Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lehár's Friederike is universally known for the Tauber aria "0 Madchen, mein Mädchen!". Set in the Alsatian village of Sesenheim in the 1770s, it tells of the love of the poet Goethe and the pastor's daughter Friederike Brion. Many of the lyrics use Goethe's own verses. Indeed, the hit number is itself based on Goethe's Mailied, while there is also a most charming setting of Heidenröslein. Both these numbers appear as leitmotivs throughout the work, and this is one of the structural points that emerges particularly effectively from this, the first complete recording of the piece.
What is also readily apparent is that the term 'operetta' can only very loosely be applied to the work. It is described, in fact, as a "Singspiel", which rightly indicates that it is really a play with songs. Thus, after the pastoral orchestral prelude (with organ solo) the curtain rises to dialogue. There are no big ensembles or choruses of villagers hanging upon every word, and apart from a chorus of male students in Act I and a chorus of village girls in Act 3 the music is almost entirely assigned to the two tenor/soprano couples. The music has much of the solidity of a Komische Oper rather than the flippancy of an operetta, and one sees again how Lehár attempted in his later works to get away from the conventional operetta form. It is music that concentrates on characterization, with an especially rich range of orchestral sound—often full and deep. at other times marked by pastel shading. And, of course, there are some telling individual numbers written for Tauber and his leading lady, Käthe Dorsch, Berlin's leading actress of the time.
Much depends on the singers of the two main parts. The style of the music prevents Adolf Dallapozza being heard at his most sweetly lyrical, but he carries off a particularly testing role with considerable aplomb. He captures the passion of the young Goethe to perfection, his various big solo numbers superbly integrated into the unfolding drama. Helen Donath does no less well as the sensitive Friederike, most moving in her beautiful and heart-warming solo "Warum hast du mich wachgekusst?" and her touching quotation of "Heidenröslein" that ends Act 2. Gabriele Fuchs and Martin Finke offer attractively vibrant support as Friederike's sister Salomea and Goethe's companion J. M. R. Lenz, while Heinz Wallberg and his Munich orchestra bring out all the richness and variety of the score. EMI are now sensibly importing these sets direct from Germany, but the absence of an English text will undoubtedly be a drawback for the full enjoyment of many listeners. It is, however. a work that grows on one and invites mounting admiration of the way in which the 58-yearold Lehár was still developing his technique in this, his penultimate new stage work. It contains much beautiful music that is here superbly well performed and recorded.
-- Gramophone [8/1981, reviewing the original LP release]