal Kappelmeister at the Hamburg State Opera. He became the opera director at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin in 1943 and the company's general music director in 1944.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was among the less-controversial musicians working in Germany during the war, and his work and career continued virtually uninterrupted by the Allied victory and the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945. He founded the North German Radio (or NDR) Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg during 1945, which he directed until his retirement in 1971. Schmidt-Isserstedt successfully took the NDR Symphony Orchestra on tour in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States during the 1950s. He also began recording regularly for the British Decca/London label with several different orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic. From 1955 until 1964, he was also the principal conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic and made appearances as a guest conductor with more than 100 orchestras around the world, in all of the world's major cities, and with the Glyndebourne Opera (THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, 1958) and Covent Garden (TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, 1962). During this period, he was also a fervent advocate for the music of Bartók, Stravinsky, and Hindemith.
Schmidt-Isserstedt was popular throughout Europe and his recordings were usually more easily available there than in the United States, where he was most familiar to a cadre of serious listeners. His Beethoven symphonic cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic (which featured some of the most consistently fine and inspired playing in the V.P.O.'s history), however, was readily available in the American catalog for many years and is still highly regarded. His recording of the 9th Symphony, in particular, is still singled out for critical praise. For many years, it was considered one of the two or three finest available on LP (back in the 1970s, if you found this record in someone's collection, you could be certain that they really knew their music and cared about it). His recordings of the Mozart operas, most notably IDOMENEO (his last, released in 1972) and LA FINTA GIARDINIERA (recorded in the then-extant German translation, as DIE GARTNERIN AUS LIEBE) remain among the choicest performances of these works.
Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt never courted publicity or glory in the way that his contemporaries, such as Wilhelm Furtwängler or younger rivals like Herbert von Karajan, did. As a result, his was never a household name. Working quietly, however, and building an orchestra and a postwar reputation from the ground up, he ended up leaving behind a handful of recordings whose worth speaks loudly, even in the digital era, some decades after his death.”
- Bruce Eder, allmusic.com
“Dramatic tenor Max Lorenz usually made the most of a hard-edged and often intractable voice in singing the heroic rôles of Wagner and the high-lying lyric/dramatic ones of Strauss. A riveting stage figure (trim and athletic in appearance), he was, in his prime, perhaps the most credible visual exponent of Siegmund and the two Siegfrieds. His musicianship, likewise, was more reliable than that of most other singers of the big German rôles. Yet his voice was so unmalleable and his technique so unorthodox, that his performances required of the listener a considerable period of adjustment. Once the accommodation was made to a vocal mechanism that sounded as though its soft palate had been constructed of concrete, significant rewards awaited.
Following study in Berlin, Lorenz was awarded a prize in a competition sponsored by a city newspaper. He was subsequently engaged by Fritz Busch for Dresden and made his début there in 1927, singing the secondary rôle of Walter in TANNHÄUSER. His performance as Menelaus in Strauss' ÄGYPTISCHE HELENA, premiered in Dresden in 1928, prompted the composer to recommend Lorenz to Berlin where they were seeking a tenor for the same rôle. Lorenz left Dresden, joining the Berlin Staatsoper in 1933.
Meanwhile, he had made his début at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931. His Walter in DIE MEISTERSINGER was received as the work of a ‘serious artist and an intelligent musician’, though one afflicted with a ‘hard and unyielding tone quality’ that changed little during the ensuing two decades of Metropolitan appearances. Perhaps the continued presence of Lauritz Melchior made it impossible for New York audiences to adjust to the much less beautiful sound produced by Lorenz.
London heard Lorenz for the first time on-stage in 1934 when his Walter made a good impression. He returned to Covent Garden in 1937 for the title rôle in SIEGFRIED and was found too lightweight for the arduous rôle, but an ‘eminently cultivated and musicianly singer’ nonetheless. Bayreuth proved a more hospitable venue for Lorenz's unique art. For a decade beginning in 1933, the tenor sang Siegfried and Tristan to considerable acclaim and gained a reputation as a singing actor of exceptional ability. Recordings from the theater preserve his Siegfried, sung with rare intensity and rhythmic spring. From 1937, he was a regular at the Vienna Staatsoper, as well as a frequent visitor to other European houses. In the post-WWII era, he sang in Italy, performing both Wagner and Verdi, and appeared in both Mexico City and Buenos Aires. Salzburg heard him frequently, as did other festivals such as those at Amsterdam, Florence, and Zürich. In addition to his dramatic leading rôles, Lorenz took on contemporary parts in the premières of Gottfried Von Einem's DER PROZESS in 1953, Rolf Liebermann's PENELOPE in 1954, and as late as 1961, of Rudolf Wagner-Régeny's DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“If the name Gottlob Frick appears on the recording, I buy it. The great German bass had a huge, black as midnight voice – a grand rolling cantante of rich sound.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May / June, 2011