fury, tenacity, obsessiveness, and extravagance
August 12, 2013 1:36 PM   Subscribe

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.
posted by ariel_caliban (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
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.

I just read The Magic Mountain last year, and that final scene brought me to tears.
posted by dnash at 1:48 PM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Exzellenter Beitrag!
posted by vkxmai at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

dnash, even thinking of that scene brings me to tears, too. Also, I goofed when I called "Der Leiermann" the penultimate song in "Die Winterreise" (the which I accidentally declined as if it were in a German sentence); it's the final song. "Die Nebensonnen", the penultimate song, is almost a lullaby of suicidal resignation; the last song is nearly unendurable.
posted by ariel_caliban at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2013

A song recital by Lotte Lehmann

Click the "More" link for details.

I had hoped all the recordings in this set could be found at the Lehmann Foundation website, which used to host quite a collection of audio files, but that part of the site has been replaced by a placeholder page.
posted by in278s at 4:48 PM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

in278s, thank you for that find -- marvelous! I couldn't immediately find anything that was marked as having been from that set, but I wonder if it could be the origin of this metadataless recording of "Im Abendrot".
posted by ariel_caliban at 5:16 PM on August 12, 2013

When I think of Thomas Mann and classical music, I always think, inevitably, of Death in Venice [SLTY] and Mahler and that adagietto. Surely this is one the great movie themes of all time. It is just so prefect for the film, its languidness, death and beauty and the magic of venice. Ach, wonderful!
I like to think Mann would have approved of it.
posted by vac2003 at 1:22 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

One can't but help of think of Mahler and Mann together -- especially since Visconti; even though Sources Say they only met once. There's so much more one could add to this list; I tried not to go overboard on the post itself. For example, Hans Castorp lists his favorite recordings when he discovers the phonograph at the end of Zauberberg (one of which is the above-referenced "Lindenbaum"). I would have loved to have found applicable recordings here, but as ZB was written in the early 1920's, I'm not sure they would really have been worth the trouble. I'm no expert, but I presume that the collection of recorded work that Mann was familiar with at that time was probably small enough that any choice of "best" recording would be incredibly limited. Or there's the Schoenberg / Faustus connection -- not to mention the constant Wagner references in his work (of which "Wälsungenblut" may be my favorite -- but holy Jesus, writing something like that "based on" your wife and her brother!)...

In any case, I love the feel for Mann's inner world you get from the set of recordings referenced here. The nervous emotional intensity that is hidden but always present in his literature, as it makes up the suppressed energy from which his taut, ironic formal manipulations spring forth, seems to be utterly exposed in the music he enjoys.
posted by ariel_caliban at 1:26 PM on August 13, 2013

The Lehmann "Im Abendrot" may very well be from the set in question. It's a beauty, in any case.

The album of Johann Strauss is, I believe, this one:

Johann Strauss: Two overtures & two waltzes

Along with the item linked in the original post (Gypsy Baron Overture - London Symphony / Walter) the set contains:

Fledermaus Overture - Paris Conservatory Orch / Walter
Emperor Waltz - Vienna Philharmonic / Walter
Blue Danube Waltz - Vienna Philharmonic / Szell
posted by in278s at 2:45 PM on August 13, 2013

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