On the fifty-eighth anniversary of Thomas Mann's death in 1955, a YouTube playlist
with almost all of his top twelve favorite recordings
Almost all of the recordings Mann lists in the article from the 1948 Saturday Review of Literature are, I was pleased to discover, available on YouTube. Many of them feature delightful images of the original center label from the recording; perhaps if you squint, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the object's original aura. I had to tweak the list in a few parts; notes below, with links directly into the individual sections:
FRANCK Symphony in D Minor
. Pierre Monteux conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
MENDELSSOHN Concerto in E Minor.
Nathan Milstein, violin, and the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York, Bruno Walter conducting.
Walter appears on this list several times; he was Mann's close friend and neighbor in Munich, and again in exile in Los Angeles.
MOZART and others.
A Song Recital by Lotte Lehmann.
I believe this refers to Lehmann's 1941 radio recordings; I included the Mozart songs from this large set.
BERLIOZ Harold in Italy. William Primrose, violinist [sic], with the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky conducting.
I couldn't find this recording online, alas. The "[sic]" from the list above is because Primrose was a violist.
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3 in E flat ("Eroica")
. Bruno Walter conducting the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York.
WAGNER Parsifal, Act III.
Berlin State Opera soloists, chorus, and orchestra, Karl Muck conducting.
WAGNER Die Walküre, Act I.
Lotte Lehmann, soprano, Lauritz Melchior, tenor, Emanuel List, bass, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Bruno Walter conducting.
Even if you don't like Wagner, I urge you to give the first few minutes of this recording a try. And before you listen -- recall that this is a recording from June 1935 with the Vienna Philharmonic, led by the Jewish maestro Bruno Walter, only a few years before the Anschluss (in 1938). Wagner drops you right into the middle of torment, and Walter drives the train with relentless intensity...
BERG Excerpts from Wozzeck. Charlotte Boerner, soprano, and the Janssen Symphony Orchestra, Werner Janssen conducting.
This was also not findable.
STRAUSS, JOHANN Two Overtures and Two Waltzes.
Various European orchestras. Bruno Walter and George Szell conducting.
SCHUBERT "Der Musensohn" (Goethe) and "Der Wanderer" (Schmidt von Lübeck). Gerhard Hüsch, baritone, and Hanns Udo Müller, piano.
I couldn't find these particular songs; instead I give you, by the same pair, a 1933 recording of one of the saddest songs in the canon of German Lieder: Der Leiermann,
the penultimate song in Der Winterreise.
SCHUMANN "Romanze" (Geibel) and Schubert's "Der Erlkönig" (Goethe)
. Heinrich Schlusnus, baritone, and Franz Rupp, piano.
ROOSEVELT "A Prayer for the Nation on D-Day, June 6, 1944."
Franklin D. Roosevelt, recorded off the air.
Much of Mann's literature revolved around specific pieces of music; here are two:
Wilhelm Kempff's 1936 recording
of Beethoven's Opus 111 piano sonata.
Mann devotes pages in Doktor Faustus to the analysis of this sonata; here a lovely quote from this section, taken from an online essay
But when it does end, and in the very act of ending, there comes–after all this fury, tenacity, obsessiveness, and extravagance–something fully unexpected and touching in its very mildness and kindness. After all its ordeals, the motif, this D-G-G, undergoes a gentle transformation. As it takes its farewell and becomes in and of itself a farewell… it experiences a little melodic enhancement. After an initial C, it takes on a C-sharp before the D … and this added C-sharp is the most touching, comforting, poignantly forgiving act in the world. It is like a painfully loving caress of the hair, the cheek–a silent, deep gaze in the eyes for one last time. It blesses its object … with overwhelming humanization…
Hüsch and Müller's 1933 recording
of Schubert's Lindenbaum (again from Winterreise).
Any list on music and Thomas Mann must be required to end with the song Mann sets on Hans Castorp's lips as he stumbles into his death on the battlefields of World War I.