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Lebendige Vergangenheit: Emmi Leisner
Johann Sebastian Bach, Georges Bizet, Johannes Brahms
Lebendige Vergangenheit: Emmi Leisner
Genres: Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1


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Buy This for "Dank sei Dir, Herr"
Celia J. Berveiler | 07/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The entry for Emmi Leisner in Grove's opera dictionary is not flattering. The author praised her instrument ("sumptuous") but called her style "unreliable" and her interpretations "uninteresting." The article then quoted a critic who said that she gave the audience "a few noble notes but little else to remember her by." I don't know how style can be "unreliable"--that word is usually used to describe faulty technique. Be that as it may, I compared Leisner's rendition of arias from Gluck's Orfeo with Maureen Forrester's. I admit, I prefer Forrester, but I'm not ready to sneer at Leisner. I then compared Leisner's "Einsam wachend..." with that of Regina Resnik. Resnik is a consummate artist and Solti an unexceptionable opera conductor, but someone decided to make this recording of "Einsam wachend" too soft. Brangene sings it from a distance, but it should still be loud enough to hear. Leisner's interpretations may lack individuality and originality, but in the recreative arts that's not necessarily bad. I've heard too many tasteless original touches from artists nowadays to condemn her for this.

So why buy the CD? Because you won't be able to listen to "Dank sei Dir, Herr" with dry eyes. Maybe these were the "few noble notes" that Leisner's unfavorable critic had in mind. I first heard this on an LP at a school library 30+ years ago and thought it was awesome--in the OLD sense of the word. I couldn't get enough of it--that's now forgettable Leisner was! Her legato absolutely melts, and her whole interpretation exudes warmth and repose. She recorded it in 1928, that is, during the tottering Weimar Republic. It would not surprise me if Germans found this as heartening as our countrymen of the Depression era found Kate Smith's "God Bless America." Perhaps this song had personal significance for Leisner, too. It is the most satisfying track on this CD and was the reason I bought it.

Also satisfying are Brahms' "Wie bist du, meine Koenigin" and Strauss' "Wiegenlied," recorded with orchestral accompaniment in 1933 when technology was far more advanced. Once again Leisner sings with a lovely legato and great warmth.

Emmi Leisner had a long, international career. She did not retire until she was 62. People had ample opportunity to hear her recordings and decide for themselves if the carping critics were right. Leisner probably did what performers usually do when the only critic they please is the paying public: they cry all the way to the bank. As far as I'm concerned, "Dank sei dir, Herr" makes this CD worth every dime. If our economic woes don't abate soon, we may also need to turn to it for comfort."