Fritz Lehmann Odeon Recordings, Part 1 (Dvořák, Kodály, Beethoven)

This is the first of at least two posts consisting of Fritz Lehmann’s recordings for the Odeon label. A fair number of Lehmann’s Deutsche Grammophon recordings have now been reissued, but I know of no reissues of his Odeons . Perhaps someone can help me with recording dates on these. Late 1930s to early 1940s would be my guess.

The more of Lehmann’s work I hear, the more impressed I am with it. There’s nothing overstated, but many things are stated with just the right kind of subtle underlining to command interest. That may seem to imply that drama might be lacking, and it’s true he doesn’t possess the dynamism of a Ferenc Fricsay, just to pick one example from his era, but there’s a really active musical imagination at work in a wide variety of styles (his Bach is some of the most satisfying of his era). And he has a knack for balancing and voicing textures with real beauty of sound and nicely molded musical lines (the middle section of the second movement of the Serenade is a nice example: his shaping is very subtle but full of warmth and character). Do grab the reissues of his in the DG “Sprache der Welt” series before they disappear.

Meanwhile, I’ve transfered these from 78 pressings, of course, and there are a few problems with the sources that need slight allowances. In the Beethoven, the sides become very dull sonically near the ends of the sides. I don’t have tools to compensate fully for this, and ultimately I think you would have to degrade the sound at the start of new sides to match, and I didn’t want to do this. There are a few “bubbles” in the Dvořák pressing. But the sound is pleasingly wide ranging compared to the very boxy Odeons from the early 30s.

I couldn’t remember another Beethoven recording of Lehmann’s off the top of my head, so I was surprised to find that he re-recorded the Second Symphony with the BPO for DG (issued as LPM 18 477), but I’ve not heard that version. Also, he recorded the Choral Fantasy (with Andor Foldes) and Leonore No.3 & Coriolan Overtures. Perhaps Beethoven was not a mainstay in his recorded activities, but this early version of the Symphony is a fleet, well sprung performance well worth a listen. You wouldn’t mistake these orchestras for the BPO, but the playing makes up in musicality what it might be lacking in pin-point accuracy of intonation in a few cases.

I think the Kodály speaks for itself, but along with Fricsay and Van Beinum, for my taste it’s probably the most musically satisfying version of the suite, despite some lapses in the orchestral execution. Lehmann also recorded the Dances of Galanta for Odeon, but I don’t have that to share, unfortunately.

Dvořák: Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22
Orchester des Deutschen Operhauses, Berlin
Odeon O-7992/4 (matr. xxB 9798/803)
Recorded April 30,1941 & May 9, 1941, Berlin

Kodály: Háry János Suite
Orchester des Deutschen Operhauses, Berlin
Odeon O-9118/20 (matr. xxB 8790/5)
Recorded April 16-17, 1941, Berlin

Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36
Grosses Radio-Sinfonieorchester, Brussels
Odeon O-9154/58a (matr. xxB 8964/72)
Recorded April 7-15, 1942

in Brussels, Palais de Beaux Arts


I’ve stumbled upon this very interesting item from John F. Berky’s wonderful Bruckner site. It’s a 1940 RRG performance of the last movement of Bruckner’s Third Symphony conducted by Lehmann:


Also, here is a transcript of an interesting lecture on Lehmann (and some of his contemporaries) Bach performances, by Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood:


Lehmann rehearsing Bach in 1950

Comments are welcome!

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1 Response to Fritz Lehmann Odeon Recordings, Part 1 (Dvořák, Kodály, Beethoven)

  1. 2ndviolinist (Doug T) says:

    Really enjoy the Dvorak Serenade, a piece I’ve not found elsewhere in a pre-’50s recording and this is quite well played. RIAS might be more perfect and Fricsay a better musician but the string tone in this recording far outshines that orchestra’s recordings. Thank you for having made this available.

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