Josef Mann;  Barbara Kemp   (2-Truesound Transfers 4008)
Item# V2546
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Product Description

Josef Mann;  Barbara Kemp   (2-Truesound Transfers 4008)
V2546. JOSEF MANN: Songs by Schubert, Cherubini, Moniuszko & Noskowski; Arias & Duets (w.Barbara Kemp) from Aida, Otello, Aida, Ballo, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, Tosca, Pagliacci, Cavalleria, Martha, La Juive, Carmen, Die Königin von Saba, Tannhäuser, Tristan, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Mona Lisa, Der Evangelimann, Tiefland, Straszny Dwor & Halka. (Germany) 2-Truesound Transfers 4008, recorded 1910-21, Pathé & Odeon. Transfers by Christian Zwarg. [Of so many Zwarg miraculous restorations, this one is truly a revelation!]


“Josef Mann was a Ukrainian dramatic tenor born in 1883. He died tragically at the age of 38 of a heart attack during a performance of AIDA in Berlin on September 5, 1921, just a month before a scheduled trip to New York to make his Metropolitan Opera debut. The Met had offered him a five-year contract, hoping Mann would fill the shoes of Caruso, who had retired in 1920 and died in August, 1921. Mann is largely forgotten today, not even rating a mention in John Steane’s THE GRAND TRADITION or in Michael Scott’s THE RECORD OF SINGING. But there are 47 titles transferred here, recordings made for Pathé and Odeon, companies that would not have invested in so many recordings of a singer without a considerable reputation. The recordings were made in the decade between 1911 and 1921, and they are a revelation. Mann may not have been the most imaginative interpreter. The singing here is straightforward, idiomatic, and naturally phrased, but with few individual touches. There are no moments of dramatic or even musical individuality that will cause the listener to pull up short in surprise. But do not let that discourage you from seeking this release out. What you will hear is an extraordinarily evenly produced line, a dramatic tenor voice that is solid from top to bottom of its range, produced with remarkable and uncommon steadiness of tonal emission. The top notes ring out freely in most of the recordings, although there are a few (the 1919 ‘Celeste Aida’, for example) where the top sounds just a bit tight. Mann made his debut in 1909 in his hometown of Lviv singing in Stanislaw Moniuszko’s opera JONTEK, and one nice thing about this collection is that it includes two excerpts from that composer’s HALKA, one from his STRASZNY DWÓR, and a song as well. Mann’s career grew rapidly in Europe. In 1912 he was engaged at the Volksoper in Vienna, and in 1918 became an important singer at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin. He created the title role in Pfitzner’s PALESTRINA for its Berlin premiere. Before he died, Mann was learning the lead role of Paul in Korngold’s DIE TOTE STADT to sing at the U.S. premiere at the Met (Orville Harrold took it over), and he was schedule to sing other Caruso roles as well.

Clearly this is the story of a major singer who became a might-have-been, and this collection, far more than any prior transfers that I have heard demonstrates Mann’s vocal assets. the OTELLO excerpts, even though sung in German, are powerful and idiomatic, ‘Ora per sempre addio’ sung with real thrust and the final scene with heartbreaking tenderness. The steadiness of tone in the Passover Scene from LA JUIVE is particularly beautiful, although it is heard amidst a scrawny, thin-sounding chorus. Mann brings not only strength but also lyrical beauty to ‘No, Pagliaccio non son!’ showing an imaginative sense of vocal shading. If he doesn’t quite capture the lightness of ‘Di’ tu se fedele’ from UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, he still invests it with ringing tone. In an area not part of Caruso’s repertoire, it is Mann’s Wagner that is particularly impressive. Even in the bleeding chunks that were the only possibility within the limitations of 78s, he brings a remarkable sweep and richness of tone to TANNHÄUSER, TRISTAN, PARSIFAL, and LOHENGRIN. After the grace and elegance of his singing of Pedro’s scene from the Prologue of TIEFLAND by Eugen d’Albert, the power of Mann’s rendition of ‘Amfortas! Die Wunde’ from PARSIFAL catches one by surprise.

It is, in fact, the juxtaposition of real power with vocal elegance that makes Mann’s singing unique. If one were to list the virtues that one hopes to find in classically beautiful singing - firm, well-supported tone that retains its quality in all registers, smoothness of register shifts, a natural feeling for legato and phrase-shaping, clear diction, and a sense that the words and music have a dramatic meaning - these virtues are here in abundance. Virtually everything is sung in German, but the Italian numbers have the right ebb and flow, much as they did when Wunderlich sang Italian selections in German.

The final recordings on this disc were made months before his death in 1921 and demonstrate that he was still at the peak of his powers. They include a splendidly Nile Scene duet from AIDA with Barbara Kemp. Both singers offer splendid examples of steady tonal emission and ideal breath support.

One could not ask for better transfers. Prior examples that I have encountered of Mann’s records lacked the richness of timbre that is brought out here; the previous transfers made the voice sound drier and harder in tone. Here one is impressed by the beauty of the sound, the glow that surrounds its firm tonal center. There are no notes, but total documentation for each recording is provided. The valuable website FORGOTTEN OPERA SINGERS, run by Ashot Arakelyan, gives some good biographical background on Mann. Vocal collectors are in for a major discovery by tracking this 2-CD set down. It is available at Norbeck, Peters & Ford (”

- Henry Fogel, FANFARE

“Josef Mann made his debut in 1909 in Stanislaw Moniuszko’s JONTEK at Lviv where in 1910 he sang Radames, with Irene Heller. At the beginning of the 1910-1911 season he became a member of the Lviv Opera for two years. He furthered his music study with Guagni in Milan. From 1912 to 1915 he was engaged at the Vienna Volksoper. In the 1915-16 season he sang at the Royal Court Theatre in Wiesbaden where he appeared in the premiere of Julius Bittners HÖLLISCH GOLD. From 1916 to 1919 he worked at the Land Theatre at Darmstadt. Guest performances led him to Prague, Bucharest, Dresden, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Munich, Basel and Vienna. In 1918 he signed a contract with Vienna Staatsoper where, in 1919, he sang the title role in the Berlin première of Hans Pfitzner’s PALESTRINA. He died onstage at the Berlin State Opera during a performance of AIDA, preventing him from fulfilling his 1921 Met contract where he was scheduled to take over many roles for the ailing Enrico Caruso.”

- Ashot Arkelyan

" absolute revelation! Here, the voice comes through with tonal sheen, passion and with more personality than any other transfers have been able to bring out. Dynamics and agility are in better relief, as is a sensitivity I had always found lacking. These transfers are absolutely miraculous, and I hope for more Truesound transfers."