"A Star Falls from Heaven"
Robert Manari | San Francisco, CA United States | 05/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before tragically dying so young in a Swiss internment camp where he was waiting the asylum decree with 350 other Jews (he was only 38 years old, yet another innocent victim of the stupidity and monstrosity of the Second World War), Joseph Schmidt's reputation was already established as one of the most loved singers of his generation. Born in Bukovina, a Romanian province rich in Jewish, Ukrainian, German, Polish and gipsy influences, Schmidt was to grow up in a truly cosmopolitan environment. This healthy exposure to different cultures, coupled with his fluency in Hebrew, Romanian, German and French languages only benefited his interpretations later in his career.
His diminutive stature (just under 5 feet - which earned him the nickname "Pocket Caruso"), did not prevent Joseph Schmidt to become hugely popular, captivating audiences worldwide with his incredibly beautiful lyric tenor voice. The 1930s were very generous to Joseph Schmidt: records (many becoming bestsellers of that age), radio broadcasts and movies (of which the most famous becoming "A Star Falls from Heaven" - available in its English version even today, more than 70 years after its original release!), all ensured the creation of a legend. In 1937 Schmidt toured the United States, performed in the Carnegie Hall, and gave concerts during this US tour with other preeminent singers such as Grace Moore and Erna Sack. Throughout Europe his reputation became firmly established, and it is interesting to note that his popularity was at its height in the German speaking countries just when the Nazi Party was taking power and basically banning all Jewish things. It is also very ironic that Hitler's Propaganda Minister, Josef Gobbels, became so enthusiastic after hearing Schmidt singing "My Song" (English title), that he instantly manifested his intention of declaring Schmidt "an honorary Aryan".
With such a short career we are fortunate that Schmidt left behind a relatively rich recorded legacy, and the present collection (coupled with the second volume of his complete EMI recordings), covers most of his best works. Highly recommended to anyone interested in fine singing.