V2670. HERBERT JANSSEN: Portrait of a Mastersinger, incl. Songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Grieg, Strauss & Wolf; Arias & Duets (w.Schöne, Perras, Ljungberg, Leider, Flagstad, Witte & Melchior from Johannes-Passion, Siegfried & Götterdämmerung, Die Walküre, Tannhäuser, Die Drei Musketiere, Zar und Zimmermann, Der Waffenschmied, Rigoletto, Madama Butterfly & Faust. 6-Marston 56005, recorded 1923-48, featuring many Live Performances & Unpublished material. Essays by Michael Aspinall and Iain Miller. Specially priced, 6-CDs for the price of 4. - 638335600529
“The recordings of the baritone Herbert Janssen (1892–1965) have continued to delight listeners, beginning with their first appearance in the 1920s up until the present, where contemporary critics often revere them as standards of distinguished singing. The very individualistic beauty of his voice has long been held in the highest esteem by connoisseurs of both operatic and Lieder singing. His perfect Italianate legato, his breath control, and the 'long-bowed' phrasing of his vocal art were greatly praised by critics and audiences throughout his thirty-year career, first in continental Europe and at Covent Garden, and latterly in the Americas.
His musically rich and varied career in Europe ended abruptly in 1937 when his outspoken opposition to Hitler’s regime led to his pursuit by the Gestapo and eventual escape and exile. Until then, he had given highly praised performances, not only of the Wagnerian roles for which he is chiefly remembered today, but of Mozart, Gluck, a great deal of Verdi and other Italian and French operas, as well as of contemporary works and even Russian repertoire.
Janssen’s Lieder singing on record has left memorable interpretations of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and Strauss which are still highly prized today.
The present collection includes all his surviving pre-war studio recordings of opera and operetta (except for the 1930 Columbia Tannhäuser); all of Janssen’s surviving 78 rpm Lieder recordings, including several previously unpublished items; and rare broadcast material that appears here together for the first time. The set includes liner notes by Iain Miller and Michael Aspinall, as well as a large selection of rare photos. As a portrait of one of the greatest baritones on records, this six-CD set of Herbert Janssen is the most complete yet to appear."
- Ward Marston
"Herbert Janssen - with his plangent, fine-grained voice, keen intelligence, aristocratic musicianship, and (not incidentally) handsome appearance - was the leading German baritone in several major theatres during the 1920s and 1930s. After study with Oskar Daniel in Berlin he was immediately accepted by Max von Schillings for the Berlin State Opera, where he made his debut in 1922 as Herod in Schreker's DER SCHATZGRABER . He remained at the Berlin State Opera until 1937 singing both lyric and dramatic roles, many of them in the Italian repertory. He later appeared in important productions of DER FLIEGENDE HOLLANDER and TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Covent Garden conducted by Reiner and Beecham, also singing Orest / ELEKTRA and in 1935 taking the title role in Borodin's PRINCE IGOR, for which he was highly praised.
Janssen was a fixture at the Bayreuth Festival from 1930 to 1937. His Wolfram in TANNHAUSER set a standard not approached since, and, fortunately, it was recorded in a somewhat truncated 1930 production. During that decade, he established benchmarks for several Wagner roles, particularly Kurwenal, Telramund, Gunther, and - especially - Amfortas. His interpretation of the latter was an exquisitely sung realization of a soul in torment, achieving a remarkable unity of voice, movement, and makeup. His doggedly loyal Kurwenal is preserved on complete recordings of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE made live at Covent Garden in 1936 and 1937. His tortured Dutchman is also available in a live recording made at Covent Garden and featuring Kirsten Flagstad as Senta.
In addition to his stage work, Janssen acquired a reputation as a superior singer of Lieder. The exceptional beauty of his voice and his interpretive acuity made him a prime candidate for Walter Legge's Hugo Wolf Society venture of the 1930s. Among the finest singers Legge could pull together, Janssen was given the largest assignment and his subscription recordings made throughout the decade remain supreme, even in the face of the best achievements of post-war Lieder singers.
Janssen was very unpopular with the Nazi regime, having turned down a dinner invitation from Hitler at Bayreuth, Janssen left Germany in 1937 and with Toscanini's assistance traveled immediately to Buenos Aires. After a season in Argentina, he came to the United States where he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1939, remaining at that theater until his stage retirement in 1952.
From 1940 onwards Janssen sang regularly at Buenos Aires and with the San Francisco Opera between 1945 and 1951. Following his retirement in 1952, he remained in New York as a respected teacher.
Janssen's performances were notable for the warm and sympathetic timbre of his voice, his excellent command of legato and clear enunciation, as well as his convincing acting. Also a highly accomplished lieder singer, he had in addition starred in the musical DREI MUSKETIERE at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin during 1928 opposite Gota Ljungberg."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com